Thursday, December 07, 2006

Early morning on Pac Hoan lake

This was the calm morning after the night before. A night of Boney M, sexy music videos, vodka and beer. We were the only guests at this lovely hotel on the wooded shore of this lake, just 20 kms or so from Dien Bien Phu, not mentioned on many maps. There were three staff and five loud dogs, a large living room with small seats, some glass tables and a massive stereo/video system. It was not long before they were blasting out Euro disco, sounding as if it had come from 1996, and mostly accompanies by sexy videos of sexily dressed ladies dancing around... well with so few women around, it was not entirely surprising.

It had been a long and very enjoyable day and it was getting dark, so it was not long before dinner was served, whereupin one of teh lads found the VCD of Boney M's 20 greatest hits and although we only got to about number 10, I can't think there were any that we had missed. What got them to sing a song about Belfast, during the times of the troubles, goodness knows, but I think that was the end of their pop carrer in the UK, at least!

How to spend an evening with four Vietnamese (including the driver) with such a language barrier. Well,we resorted not to karaoke, but to showing them my moo cards and Richard his photos on his laptop (yes, he is carrying his laptop, luckily enough as this is the only way I have been able to save my photos, the new hard drive already having given up working properly). Anyway, it was all good fun, even though all the Vietnamese found reasons NOT to drink the vodka (which we had not, in fact asked for), mostly claiming that they would not sleep if they did.

The next morning it was an early-ish rise to take a boat out onto the misty lake, just ourselves, some jumping fish and a couple of canoes of local people going past. Infinitely peaceful. Birds could be called singing from the trees and most of teh shoreline was covered in thick green jungle. We have been impressed with so many things here in Vietnam and one thing is the way they seem to be preserving their forests up here in the mountains. The village folk keep to the villages, albeit bringing back firewood, but it all seems to be done on the right scale. Richard, who has been teere, tells me that the mountains in neighbouring Laos are largely treeless, and by the sounds of it even Sumatra seems to be going that way too.

Back to teh lake, we stopped off at a Black Thai village, to see the local men building a new wooden house, one man could be seen sharpening his saw and really the very basic tools seemed to have been used. The houses are very well designed and most of them have red brick tiles on, sourced no doubt from the many brickworks one sees scattered around the countryside. The houses are on stilts and underneath, one finds pigs, chickens and dogs running around. The puppies and teh piglets are so adorable, although I must say I am more in the mood to eat dog than pat a dog since on of them had a bite at my trousers last night as I was walking back from a closed internet cafe.

Back at the hotel it was time to say our goodbyes to our new friends and soon we were on the road down to Dien Bien Phu, site of the famous battle which saw Vietnam beat the French as the first major step of getting the French out. Again, a word of admiration for the Vietnamese.... they have managed to see off Imperial China, Imperialance and Imperial USA. They can be very proud and as I mentioned before, they seem to be very good at doing teh right thing, where so many other countries fail.

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