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Friday, August 16, 2013

City of a Thousand Pines


A warm welcome to the first readers from Romania.

Bun venit.

And now Taiwan and Domenica.

Many people seem to be enjoying this post.

Thanks everybody for reading;
there are 5 more Viet posts behind and another soon to come.




France or Vietnam? A Village in the Highlands around Dalat



Da Lat

Sex tourism is a subset of the sex industry, and refers specifically to the buying and selling of sexual services between a tourist and a sex worker.
It tends to draw on the structures and networks of the tourism industry, and the intent of this sub-sector, like that of the tourism sector in general, is to attract foreign currency. As such, sexual services are offered as ancillary services at tourist venues such as coffee shops, restaurants, bars, hotels and night clubs, massage parlours, escort services or karaoke clubs.

In an unusual place like Da Lat these services were on offer. In the Alexandre Yersin Park by the lake. The male agent on hand, the panderer, seemed to think I was a bit of a spoilsport for not indulging in his colleague's services. Subtlely offered in the rose garden. All very lighthearted I'm sure. Odd to go to a gardener's world and get the offer. Not a thing I saw anywhere else in Viet Nam.




The Vietnam flag in flowers at Da Lat Flower Park





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Called Little Paris Da Lat is closer to an upmarket Darjeeling and really nothing like Paris.
There is a mini Tour Eiffel but still. More like Richmond in London with different housing stock.


Romantic couples wander around being romantic like this young lady posing for photographs by the lake. Da Lat's chilly sense of itself suggests a level of separateness from the rest of Viet Nam.

It was unsurprising to me that Da Lat had a small involvement in the war against the US. Only during the Tet Offensive of 1968.
Da Lat was held by Southern Viet forces.

The impact on civilians still horrible to recall.



One day in Ten Thousand

Some enlightened person played this on the pho stall I visited. Kinda gets you in the mood
... for something.

Drink Me: www.youtube.com/watch?v=InRDF_0lfHk




Innocuous bushes by the lake on the Alexandre Yersin estate. A lady lurks behind them offering sexual services. So far I have been offered women in south-east Asia probably twenty times. A few more times in India.





There is no Cavalry



I liked this lady waiting outside a hillside temple on the edge of town.
Nothing to do with rose bushes and parks.


The Year of the Dragon







Fields of crops viewed from a cemetery


 Surprising to come up here, to the south part of the central highlands to find arable land laid out with cauliflowers, cabbages, flowers and strawberries. Strawberry jam appears for breakfast. The strawberries are steeped in a syrup rather than a suspension of sugar like English jam. But Viet baguettes, jam, Weetabix and marmite all appeared at breakfast time in my hotel. A great place on the edge of town. They provided very good mountain bikes as an inducement to stay the kilometre away from the centre. Thien An Hotel. The people here were on it. As good as any hotel I have stayed in. Mum, dad and two sons run this place. And quite close to the roads out to Lianbang Mountain.


Atoms for Peace

On one of the hotel bikes I cycled out towards the mountains. The road took me up still towards Langbian mountain. My legs pumped at the mountain bike. I went past glasshouse after glasshouse. Full of strawberries, scallions, flowers. Like England. Bit hotter. 1500 metres up.

As I looked back at the Da Lat plateau some nameless joy rose and fell in me. All in the same instant.



Langbian Mountain


In the other direction scooters passed laden with impossible cargoes. Copses of coriander, groves of scallions, donkey baskets of papaya. Visible provision. All heading for town. Nothing hidden in refrigerated trucks, Sainsburys lorries.

Ten miles out of town and eventually the cold frames and cloches gave way to the rule of the highlands. The conifers and clouds touched each other.

A group of Vietnamese were haggling with a woman around a cache of durian. Durian.
‘Like eating strawberry blancmange while on the toilet’ fruit.
Banned on public transport in Singapore. Everything banned there. Still best sold out of doors. The woman besieged, laughing at her moment's good fortune. Laughing in her conical coolie hat. At the clamour around her. Across the road a disinterested girl of ten. Flying a kite. On a short string. The thing only six feet from her face. Her free hand on her hip. Girl only eight summers old. Wanting away but disinclined to change her environment.
Maybe it was the Indochinese mountain air. Maybe there was something in it. But I found I was changing. I didn’t use to eat pineapples. Relax in parks. Live from moment to moment. Nor eat chicken feet or Chao Ga, Viet rice porridge. Now I did them all.

It became so steep I couldn’t ride anymore. The road petered out into a sloping surface of baked terracotta mud. Unfamiliar grasses sprouted up around me. Strange shrubs. There was a spot littered with burnt silver foil, beer cans, signs of a fire, Styrofoam takeaway trays. I left all that behind. I climbed up another 500 metres. There was only the clear blue skies, the twin peaks of Lianbang above me.



I found a spot and sat. On the way up I noticed how dry everything was. The dust, the grasses. There were cracks in the earth. Ferns. Some of the conifers had dried. At the point of death. Branches crunched underfoot. Dried by countless cloudless seasons of sun.

The twin peaks stared back at me. I pulled a banh mi out of my pack. Sipped at warm water. Wrote a note or two. Fell asleep. Woke up forty five minutes later. I noticed I was surrounded by golden dragonflies. Maybe there were around forty of them. They circled me. Swayed to and fro in the wind. Like they were drawn to certain atoms coming off me.



The Beauty of the Southern Highlands

Every now and again a cool wind howled over the ridge. I fell asleep again even though the grass stuck into my back. The occasional red ant bit me.

Listening on Langbian: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gWrnQVc5a4

'Before my very eyes' by Atoms for Peace

I woke again. Now the sun had gone in. The blue sky had been swamped with fat cumulus cloud. I had been away from the motherland for seven months.
*

This image captures Vietnam very well; Socialist edifice plastered in free market colour.

The King of Vietnam's reception room.

Bao Dai abdicated in 1955.


The Throne Room




Da Lat in the background; 7 inch stick insect in the middle ground



Here he is again



One of several beautiful pagodas on the outskirts of Da Lat





Red Mist


Pine Trees




Da Lat Sculpture Garden: England won't be the same place.
Riviere sans retour. Heraclitus once said

'You cannot step in the same river twice'



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Coming soon: Varkala, Pariah Dogs and Me












1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just a heads up, Bao Dai abdicated the throne in 1945. Then became head of state of the State of Vietnam in 1949. Then in 1955 he was deposed by Ngo Dinh Diem.