November 1, 2007
Viet Nam receives anywhere from 100 to 120 inches of rain a year (three times the amount of Seattle or New York!). One fourth of the total comes in the month of October alone. So it has not been a surprise to find rain here. As we flew into the city of Da Nang, we were treated to views of some rivers in flood. In the photo, taken upon landing in our jet, the normal river banks are shown in the upper center of the photo - all other water is flooding the low lying areas and rice paddies. To an Arizona desert rat like me, this is rain on a completely different scale than I am used to.
The rain had stopped by the time we landed. We first visited the old city of Hoi An with its narrow streets and busy market. The next day we took a two hour drive north and got to see some of the countryside. One of the highlights was traversing a four mile long tunnel, completed two years ago and financed by the World Bank. It cuts through a mountain and bypasses a narrow and winding coastal road, saving us about one hour of drive time. This tunnel was thoroughly modern in every respect. The day was spent at the imperial city of Hue where we toured some elaborate tombs and The Citadel, a maze of ancient palaces that astounded us with their size and artistic detail. I would love to post pictures of everything but there are limits to what one can do. You’ll have to wait for the slide show back home!
At the end of the day, the rain returned and our drive back was through torrents of water falling from the sky. The people do not stop their lives when this occurs - they just wear colorful plastic rain ponchos and continue on their way on motorcycles and bicycles. Amazing! The people here are kind and gentle beyond description. They embrace the dollars that we are leaving behind and show their appreciation for our visit at every turn. Yet there is an air of communal ways in this country - there is no such thing as private property, as the government owns every speck of land. You can lease the land from the government and then build a house or business on that land. You own what sits on the land and can sell it and make a profit on that. A curious blend of economic systems it is. Ho Ch Minh is still revered here and is displayed on all the bank notes.
Next on the trip will be the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, India. What a juxtaposition of landscapes this will bring from tropical jungles to thorny deserts. These trips are perhaps too fast for my personal tastes but there are some pretty interesting movements that make me realize just how varied this world truly is.