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HO CHI MINH CITY (SAIGON)

Ho Chi Minh City is one of the largest cities in Southeast Asia, with a population approaching seven million. It is an incredibly busy and pulsing kind of place, with teeming street markets and sidewalk cafes, streets crammed with crazy motorbike drivers, and a wild night scene. At the same time, traditional Vietnam lies just below that surface, often peeking its head out so you can see how if forms the core around which all that modernity is painted.

It's a good question what to call the city. "Ho Chi Minh City" replaced "Saigon" as the official name upon reunification of the south and the north after the American War, but most people around here still call it Saigon. Many people distinguish between the inner city, referred to as Saigon, and the province of Ho Chi Minh City, which stretches far to the south and also west almost to the Cambodian border. The "Saigon" part actually only includes ten percent of the land, but three-quarters of the population, while the rural areas of Ho Chi Minh City have fewer people but provide the rice and other produce to support the needs of the larger population. In fact, so much rice is produced in this area and the Maekhong Delta nearby that Vietnam is now the world's third-leading exporter of rice (behind the U.S. and Thailand). But, it's industry and commerce (trade) that most come to mind when people think of Saigon -- and as such, what you see in this city represents best how the economic changes sweeping through Vietnam are affecting people's lives, for the better AND the worse.

HCM 01 A Statue of Ho Chi Minh, the "Father of Modern Vietnam", Sits in Front of the People's Committee Building (Formerly the Luxurious Hotel de Ville)

HCM 02 Girls and Boys Often Help Out Their Families By Selling Books or Doing Other Jobs During the Half of the Day When They Are Not in School

HCM 03 The Cathedral of Our Lady Is a Reminder of the Era of French Colonial Control of Vietnam; Many Vietnamese People Remain Catholic

HCM 04 The Old and the New: A Modern Skyscraper Looms Behind the Colonial-Era Post Office

HCM 05 A Sugar Stand at the Binh Tay Market in Cholon (Chinatown): Vietnamese LOVE Sweets!

HCM 06 A Betelnut Stand at Binh Tay: A Tradition Throughout Southeast Asia That Is Beginning to Die Out

HCM 07 Binh Tay's Meat Market: FRESH! (But Look Carefully...)

HCM 08 A Chicken Seller at Binh Tay: Like I Said, FRESH!

HCM 09 Condiments To Make That Meal Extra Special

HCM 10 And, the Finished Product: Vietnamese Food -- A Lot Like Chinese, But With Substantial Differences

HCM 11 After the Meal: Candied Fruits Satisfy That Sweet Tooth

HCM 12 Street Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City: Lots of Cyclos and Bicycles, Even More Motorbikes, a Few Cars...and Prepare to Take Your Life Into Your Hands!

HCM 13 Eight Hundred Cab Drivers for Her Company, But Only Six Women

HCM 14 A Common Sight in Vietnamese and Chinese Temples: Prayer Strips -- Strike the Bell Nearby, and Your Message is Heard in Heaven

HCM 15 Incense is Burned at the Women's Pagoda in Memory of Deceased Loved Ones; The Big Ones Can Burn for a Month!

HCM 16 The "Bodhisattva" of Prosperity at Thien Hau Pagoda

HCM 17 This Many-Armed Statue of Avalokiteshvara at Giac Lam Pagoda Shows Evidence of Indian Influence Far to the East

HCM 18 Chuan De, the Eighteen-Armed Goddess of Mercy, Can Be Seen in Many Vietnamese and Chinese Temples

HCM 19 Beautiful Shrines for Deceased Monks Sit Outside Giac Lam Pagoda

HCM 20 The Beautiful Municipal Theater Has Been Restored, Showing the Government's New and Changing Perspectives

TODD: Note the change of order here

HCM 25 A Wild Scene of the Gods at the Jade Emperor Pagoda: Obvious Chinese Influence, But Uniquely Vietnamese

HCM 26 A Scene Showing the Buddhist View of "Hell", at the Jade Emperor Pagoda

HCM 27 A Common Morning Scene on the Streets of the City

HCM 28 The Caodai Great Temple in Tay Ninh: Seat of a Uniquely Vietnamese Religion

HCM 29 Daily Prayers Take Place at Noon at the Caodai Great Temple

HCM 34 In a Rural Area of Ho Chi Minh City, an Ox-Driven Plow Is Used Today As It Has Been for Thousands of Years

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THE AMERICAN WAR

In the United States, the "Vietnam War" is a painful part of national history that is familiar to everyone alive at that time and even to most younger people born after the U.S. exited the war.

To the Vietnamese, memories of that "American War" are much more painful.

It is here, after all, that the war was fought, a war that in the words of one U.S. general represented the first "environmental war" directed towards destroying a country's environment. The evidence of that destruction is still visible everywhere, whether in the form of massive and pervasive bomb craters or of flat, open areas that used to be thick jungle. While the Vietnamese have turned much of those "used-to-be-jungle" areas into productive rice fields, a much higher proportion remains unusable, polluted by toxins like the napalm used by the U.S. to set fire to the forest cover in order to make it hard for Viet Cong and North Vietnamese fighters to stay in hiding.

But even such destruction pales in comparison to the destruction done to the people of the country. We in the U.S. properly mourn the loss of over fifty-eight thousand young men and women lost in the fighting. For the Vietnamese, over six HUNDRED thousand soldiers lost their lives -- and even that is a small number next to the unbelievable four MILLION civilians who were killed over the ten years of U.S involvement. Many millions more were disabled as well, and many of those severely so. (These numbers do not include those who were killed in the twelve years prior to 1965 when the Viet Minh of northern Vietnam fought against French forces for their independence.) It is a testimony to the spirit of the Vietnamese people that they were able to endure through such horrors and are now renewing their culture and land, one with thousands of years of history of fighting for independence and maintaining a strong national identity.

HCM 21 A Statue at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City Is Made of Shrapnel From Bombs Dropped During the War

HCM 22 A Quote By General Curtis LeMay in 1965 Sounds Much Like What the NATO Commanders Are Saying Today. The U.S. Was Involved in the War for Eight More Years Before Withdrawing in Defeat. Do We Learn From History?

HCM 23 One Consequence of Napalm Bombing

HCM 24 "Tiger Cages" Like This Were Kept By the South Vietnamese Government to Hold Viet Cong Prisoners -- Both Sides Treated Prisoners Terribly (In Other Words: War is Hell)

TODD: another change of order

HCM 30 The Tunnels at Cu Chi Outside of Saigon Were Used As a Base of Operations for the Viet Cong in South Vietnam

HCM 33 People Lived Inside the Tunnels for Years, Using Great Ingenuity: This False Termite Mound Actually Hides an Air Hole Providing Oxygen to the Tunnel Dwellers

BOX Walking around and through the Cu Chi tunnels is an eerie experience. Before the wars with the French and the Americans, the area was dense jungle interspersed with villages of people living the traditional lifestyles of rice farmers. The jungle remains, growing back as it always does; the villagers are now returning. It is wet, thick and lush, and it is anything but quiet, with a cacophony of sound created by millions of birds, monkeys and other creatures. (It's the silent ones you know are there that make it a bit scary, though -- we saw a twelve-foot long python being kept as a pet at a nearby restaurant.)

During the war, though, the scene was entirely different. I can only imagine what it was like. It took the Viet Cong (supporters in the south of the North Vietnamese "Viet Minh" government) over twenty years to build the system, using woven bamboo shovels to carve out over two hundred miles worth of tunnels from hard red clay. What they created was something an architect would have a hard time dreaming up: virtually an entire city underground, with kitchens and sleeping areas, meeting rooms and storage spaces, all hidden from view and set with booby traps to kill any unwanted intruders. All kinds of systems were used to avoid detection: for example, the tunnel-dwellers washed with the same soap the Americans used, and stuffed shirts from captured American soldiers into vents, to confuse dogs sent to track them. When they cooked, one person had to climb a tree above the cooking area and shake the branches in order to disperse the smoke. The tunnels between the living spaces were tiny, small enough that most Westerners would have a hard time squeezing through -- and thus making the network itself virtually impossible to invade. (On average, Vietnamese people are shorter than Europeans; I stood on a ferry with a few hundred people and, at five-foot-ten, was easily the tallest person.)

Indeed, the U.S. ultimately decided that the only way to beat the system was to bomb it from above; this was after the disastrous loss of many lives on trying to invade it by land. The bombing was intense -- we saw one crater from a single bomb that was easily twelve feet deep (even AFTER much of it has been filled in over time by eroded soil) and thirty feet in diameter. Think: the size of your classroom! By the time this bombing did destroy the tunnels, though, the war was nearing its end, and the thousands of Viet Cong who died as a result ultimately accomplished their aim of winning the war. They are viewed as some of the greatest heroes of the war by the modern Vietnamese government, and have been honored by the government in many ways for their efforts and sacrifices.

HCM 31 The Secret Tunnel System Was So Effective That the Viet Cong Were Able to Control This Area Even in the Presence of Massive Numbers of American and South Vietnamese Armed Forces

HCM 32 The Jungle is Growing Back, But This Bomb Crater (Once Twenty Feet Deep) Shows Evidence of the "Carpet Bombing" Done By U.S. B-52's Attempting to Destroy the Tunnel System

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THE MAEKHONG DELTA

If you've been following my journey, you remember my travels along the Maekhong River both in Lao and Cambodia. It's in southern Vietnam that the Maekhong reaches the end of its long journey that started in the highlands of Tibet. Here, the river splits into hundreds of branches that weave through the vast reaches of its delta, creating some of the most incredibly fertile land in the world. Life around the marshlands and the water of the delta is fascinating to observe, here in the "rice basket" of Vietnam.

MDelt 01 A Woman Riding a Bicycle in Her Ao Dai: Vietnam's Traditional Mode of Dress and Most Common Form of Transport

MDelt 02 Signs Are Posted Everywhere Indicating Issues of Social Concern, Including AIDS

MDelt 03 At Chau Doc Ferry Landing: Shoppers and Students Come Into the City By Water Each Day

MDelt 04 Chau Doc's Market Is Chock-Full of Every Kind of Produce You Could Imagine, Reflecting the Fertility of the Delta

MDelt 05 Ducks Are Easily Raised in the Delta Area, So You Can Imagine They're a Favorite Food (FRESH!)

MDelt 06 A House in a Cham Muslim Village With an Arabic Welcoming Sign: Chams Are An Important Minority Throughout the South and Into Cambodia (In Fact, This Used to BE Cambodia!)

MDelt 07 Silk Weaving Is a Traditional Craft in Cham Communities, As It Is Throughout the Region

MDelt 08 The Delta's Most Important Crop, Rice, Being Sold on the Street Near the Market

MDelt 09 If You Don't Want to Go to the Market, the Market Will Come to You!

MDelt 10 On Liberation Day, a National Holiday, Many People Visit Temples Like This One Near Mount Nui Sam to Make Offerings in Honor of Their Ancestors

MDelt 11 The View from the Top of Nui Sam Shows the Green, Green, GREEN of the Delta

TODD: order again

MDelt 16 A Super Green Sunset in the Delta

MDelt 18 A Stork Refuge in the Middle of the Jungle

MDelt 19 The Floating Market at Can Tho

MDelt 20 Villagers Come Each Morning from Miles Around to This Central Market, Set Up Where Seven Canals Meet

MDelt 21 Life Around the Delta Feels Traditional, But TV Is Becoming Part of the "Traditional" Everywhere Even As It Brings In New Images and Ideas from the Outside World

MDelt 22 Making Rice Noodles from Scratch is a Time-Consuming and Labor-Intensive Process -- But the Results Are Sure Worth It!

MDelt 23 After the Cooking and Rolling Process is Done, the Noodles Dry in the Sun -- A Common Scene Around This Village!

MDelt 24 A Traditional Organic Farming Technique: Farmers Grow Garlic Orchids Around Their Home Gardens Because They Keep Away Snakes

TODD: a small order change

MDelt 26 The Amazing Coconut Palm: Not Only Can You Eat Them, But the Husks Make Great Fuel or Door Mats, the Trunks Make Great House Posts...

MDelt 25 ...And the Leaves Can Be Woven Into Walls and Roofs!

MDelt 27 The Birth Rate in the Vietnamese Countryside is Very High -- Which Means Lots of Smiling Kids!

BOX Seven Reasons for the High Birth Rate in the Vietnamese Countryside (according to Hai, my guide)

1 - Need for workers in the fields

2 - Snake wine

3 - Nothing to do in the evening, because most people still don't have TV's

4 - Desire for boys, so that families continue having more children if they have only girls

5 - Hibiscus flowers (a natural aphrodisiac)

6 - Government announcements over village loudspeakers starting at five AM (there's nothing to do yet that early, so...)

7 - Marriage at a very early age (commonly, sixteen for boys OR girls, but sometimes earlier)

Hai neglected to mention the lack of knowledge about and ready access to modern contraceptives, which I think is a pretty important addition!

MDelt 28 A Traditional House Along One of the Delta's Many Canals

MDelt 29 A More Modern Style House, Also Commonly Seen Along the Canals

MDelt 30 An Offering Stand: These Are Attached to EVERY House, Traditional OR Modern

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IN THE DELTA: THE WONDERS OF BAMBOO

If you've indeed been following my travels, you've seen MANY different uses for that most common and useful of plants in Southeast Asia, the bamboo tree. Besides being of so many uses, a great thing about bamboo is that it's a renewable resource: you HAVE to cut it back regularly to make sure it keeps growing and stays healthy! Seems to me bamboo holds one of the keys to keeping our environment healthy while meeting our needs for natural resources. Unfortunately, bamboo is becoming one of the casualties of the destruction of the rainforests -- and, as it becomes scarcer, it becomes more expensive, and people begin to turn to less expensive products made artificially that ultimately create other problems (for example, as waste once they deteriorate). What can we do to save bamboo?

MDelt 31 Stands of Bamboo Like This Line The Shores of Canals Throughout the Delta

MDelt 12 One Use of Bamboo: Workers Split It Into Smaller Slices...

MDelt 13 ...Then Into Smaller Slivers That Are Used to Make Incense Sticks!

MDelt 14 A Worker Like This Woman Can Individually Hand-Roll Up to Seven Thousand Sticks of Incense Each Day -- for One Dollar

MDelt 15 Bamboo Is Also Used to Build Bridges Like This One; I Can't Imagine It Holding My Weight, But Vietnamese Walk Across Carrying Heavy Loads As If They Were on Solid Land

MDelt 17 Here's a Little Sturdier Bridge Made From the Magical Wood

There are dozens of other uses of bamboo, from making house frame posts out of the logs to weaving roofs from its leaves to eating its shoots as a vegetable. CLICK HERE to view an activity using this website to investigate all the other marvelous uses of this terrific renewable resource!

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BACK IN HO CHI MINH

HCM 35 Tam Tang and His Friends Return to the Saigon River From Heaven Every Year On Liberation Day

HCM 36 Americans Still Come to Vietnam -- But Now With Their Products Rather Than Weapons

HCM 37 Greens From the Country Are Sold in the City at Ben Thanh Market (and MANY Other Places)

HCM 38 Bread and Cheese: More Evidence of French Colonial Influence in Vietnam (Like the Rest of "Indochina"!)

HCM 39 And, For Something Uniquely Vietnamese: Try Some Pho, Available at Your Local Pho Stand Within A Hundred Meters or So

HCM 40 Newlyweds on the Street in Saigon: Red is a Particularly Lucky (and Traditional) Color to Wear

HCM 41 Everything Under the Sun, and Then Some, At Any of Dozens of "Minimarts" Like This Lining the Main Streets of the City

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THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS

The area northwest of Ho Chi Minh City and inland from the coastline along the South China Sea is mountainous; this is the southern part of the Annamite Mountain chain. The "Central Highlands", as this area is called, has long been a favorite vacation destination for the Vietnamese (and the colonialists who lived here) because of its cool climate and beautiful scenery. It is also home to many of the Montagnards, or hill tribe minorities, who live in a large swath extending from here north to the China border in the northwest part of Vietnam. The cultures of these peoples, and the variety of vegetables, fruits and other plants cultivated throughout the Central Highlands, makes this an especially interesting part of the country to visit.

ON THE ROAD FROM SAIGON TO DALAT

CH 01 Rubber Trees Help Make the Tires to Keep All Those Motorbikes on the Road

CH 02 Some Pretty Hairy-Looking Things Hang Out in the Jungle, So Watch Where You Step! (I Almost Went Face-First Into This One...)

CH 03 Floating Houses: Living On the River Is a Completely Different Existence

CH 04 A Statue Memorializing the War Dead Looms Over the Countryside

CH 05 A Catholic Cemetery: Some Provinces in the South of Vietnam Are Ninety Percent Christian, Though the Country As a Whole Is Mostly Buddhist

CH 06 It Seems Like Every Square Inch of the Land Is Cultivated, Even on Steep Hill Sides...

CH 07 ...And in the Highlands, Tea Plantations Predominate

CH 08 That's Coffee on the Left, and Tea on the Right...

CH 09 ...And These Are Mulberry Bushes, Whose Leaves Are Used to Feed the Silkworms That Make the Silk That Highland Weavers Make Into Beautiful Fabrics...

CH 26 ...Like This!

TODD: This should be the "Vietnam Pattern", at least for the time being -- it's NOT a great shot, as you can see, so you'll have to cut out a part from the center that looks OK

CH 10 The Dambri Waterfalls Are the Largest of Many That Dot the Landscape of the Highlands

DALAT

CH 11 I Woke Up in the Morning to Find This Little Guy Waiting for a Ride on My Motorbike, I Guess

CH 12 The Hang Nga Tree House: A Guest House That Was (And Is Still Being) Designed By a Famous Architect Who Is the Daughter of One of Vietnam's Former Presidents -- It's Weird and GREAT!

CH 13 Banana Carters Bringing Into Dalat Town Just a Few of the TONS of Fruit from the Countryside

CH 14 In the Middle of a Dalat Rainstorm: When It Rains, It POURS!!!

CH 15 The Dalat Marketplace Is a Bustling Place, Especially When Viewed from Above

TODD: Check out the change of order

CH 27 The Dalat Morning Market is Full With the Rich Produce of the Central Highlands

CH 28 Building a Road With Manual Labor -- And Guess Who's Doing the Heavy Work AGAIN?

CH 29 At Dalat XQ Silk Embroidery Studio: The Process Begins With the Artist's Perspective in Pencil...

CH 30 ...Which an Expert Embroiderer Crafts Into a Threaded Piece of Art

CH 31 Sometimes, Whole Teams Work on the Embroidering Process

CH 32 The Finished Piece Can Be More Traditional, Like This Technically-Difficult Profile of a Person...

CH 33 ...Or, It Can Be More Abstract, Relating Ideas the Artist Wishes to Convey

OUTSIDE DALAT: A VILLAGE OF THE LAT PEOPLE

CH 16 A House in a Village of the Lat People: This House Can Sleep Forty People, Including This Man...

CH 17 ...Who is the Patriarch of this Village -- At Age 103 (A Best Guess), He Still Plays a Mean Kamput!

CH 18 The Inside of a Lat House: That Huge Basket in the Back Holds Enough Rice to Last Through a Bad Harvest, and Then Some

CH 19 This Cutting Tool Has Dozens of Uses: It Cuts Anything, It's a Great Stool to Rest On, and It Can Measure Long Distances (You'll Have to Ask How!)

CH 20 Lat Families Get to Be Very Large; The Children Are Needed to Help Work the Fields...

CH 21 ...And the Young Ones Have to Come Along for the Ride

CH 22 Like Many Others in the Highlands, the Lat People Are Catholic and Gather to Pray in Churches Like This

CH 23 The Symbol On the Church Roof, Though, Shows That Their Catholicism is Mixed With Animist Beliefs -- The Bottom Part Portrays Buffalo Horns, a Reflection of Their Reverence for the Beast

CH 24 This Buffalo Horn Altar Inside the Church Was Built for the Harvest Celebration, Replacing the Ancient Practice of Slaughtering a Buffalo in Thanks for Bountiful Crops

CH 25 The Lat People Play Music With Gongs: The Interlocking Patterns Remind Me of Balinese Music (I Wonder Why the Similarity?)

OUTSIDE DALAT: A VILLAGE OF THE KOHO PEOPLE

CH 34 In a Koho Minority Village, the Children Outnumber the Adults By a Large Margin...

CH 35 ...With the Result That Older Siblings Must Take Care of Their Younger Brothers and Sisters

CH 36 This Huge Statue in the Koho "Chicken Village" Was Built to Commemorate a Story of Love Gone Awry

CH 37 This Koho Weaver Is Using a Simple Loom That Has a Weighting System to Set the Pattern...

CH 38 The Woven Pieces Are Long and Narrow; They Have to Be Sewn Together to Create a Finished Piece

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Streets of the City

THE SOUTH-CENTRAL COAST

East of the Central Highlands, the coast of Vietnam reaches its farthest east point, opposite the Philippines to the east and Indonesia to the south. The coast is along the South China Sea, though it's not very close to China; that body of water might better be thought of as an extension of the Pacific Ocean (though it is separated from the ocean by the Philippine Archipelago).

VNCst 01 In Phan Rang, These Temples Remind Us of the Great Cham Civilization That Was Ultimately "Absorbed" Into Vietnam

VNCst 02 The Dry and Hot Coastal Region Around Phan Rang is Known for The Grapes Grown There

VNCst 03 Military Cemeteries Like This Can Be Seen All Over Vietnam Commemorating Those Who Died Fighting for "Unification" -- In Other Words, for the North

VNCst 04 Salt Ponds Like These Still Provide An Important Resource, As They Did Centuries Ago When the Chams Traded It With the Highlanders for Forest Products

VNCst 05 This Region of Vietnam Has Multiple Yearly Crops of Rice, So This Kind of Harvesting Goes On Even As Other Fields Are Just Starting to Grow

VNCst 06 A Closer View of the Harvesting Process: Hard Work Indeed!! (And Who's Doing Most of It, AGAIN??!!!!)

VNCst 07 Every Space Is Used, Even If It Means Drying Rice On the Main Road

VNCst 08 Highway 1: The Road May Be New, But You'd Still Better Watch Out for Slow Traffic!

VNCst 09 In Nha Trang Harbor, Boats Sit Around Or Get Repaired During the Day Before Fishers Take Them Out At Night

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HOI AN

The town of Hoi An was once an important port of trade on the route between the Middle East, India and China. Now it's more a sleepy village, but a boom in tourism is changing all that. Still, life in the countryside around it stays much the way it's been for hundreds or even thousands of years, since the Champa Empire ruled the area from centers like My Son.

INSIDE HOI AN

TODD: The order is weird in here, for the whole Hoi An section..

HoiAn 17a OR 17b The Pastel-Colored Houses of the Town Are Not Only Beautiful, But Portray Hoi An's History As a Trading Center Influenced By Many Lands

HoiAn 16 Cars Are Not Allowed On Most of the Town's Streets, Making It a Very Pleasant Place to Walk (And a Popular Tourist Attraction!)

HoiAn 01 A Line of Cyclos Makes Its Way Through the Slow-Moving Streets

HoiAn 10 The Ao Dai Is a Popular Form of Dress Among Hoi An's Women

HoiAn 11 The Cotton Mills Around Town Use Mechanical Looms Designed During the Industrial Revolution in Europe

HoiAn 12 Mats Are Woven In Multiple Colors Using Traditional Techniques

HoiAn 13 Silk Weaving Is Also a Major Industry, Using Silk Thread Made On Machines Like This

HoiAn 14 The Silk Threads Are Woven From Strands Drawn From Cocoons Boiled in Water

HoiAn 15 Even the Cocoons Are Home-Grown: The Silkworms Are Bred in the Mills On Frames Like This One

HoiAn 02 Cao Lau Is a Traditional Hoi An Dish Made of Different Types of Noodles, Bean Sprouts, Croutons, Pork and Seasonings; It's Only Made Here and Nowhere Else, Using Water From One Particular Spring!

HoiAn 29 The Famous Covered Bridge Anchors the Japanese Quarter of Town

TODD: For the next one, 30a is prettier but 30b shows the points better; I guess it's better to go with 30b but I think it may not be in focus enough. If it is, maybe 30a can be one of the two shots on the Vietnam "front page".

HoiAn 30a OR 30b Inside the Bridge Are a French Roadway and a Chinese Temple

HoiAn 31 Quan Cong Pagoda Shows the Fantastical Styles Used By the Vietnamese for Their Temples

HoiAn 32 The Cantonese Chinese Assembly Hall Is In a Style Not Too Different From the Vietnamese -- Showing the Influence the Chinese Have Had On Vietnamese Architecture

HoiAn 33 Inside the Cantonese Assembly Hall: Some Amazing Sculptures

OUTSIDE HOI AN, TOWARDS MY SON

HoiAn 05 In This Photo You Can See Rice-Growing In Four Different Stages: Land Preparation, Early Seedling Growth, Transplanted Seedlings, and Mature Rice Ready for Harvesting

HoiAn 06 Ducks Being Herded Through the Rice Paddies

TODD: for HoiAn 07 and 08, choose version 'a' or 'b' depending on which you think looks better once it's up on the site. For 07, I like the action in 'b' better but 'a' has a better balance with the background, I think; either one should be cropped so the horizon is parallel to the page, I think. For 08, I like the closer view ('b') BUT the edges are a little tight and I'm not sure it's clear enough. Whatever you think!

HoiAn 07 Water Buffaloes Are Still Used to Pull Traditional Plows to Prepare the Soil for Planting

HoiAn 08 Fishing Takes Tools: A Boat (In the Front, Of Course) And a Net (In the Background)

HoiAn 09 A Closer View of One of the Huge Nets Used for Fishing in the Thu Bon River In and Around Hoi An

MySon 01 A Train Crossing in the Countryside

MySon 02 Family Graves Are Placed in the Middle of Their Ricefields, Oriented According to the Directions of Geomancers

TODD: You can include these next seven, OR just go ahead and choose just one (with text "The countryside is unbelievably green, green, GREEN!") OR choose three and do it the way it is written here for 12a, 12b and 12c. NOTE that 12c is at higher resolution, ie it's a much larger file, too; 12g isn't all that green, but it's pretty! (I guess it could be pretty easily skipped; I'm having a harder and harder time excluding photos -- but you should still see how many I cut out before I send these to you...)

MySon 12a The Countryside Is Unbelievably Green...

MySon 12b ...Green...

MySon 12c ...GREEN!!!

MySon 12d Help Us Decide...

MySon 12e ...Which of These Photos...

MySon 12f ...Should Be Included in the Final Site...

MySon 12g ...To Show How GREEN It Is!

MySon 13 These Road Construction Workers Wouldn't Let Me Pass Without Taking a Photo of Them

MySon 14 Many Family Homes Have Gates Like These Identifying Their "Turf"

MySon 15 Tobacco and Red Chili Peppers Are Common Crops, Left Out to Dry in the Sun During the Hottest Part of the Day

MySon 16 But Rice Is Certainly the Main Crop; Farmers Transplanting Young Shoots Is a Common Sight

MySon 17 Farmers Winnowing the Harvested Rice At the Side of the Road

AT MY SON

MySon 03 The Champa Empire Ruled the Area For Over A Thousand Years, Building Magnificent Monuments Out of Brick -- Many Lasted Until the Twentieth Century, When They Were Destroyed By Bombs During the American War (That's a Bomb Crater in the Foreground)

MySon 09 This Altar And the Ruins of the Wall Around It Are All That Remain of the Main Temple At My Son

MySon 04 The Javanese Writing On the Stela in the Foreground Shows Indonesian Influence in This Region of Vietnam; The Hindu Yoni Altar in the Background Shows the Ultimate Influence From India

MySon 10 This Carving of a Javanese Kala-Makara (Sea Monster God) Over the Praying Figure Is Further Evidence of Trade Between Vietnam and Indonesia in the Distant Past

MySon 06 This Ritual Bath Is a Common Site in Hindu Temples

MySon 08 This Mural Is Dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu God to Whom the Temples of My Son Were Built

MySon 05 The "Snake" Motif Commonly Found on Cham Temples Is Unique to This Region

MySon 07 The Chams Were (And Still Are) Not Only Great Masons But Great Stone Carvers As Well, As This Lion -- Symbol of the Emperor's Power -- Shows

MySon 11 This Is Khan, A Jeep Driver and Shop Owner at My Son Who Is Also a Modern Descendant of the Ancient Chams

HoiAn 04 Back on the Road, One Can See Evidence That The Champa Empire's Skill at Brick-Making Is Continued On Among Its Descendants, Who Live On Throughout the Coastal Area of Central Vietnam

A BOAT RIDE ON THE THU BON RIVER

HoiAn 18 My Friend Qua, Whom I Met On a Previous Visit to Vietnam, Guided Me On the Trip On Hoi An's Thu Bon River

HoiAn 19 Approaching the Dock at Hoi An's Central Market Is a Wild Scene

TODD: Choose one of these next two, I guess; 20a seems to me better composed, but I love the "eyes" on the boat in 20b! (On the other hand, I think there are other shots of these markings -- BUT, having two shots of them will let me address how each region marks their boats in certain ways, so...)

HoiAn 20a OR 20b The Din of Women Bargaining Over the Morning Catch Is Deafening

HoiAn 21 Up Above the Dock, In the Market Area: Hats, Hats, Hats!

HoiAn 22 Colorful Vegetables Overflow Their Baskets, Reflecting the Fertility of the Surrounding Area

TODD: I just can't decide among these next four; see which one looks best on the site. Sorry, this is getting worse -- guess it's time to come home!

HoiAn 23a OR 23b OR 23c OR 23d But It's Fish That Dominate the Market, And That Are the Focus of the Most Intense Bargaining!

HoiAn 24 Beautiful Houses Line the Banks of the River, Where Boats From All Around Find Parking Places

TODD: I would only use this next one if you can crop it so it looks better; I tried it and ended up with a great-looking shot, which is why I included it (and, so it can be compared to other shots of fish-netting from other places, too)

HoiAn 25 Casting a Net, Hoping For a Good Mid-Morning Catch

HoiAn 26 Ship Building Is a Major Industry in the Area, Even Though Hoi An Is No Longer the Important Port It Once Was

HoiAn 27 These Men and Many Others Like Them Spend Almost All of Their Lives on the Water

HoiAn 28 Qua Lives in An Hoi Village Opposite Hoi An: Smaller Villages Haven't Yet Seen the Changes Found in the Bigger Cities and Towns (If They Ever Will!)

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THE CENTRAL COAST

Heading north towards Hue from Hoi An and nearby Danang, Vietnam's fourth-largest city (which I didn't visit), one crosses some of the most beautiful coastline imaginable. Past the Marble Mountains the views are especially dramatic, especially through the area around Hai Van Pass. At the same time, this is the coastal area of the DMZ ("Demilitarized Zone"), a region with one of the most ridiculous names anywhere -- this was where the most intense fighting of the American War took place. While I did not go inland, fellow travellers I spoke with described the DMZ as a wasteland, where few plants are able to grow even twenty-five years after the end of the war. Contrast that mental image with the beautiful scenery you see here along the coast; war is indeed hell.

Hue 01 This Stone Warrior Guards the Entrance to One of the Buddhist Cave Sanctuaries in the Marble Mountains

Hue 02a OR 02b A Gigantic Buddha Figure Stands Inside One of the Caves to Greet Worshippers and Other Admirers

Hue 03 The Coastline Near Lang Co Island Is Particularly Beautiful...

Hue 04 ...After Six Months of Travel, I Dreamed of Stopping Here to Rest For a Month or Two!

Hue 05 An American Bunker at Hai Van Pass: The Beauty of the Area, and Time, "Mist Over" the Horrors the War Created