a train (with air conditioning)

Sent: Fri May 23 00:59:41 2008

We are on the train back to hanoi (have a/c this time)
Had 3 amazing days is sapa
Weather has been very cooperative as well

Why has it been so good to us?
People are extremely friendly (more on that later
Rice fields forever (remember the beatles song)
Lots of local tribes who do ‘avodot rikma’ – almost as good as carpets
No humidity, cool vs sweaty, steamy hanoi – sapa is at about 1600 m above sea level and the view is almost alpine
Hotel was great and not expensive

One of the top experiences today was meeting a family with boy and girl, ages 11 and 12 travelling around the world for 1 year. what a dream.
Limor, can we do it in 2013?
Our local guide, vung, is a real treat
He ‘gets us’ and Is flexible. We try to take him off the set path and he let’s us. As we climb some hills and get to the less touristic county we get to see very, very poor villagers.
On one hills, the local peasant invites us in. The house is 4 by 8. Made of wood that does not interlace, so winds gets in. Bo floor, cooking by hand lit fire.
Furniture? Hardly any, hand made by wood. Vung and I set on a bench 10 cm high 50cm long. Clothing, they may have 5 sets of pants and shirts, probably less, so no closet.
Sleeping is below the triangular roof
There is running water – from the stream going downhill
There is an electrical generator, and about one light bulb
I think this is 1700s in the west
And they seem very content

Everyone, even very rural, is friendly to us.
What happens when you see an acquarium? You tap the glass and try to get the fish to notice you. That’s what they are doing with us, we look like an exotic animal and they want our attenion (many do not like to be photographed however, unless you pay them however) and of course we are walking money piles.
They market agressively but know the limit
Some sworm at you like gipsys did in eurpoe in the past
But, they will not steal
Even the rural villagers market to us
The old ladies, in colorful ethnic clothing see you and walk up to you. They carry a straw basket with embroidary on the back, they almost touch you, 5 at a time, and start talking with you. In english, at times not very bad. One old lady puts a hat on me. Since my had is bigger than VNs, the ears stick out. She touches my face with both hands, our eyes are 10 cm apart, she puts my ears into the hat. No teeth. She caresses my face, she is a perfect mix of my tow grandmothers. I know I have to buy from her.
The other 5 girls and ladys are talking to me at the same time. What is your name? How many kids do you have? ‘You buy me very cheap’
They see that I am the consumer of the 3 of us. They see interest, I already where a head band and a bracelet, $1 each.
I try to find quality stuff that can be used. Most work is low quality. A blanket? Most do not have one.
In one instance I try a shirt on. It is nice work, but I will not use it. The lady who sells is is nice. I tell her I will give her $3.
She goes ‘no way’. I explain to here that I will not use the shirt, do not need it, and I am just trying to make her happy. She goes instanlty ‘ make me happy? Then give me a dollar!’ I do. The interactions are full of laughs. I try to sell them stuff I bought earlier and find out how much its worth.

Rice fields
It is heaven for me
I love mud
I love textures
Each rice field here is on a terace
You look down the vally and thousands of small fields each about 30sq m to 150 sq m are looking at you
Each field is filled with water
The water is a mirror or not depending on the angle
Some fields have new turned soil, some are already with rice 15 cm apart, not dense, others are fully green. Soil can be of different colors
Some fields have no water for maintenance
It is a kelidescope of brown, green and silver

Now, whereever you look, the elements are the same, but the feeling is different. 100s of phtos later, and I am still in search of harmony between composition, textures, and light. When I close my eyes I see rice fields
It is difficult to expain how touching it was for me
I slowed us down greatly
Idan is ‘in the zone’ and producing great photos.
Lior and vung are usually 2 minutes ahead and idan and I are each searching another angles, another frame, another reflection
10 steps late everything you just saw is different. The sun and clouds change positions and now the great shot from 2 minutes ago is not a real capture of the moment

In the rice fields we see the local villagers
They are extrenely hard working
Very tough life

When we stops for a drink of water in a forest hill off the beaten path we are wondering what the hell america did here 40 years ago and how similar if at all is the situation in iraq

Last night idan and I asked a lady if she know where there is a foot massage – they are good here at that – and she says she will give us a face massage. Lior and idan loved it. We walk out of there with shiny faces. It was actually a hairdresser. Her business and house are not sepearted. So we actually spent an hour with the family in their living room.

In halong bayon the tt boats we were fed like crazy
Now we eat less
Simple lunch and dinner. Simple food, good, not great
Fried rice, vegetables with garlic – fresh and wild
We love the soup here
We found the soup nazi of hanoi the last night there and will go eat there gain
And pineapples,
Dear readers, this is my advise, eat fresh pineapples.

I constantly find that people will sell at a very very low price.
At times I haggle for things down to 30 cents – eg a pineapple or for someonel to clean my shoes while we are at a restaurant. But when you see the work they do, it is hard not to raise the price after negotiating it down.
They are appreciative
An extra dollar means a lot more to them than we can imagine
Someimes it is easy to see how miserable they are. The condition of their plastic sandles, the wear and tear of their clothing, the dirt in their fingers
Sometimes just in their eyes.
But they are with smiles

Many girls here are beautiful. Very slender too
I am considered a giant here. Fat and my breasts are the size of the averge woman. The foot massage in hanoi says to me ‘ you are a very strong man’ and since then idan and li chea minh (lior – bearer of light) are using that line on me

The 3 of us so far are doing very well together. There are some set roiles after all our bicycle trips
Idan is the orderly one, bearer of our joint money account which pays for all our joint activities. By now lior and I have both misplaced money and had to go thruthe feeling that it was lost or stolen , even for a few minutes, until another secret pocket is discovered where we placed and forgotten. But at least the evil potnatial thief would not have found it!

Things you see lots of and are not common:
Motorcycles – they are great. it seems that a motorcycle trip is the best way to get to far away place and feel the county
On every hill the sound of water streaming down the mountain – this is what you hear (and see) for 6 straight hours in the hills
Pineapples – I try to eat one evry day. The women who sell them cut them fresh, in a helix to get out al the nasty parts. It is a beauty to watch them work
Rice fields
Women, at young age, doing very hard physical work – a 12 year old girl working with an axe, women in their 20s pregnant in rice fields, women in the 60s carring 20 kilos or more of propduce up a hill
Everyone wears plastic beach sandles
People spend a lot of time in the street, so it is lovely. One of the bonuses of a country with little a/c is that doors are open, chairs are in the street, and there are spontenaous interactions.

disappointing so far:
Coffee – it is bad, and I thought that because of french influence it would be good. The coffee they do serve here is nescafee with some moca flavor, usually with concentrated milk. Idan has not touched the stuff and is now caffeine free. I, who can not smile before a good cup of coffee in the morning, am trying to switch to pineapples instead

Tomorrow. We arrive at 4:30 am in hanoi and start bicycle riding later in the day

2 Responses to “a train (with air conditioning)”

  1. Jonathan Klahr Says:

    Love the diary. would love to do a trip like this one day, maybe when my kids are 11 & 12!

    Why do you think you negotiate down and then over pay?
    are you demonstrating power? trying to ‘teach’ a lesson? not be a friar? not corrupt them?
    what do you think the impact of your tourism is on the locals?

    anyway, enjoying the blog, you seem very refreshed.


    • adisababa Says:

      nego down and then overpay?
      well, perhaps a separate post. basically it gives you a choice and a clear understanding of the ZOPA (zone of potential deal). it helps make a fair deal
      i like the friar idea as well. i think ‘the fear of being a friar’ is a huge motivator in life

      tourism on local:
      both in cuba and here, i think it has huge impact on communist peoples in understand the power (and the minuses) of “institutions” that come with liberal-democratic, capitalist way of life. perhaps it is the best form of ‘globalization’. in most parts of the world, ‘globalization’ means arbitrage of cheap labor in the marxist sense. tourism and multiple personal interactions are the best way, in my mind, to bridge differences.

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