First stop of the day was to the museum of Dien Bien Phu. This battle was fought for 55 days in 1954 and essentially ended the French colonization of Vietnam. So the French were supported by the US Air Force. They parachuted their men into the valley. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese soldiers were taking their orders from the Chinese. During the first engagement, the Vietnamese lost hundreds of soldiers. So the leaders of the Vietnamese forces got together and decided they knew their soldiers. They understood the terrain. They would change tactics. They dug trenches during the middle of the night. They employed hundreds of civilians to help them drag weapons up the steep slopes of the mountain. They used the huge leaves from the jungle for camouflage. These weapons were heavy and it took much effort, time and energy to accomplish this. During this time, the French had no idea what was going on behind the scenes They drank wine and whiskey and lazed around.
When the battle began, the French were very surprised. By the cover of night and with the camouflage of the jungle, the Vietnamese army had outsmarted the French! They battled for 55 days – until the French army gave up. Many were taken prisoners. The injured French soldiers were treated by the Vietnamese doctors and returned to their own side. (The French medics were not up to the task.) This battle essentially marked the end of French colonization of Vietnam! The museum was very well done! We enjoyed it . . .
We spent much of today driving throughout the mountains of northern Vietnam. Such beautiful countryside! We stopped here and there to visit with some ladies selling their wares on the side of the road or to buy some fresh pineapple for snacking . . And – along the way, Te explained lots of interesting stuff to us! We were all trying to get photos out the windows . . That is challenging. My camera broke way back in Bangkok 😖 so I have been managing with my phone. It’s rather a crapshoot taking pictures from a bumpy, moving van! You have to push the trigger for a shot that is coming up. Not so easy. Occasionally we get a really good one! 😀😀 Much of this blog will be about the fun facts we learned as we drove along . . .
Much of the early fighting in Indochina happened because the powerful countries wanted control of the Golden triangle. This piece of land was extremely valuable because it was prime a prime growing area for opium.
Then we drove for a long ways . . .bumpy roads and mountainous terrain! We stopped at one point at the very top of a mountain pass to check out some Hmong women who were selling their food products by the side of the road. They weren’t overly friendly to us as we were not buying anything . . 😳 They have very colorful clothing and head coverings These folks originated from China . . . We did manage quite a few good shots . . Dave is a master at shooting from the hip 😀
After about five minutes here, the ladies told Te to “go away.” It was clear that we were not buying . . . The ladies here are all doing beautiful cross stitch . .
Women here in Vietnam work hard, manage the children and get little respect from the men. Te told us that Vietnam is the worst country for violence against women. His older brother hits his wife. She cries about it but no one can really come to her rescue. If a man wants sex and his wife does not – too bad! Yikes!
The roads here are crazy busy with scooters. There are 50 million scooters in the country and they drive as fast as they like with little consideration for anyone wishing to cross the street. In the cities, it’s worth your life to get to the other side. Te says we must be like sticky rice when we cross – I wish I had gotten a picture of John, Laurie, Martha, and Doug holding hands as they raced across a busy road. You should not run across because the motorbikes can’t judge your speed . . Pretty scary at times . . . Every day 22 to 23 Vietnamese people die on the roads.
Those who own cars must get insurance but not scooters. And there are 50 million scooters! If you are driving along and you hit a cow or a pig (loads of animals along the sides of the road) you must pay the owner how ever much he says his animal is worth. And sometimes it doesn’t stop there! If you hit a chicken, you might end up paying for the cost of that chicken as well as the 200 eggs she might produce! 😜 The owners specificity the price. No lawyers. No negotiation!
Families really hope to produce boys. Because – eventually the girls will go to live with their husbands family. There is clearly no such thing as social security or health insurance (unless you work for the communist party). So your only hope to get care as you age is your sons and their families. Te has three girls. He is hoping his nephew will help them out as he and his wife get older . . .
So – there is another problem for the young women of this country. In China for many years they tried to control their population with the one child policy. As the result of that policy, many girls were sent away for adoption or aborted before they were born. Another result of this policy is that there are thousands of Chinese men looking for wives. Clearly there are not enough eligible women in China. So – there is a terrible issue here in Vietnam (probably other countries as well) with people kidnapping Vietnamese women and girls to take off to China to marry their men. Our country is far from perfect – but our women certainly have more rights and privileges! 😀 They have a saying here – “One man is enough. 10 women – zero.” 😖😖😖 Terrible!
So we stopped at one point for green tea at the house of Te’s good friend. This was pretty cool! This fellow used to work in the hotel industry but he wanted to be closer to his family – so he moved home and started a car washing business. We all needed to use his bathroom (badly – some of us) and then we sat out in front of his house having green tea!
Lunch was at this really fun local place! There was a TV set on – fairly loud – so you could watch the local shows . . And there was one gentleman on a reclining chair doing just that! 😀 Te ordered for us – a typical Vietnamese lunch . . . Roasted pork slices Several sauces Steamed rice Stir fried cabbage Tiny fried fish from the resovoir Fish broth with greens and garlic Really very tasty!!
And then it was off to the hotel – with a fantastic hour long walk through a local Hmong village We took lots of pictures here as it was stunningly beautiful and the late afternoon light was wonderful
This hotel is pretty funny. Very modern – But seemingly no one here but us! Te brought in a cooler of local beer to share (very sweet gesture – although the beer was not overly cold) and then we gathered in the dining room for dinner. It was freezing cold in there and we were the only people in this huge room! 😳. They did have a reasonably good Cabernet for $12. 😀. And the food was pretty good! Good we were there!
This place was alive in the morning. Apparently it’s a convention center and the place was full of smoking businessmen . . .