And then.....

Sunday, May 21, 2006


One of the very beautiful women of Saigon.

Buddhist Monk

In the same temple where the young boy was studying his lessons in Buddhism, a monk was giving a young woman counsel. The method of counsel, we were told, was through reference to ancient text.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Red, white and blue and precious.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City? Just so you know!

In Hanoi we never heard the word Saigon, only Ho Chi Minh City. When we reached Hue, Danang and Hoi An in the central part of the country, we rarely heard the city referred to as Ho Chi Minh City. After moving south from those towns to Saigon, we never heard the words Ho Chi Minh City again.
Again from Lonely Planet: " unofficially the city is still called 'Saigon', officially, 'Saigon' refers only to District 1. Southerners certainly prefer the name Saigon, but if you have to deal with government officials its best to use HCMC. "
Our impression is that there still is a very big difference in north and south and strong but rather subdued sentiments accompanying that difference.

(The famous bars and dance clubs of Saigon, the tawdry type hang outs of The Superintendent in Miss Saigon, are still, I believe, very much there, still hot and rowdy, but as we have difficulty going to anything but an afternoon movie and think a.m always follows 11:00, I can't say for sure.)

Bihn Tay Market

As taken from the van.
"At first sight Ho Chi MinhCity ( HCMC) may seem to be populated with a million bandana-bedecked women bandits on the verge of a giant traffic accident. And in fact, the pattern in the streets reflects a gereralized, organized chaos in a city that attracts people from all over the courntry hoping to better their fortunes." - Lonely Planet

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Young Buddhist

Monday, May 15, 2006


Our first stop in Saigon was to visit a Buddhist temple the name of which, sadly, I cannot recall.
It was an interesting and active place. There was a large, dark hall filled with Buddhas and smoke and candles and, most importantly, the gold plaques with the pictures of deceased family members. The Vietnamese beilieve in an unbroken chain linking the ancestors and their spirits with the living and the unborn.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Jumping feet first into Saigon.
A Vietnamese cyclo is a chair not unlike a wheel chair in shape and design that is attached to a bike type structure. The people who pedal the cyclos are men and a good number of them are professionals and academicians who fought against the north or sided with the americans. We learned this from our guide book which also stated that after lengthy "re-education" of many years duration these men were allowed to return to Saigon but not allowed to work in anything but the lowliest of jobs.
To take a ride in a cyclo is to put your life entirely in the hands of the driver. As you can see, the traffic is legend but the men pedal about as if dancing a part in a highly choreographed ballet. After a while, because of their skill and calm, your spine begins to relax and you begin to consider that you may, in fact, live to do it again.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Rice Field in Laos

"Slash and burn" is a common agricultural practice in Laos. Right before the rainy season, farmers burn the ground vegetation, wait for the rains to come and then plant rice and vegetables. This method can be used for 2 years before the land must lie fallow for 8 years. Experts dispute the pros and cons of this practice and the government has officially tried to ban it. Still, during late spring, we are told, the fires are evident and the method continues.

Tomorrow- Saigon!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Along The Mekong - Last Stop

The presence of Bhuddism is manifested everywhere in Luang Prabang either in the faint sound of chanting and singing or in the orange clad monks making their way down the streets. We met these monks in the village that was our last stop on our days journey on the Mekong.
The sign - in English! - says Please donation to help the temple build the bathroom. We donationed. The young boy above is carrying a small bag of brussel sprouts.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Japanese Tea Garden

Looking into the teahouse, Tom's photo and a rare site indeed because the place is very often SRO with tea seeking tourists, and looking from the teahouse.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Japanese Tea Garden

Yesterday we had a ceremony of sorts in that we went to the Japanese Tea Garden here in Golden Gate Park very early for tea and a stroll. The garden opens at 9 and the hoards from buses dont arrive until about 10:15. The tea house is empty at that time and generally the only people there are the gardeners.
It is interesting and a little amusing to watch the gardeners careful attention to pruning details but when you look about - even to the tall, old trees - you can see the result of such care. It is stunning to consider that this patient gardening has been going on for years and years.
The pagoda is Tom's picture, the flowers mine - in case you were looking for yin and yang.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Along The Mekong Wedding

On the same stop along the Mekong as the insect infused booze, we encountered a wedding. I dont think any words are needed here to tell the story.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Along The Mekong

Resposibility starts early along the Mekong.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Along The Mekong

One of the stops we made along the Mekong was to a village that, in addition to other merchandise, produced really scary looking homemade hooch. The first thing we encountered after we made our way along the bamboo path and up the sandy trail to the village was this still and its product. I dont think you can look closely enough to see the huge scorpions, snakes and spiders that enhance this hooch but, trust me, they were there. An acquired taste, I think.

Along The Mekong

Here is the weaver mentioned below. Weaving seems to be an important skill in this part of South East. It must be a good source of income for the women who do it. In other parts of South East Asia the weaving is largely aimed at the tourist trade but in Laos there are few tourists and it is primarily the people who live there that buy and wear these beautiful fabrics.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Along The Mekong

This is where we had lunch along the Mekong. Many places in other parts of the world that look like this are wanna bes. This was the real thing- a one family operation in the middle of the Laotian highlands. Except for us, it was a sort of barefoot quiet place. There were some kids and dogs, a weaver weaving on her loom and a couple of tables with trinkets for sale out back. For me, it was a kind of pinch-me-am-I-really-here place.

As we ate our lunch - fish, rice, fried noodles with chicken and vegetables, friut, cokes- we watched men fishing below. The method of catching fish is typical of the area wherein one man forcefully slaps the water with a long pole and the other holds the net or basket the fish are chased into.

I get the feeling these waters have plenty of fish. I am surely romanticizing The Last Shangri- la aspect of Luang Prabang - waters full of fish etc.- but, I must say, in this setting, it was easy to do.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Our guide in Luang Prabang was Toubee. Toubee's english is passable but not yet superior, nevertheless, we, all four of us on the trip, fell rather irrevokably under the spell of his charm. Perhaps you can see why in this picture.

Mekong River

A memorable day in Luang Prabang was the day we took a long boat ride up the Mekong River. Our destination was a small village, that appeared to be a one family village, where we had lunch. To go much past this village, we were told, would be to enter dangerous waters where bandit attacks were the norm. If we were detirmined to go on up the river - which I assure you we weren't - we could have taken an 8 hour speed boat ride on something that looked like a long motorized canoe that traveled, indeed, at very high speed. We saw a couple of these boats that were, in fact, filled with all of the passengers the boat would hold - about 4 - hunkered down and holding on for dear life which they would continue to do for many hours.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hmung Woman in Laos

The Hmong people are a mountain tribe. They may be best remembered for helping the americans in the Vietnam War ( which is called The American War in Vietnam). Like most Hmong, this woman and her family fled the country when the americans left. She now lives in Paris. We met her and a large entourage of her family on a trail that led to a beautiful waterfall. Everyone was carrying some food and laughing.

Monks of Luang Prabang, Laos

Monday, May 01, 2006

Carol Cassidy Studio in Vientienne, Laos

Pictured here are some of Carol Cassidy's weavers making the thread that will next be dyed. Carol, as mentioned before is a world reknown weaver of fine and very expensive fabric. She works with designers from all over the world and is the primary source of special design fabrics for major designers in New York.

While the work we saw was, indeed, very beautiful what impressed me the most about Carol is her industry with and compassion for women of the area who otherwise have little or no opportunities to make a living.

Further, she had recently, at the time we visited, begun flying once a month on a hold your breath plane and flight to a small village in Cambodia. The village like so many in Cambodia* has a good number of women who are victims of land mines. There Carol is teaching those women to weave with the intention of employing them in the studio she has set up there in the village. When we spoke with her she was spoke of being fatigued by these trips but detirmined to continue as long as energy permitted.

It must be said here that she pays the women well and maintains excellent working conditions and hours for them all.

Tom and I both parted Carol's studio thinking that, in addition to the awards she must surely receive for design, she should be awarded a major humanitarian award. It is not often that we are priviledged to see someone changing so many lives in such significant ways.

* Cambodia is the most heart wrenching place any of us had ever been. I will post pictures from there shortly.
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