Another delayed post -- this from July 20.
Yesterday was a "sea day" in Vietnam and a tummy ache day in my cabin, so not much new to report. Today was a treat, however. Up early and on the tender at 8:15, to catch a rickshaw (bicycle driven this time) for a tour around xxx. It's a small town, a little prosperous.
The central market was starting to bustle. Vendors shoved carts piled high with exotic fruits and vegetables into place -- spiky red rambutan, purple passion fruit, and the strange and wonderful dragon fruit. The funky odor of the heavily armored durian, stacked on its own separate cart, chased us down the streets.
People went about their business but the small children had already learned that tourists mean money. They lined the streets to wave madly as we went by, calling out sing-song "hel-los, hel-los" as we passed.
We visited a family-owned silk factory -- 90 looms clacking away and sweat-shiny workers manning four at a time, moving back and forth managing spindles and thread. All the silk was snowy white, thick and heavy and woven with exquisite patterns. After it is woven it is dyed, dipped up to 30 times to achieve the rich black color the Vietnamese prefer.
Fun to watch, better to shop. Bought more scarves and a silk/cotton dress ($15!) and some trinkets.
Hopped back on the rickshaws and went flying off again just as the sky started to go black and the wind turned to gusts. Seriously, one minute warm sunny morning and the next I am yelling "Jerry, keep that silk dry!" Our drivers tried to outrace it but it came down in torrents and when they finally ducked into a roadside garage I was soaked to the skin.
It was great. My driver and I were laughing ourselves silly and I splashed through the mud to find Jerry, equally drenched, in the garage next door.
Fortunately, the silk was safe and dry.
From there to a mat factory -- more looms but this time weaving reeds into the mats the Vietnamese sleep on because mattresses are too hot and damp in the tropical heat. It's piecework but the workers there average about a dollar an hour, and they work every day of the week.
That was the "commercial" part of the tour. From there we walked into the more rural part of the village. The rain meant mud was everywhere, but that's a way of life there during the rainy season. At least, it is until the whole place floods and they take to their boats. In the meantime they grow fields of okra, sesame, jicama, and corn. Electric cables run to most houses, fueling lights and the TV sets (some roofs, even thatched ones, sported satellite dishes.). Big barrels near each house holds the family's supply of fermenting fish sauce, brown, bubbly and stinking.
And everywhere kids, tiny, gorgeous kids, skipping along, following us to our final destination, the well-kept house of a grandmotherly looking 84 year old whose apple-cheeked appearance made it hard to believe she was one of the early members of the Viet Cong. The kids lined up, boys and girls, and waited for "gifts" -- pencils, cheap toys and jewelry that the visitors brought.
Then a slog back through the mud to the small boat that took us back to our big boat. Another window opened on a way of life a world away.