Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Dogs, Pigs, Fridges and Cows.

Vietnam is markedly different to Laos. Although we initially drove into some wonderful mountain scenery, cloud lying below us, jungles rising above us, we soon descended into a far more densely populated and busy country. Instead of bamboo huts on stilts, the predominant architectural style is thin, tall and concrete. When I say thin, I mean a room wide, and when I say tall, I mean four stories. The houses do go back a bit, but height is almost a status symbol here. Given that more houses will probably be built beside these stand-alone steeples, everyone wanting to build by the main road, only the fronts are painted and few windows line the sides. These houses are everywhere and so the impression is less of a series of towns, than one long stretch of habitation. The exception to this are the huge rice fields, laced with irrigation canals and electricity pylons, that space out the dwellings and which seem to go on all the way to the horizon.

Another feature omnipresent in Vietnam is the red flag, mostly studded with the national gold star, but occasionally boasting a hammer and sickle. These people are (rightfully) proud of their nation having seen off the Chinese, the French and of course the Americans.

Traffic too is a lot busier. Somewhat similar to Thailand, every time someone wants to pass someone else they beep. At least that's the way it seemed at first. The reality is they beep for everything, often, I am convinced, just for the joy of beeping. Naturally it is noisy. Not helping matters are the vehicles themselves. Although some trucks and an occasional car will travel the roads, here the motorbike is all powerful. People use them to transport everything, sometimes whole families, but often whole households. We passed numerous bikes carrying huge cages filled sometimes with pigs, sometimes with dogs, all destined for the same fate (the pot). At one point I saw a man with two fridge boxes on the back of his vehicle. I thought, they can't really contain fridges, not really. Not long after we passed another guy with a cow, yes, a cow, alive and squashed into a wire cage, racing ahead of us. The fridge idea didn't seem so crazy to me then.


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