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Entries in Vietnam (81)



Mr. Cuong's window started sliding down every time we would hit a bump. Which happened a lot.  He tried to wedge some folded-up pieces of paper into the window frame to keep it up, but it kept sliding down - and letting out all of the air conditioning. He finally pulled off the road in a shady spot to remove the door panel and fix the problem, and sank into about two feet of beach sand. Stuck.

Before too long, a local farmer on his tractor passed by, sized up the situation, and pulled over to help. He had us back out on the road in no time. [NOTES: After he pulled us out, the farmer stopped, undid the ropes, gave us a wave, and drove off. So much for the idea of giving him a tip. Mr. Cuong later pulled over on a firm surface in front of a tea shop and fixed the problem with the widow].


Bún in Dong Ha

We stopped for breakfast in a little noodle shop on the outskirts of Dong Ha. Everybody got bún bó Hué, the delicious, spicy beef noodle soup so characteristic of Central Vietnam. I got green tea (0:49), while Mr. Thanh and Mr. Cuong opted for cá phê sũra đá, or strong iced coffee (0:42). What a breakfast. [NOTES: Lovely instructions for making Vietnamese coffee (iced or hot) are presented here. See Good Bowl of Noodles for a look at breakfast noodles in Guizhou, China].


Phú Vinh

Spent a rainy morning in the village of Phú Vinh, 20 km outside of Hanoi, interviewing rattan weavers. The artisan above is making a basket like those shown behind him to the left. He told me (thx, Mr Thanh) it takes him about three days to make one of these baskets.

The large needle in his mouth is used to thread the rattan through the frame as shown below. Although about 70% of the households in Phú Vinh make rattan baskets at some point during the year, the total number of weavers is decreasing as villagers take higher-paying factory jobs in Chuong My. [NOTE: I love the little wooden jig that he uses to steady the basket in his lap while he's working on it].


Sầm Sơn Fish Market

The resort town of Sầm Sơn in Thanh Hoa province has a fish market right on the beach.  The fisherman pull their boats out of the water, flip them over to provide some shade, and start trying to sell what they caught that morning. "Cacophony" is probably an appropriate word to describe the experience. [NOTE: That's our driver, Mr. Cuong, buying the dried fish at the end of the clip]. 



Portrait of the gentle caretaker at the An Duong Vuong temple in Nghe An who with great patience tried to explain to me about Thuc Phan, the  Au Lac kingdom, and the legend of the magic crossbow. [NOTE: Go here for a brief review of Vietnamese history].


Driving Out of the Buffer Zone

A follow-up to yesterday's post. Driving down the mountain back to the reserve headquarters, the conversation in the truck was very animated.  As was the horn honking. 


Dakrong Workshop

Dr.Ninh Khac Ban (shown above; see Which Rattan Is That and Glimpses of Transects) and I gave a workshop yesterday at the Dakrong Nature Reserve in Quang Tri province on measuring the growth and yield of rattan. The workshop was attended by representatives from six protected areas in the Central Truong Son Mountains.

The image below shows three workshop participants (l to r), Le Van Huong, vice-Director of the Phong Dien Nature Reserve, Tran Van Thu Director of the Song Thanh Nature Reserve, and Hoang Ngoc Tien, Director of the Dakrong Nature Reserve. Together, these three young men are in charge of over 175,000 hectares of the best rattan habitat in Vietnam.  And they are listening attentively and taking notes on how to manage this resource on a sustainable basis. [NOTE: Mr. Thu, the Director of Song Thanh N.R., is currently doing a masters at Hue and I am a member of his advisory committee. For his thesis, he is developing a management plan for rattan in the reserve. Of which I am quite pleased]. 



Dau Tram

Another forest product from Central Vietnam is eucalyptus oil, or "dau tram", which is used medicinally for a variety of different afflictions, e.g. bronchitis, bacterial infections, and asthma. It is also an effective insect repellent, which is probably why Mr. Thanh and Ms. Ngoc, student assistants who were helping with the rattan project and getting bit my mosquitos, stopped at the roadside stall in Quang Tri province shown below. 

The oil is extracted from several different species of Eucalyptus. Like Acacia (see Forests of Vietnam II) and Pinus (see Naval Stores), Eucalyptus has been extensively planted throughout the Central Truong Son Mountains to reforest denuded areas. Go here for an FAO report on the history of Eucalyptus in Vietnam. [NOTE: Ms. Ngoc doesn't seem so pleased with the smell of this Dau Tram.  They ended up not buying it].


Naval Stores

Naval stores is a collective term that refers to the resin-based components originally used to build and maintain wooden ships.  Today, resins are more commonly used to make soaps, varnishes, paints, roofing materials and for a variety of industrial applications. Harvesting this sticky resource, however, still requires tapping a pine tree and collecting the stuff that oozes out. The photo above shows a Pinus merkusii (Jungh. & de Vreise) tree being tapped for resin in Central Vietnam.  

Pinus merkusii is a light demander that grows very well in disturbed, eroded sites, and this species has been used to reforest thousands of hectares in Vietnam (see Forest of Vietnam II).  And when the trees in these plantations get big enough (15 years and older), many of them are tapped.  According to FAO, Vietnam produces over 4,500 tons of pine resin each year, most of it exported to Japan. Just so you know.




Tea cups, tea pots, gaiwan, tea trays, saucers, and an eclectic assortment of other blue and white porcelain household items for sale in a small shop in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam (see Scenes from the Old Quarter). I love this stuff, but how many tea pots do you really need? [NOTE: I have three: (1) a dark blue, cast-iron Japanese tetsubin pot, (2) a beautiful celadon glaze pot with a rattan handle and a little green frog on the top from Vietnam, and (3) a large, truly stunning, rust-colored Heath Ceramics pot with a wrapped copper handle - for those special occasions (thx, Kit)].