We are pretty deep in Vietnam’s central highlands and easy riding has become a bit of a routine. After yet another incredibly tasty breakfast we set off on another day of riding. Our first stop was a tea plantation and to much of the women’s amusement we were able to spend some time with them on the field. Meanwhile a newly wedded couple were taking photos next to us. It seems traditional to take very elaborate wedding photos in Vietnam, which may be why you sometimes see a bride in her dress climbing over rocks near a waterfall to get that special photo.
Later we pulled into a small shed where a family was peeling the bark from glue trees that they then dry in the sun and sell to factories to make glue. The factory then grinds up the dry bark and uses a chemical to separate the wood from the glue powder. The freshly peeled bark felt very sticky. Selling the bark from glue trees is apparently quite lucrative.
This guy was moving house Vietnamese style.
Xuan sprung a surprise visit to an orphanage on us and of course we were very suspicious. In Cambodia we avoided orphanages all together in fear of visiting one that exploits children and makes the whole situation worse. Visiting this orphanage for minority children however was very different. Xuan knew the women working there and it was very refreshing to see this entire place run by locals and not expat foreigners. There was nothing particularly flash about the place, but it was very well equipped and really designed to do one thing and that is helping these children.
At this stage we had only seen the massive kitchen and no children. Xuan seemed excited about a new steam oven the kitchen had. With this unit they can steam heaps of rice at one time. We were still thinking that at one stage we would be put into an awkward forced photo situation with the children. Xuan was checking a few classrooms and did not interrupt the first few. Then he spoke to a teacher and signaled for us to come in. It was a grade 3 English class and the children spoke to us in choir. They asked us questions such as ‘How are you? Where are you from?’ and answered in choir when we asked the same questions. Most cute was when they all fell silent and their teacher explained that the children were racking their brains trying to think of another question to ask us. You could almost see their brains ticking. It was adorable to see and hopefully we did not interrupt them too much. They sung a song in English for us and it really pulled on our heart strings.
We were only in their classroom for about 5 minutes and then left them to continue with their schooling. Their English was already very good. Next door, we got to see a grade 6 class and spoke to them as well. They were really adorable and both teachers were Vietnamese and had a real connection with the children.
Xuan also showed us the sleeping quarters for the youngest children, which was a large room with many small beds inside. It was sad to see, but good to know that they had a bed to return to each evening. At the end of our visit, we went to see the youngest children in their playroom. This was really something. They jumped right into us and wanted to play with us straight away. Our Olympus OM-D camera became the best toy in the room and the children were all hanging off it taking photos of everything. They loved the camera and some interesting shots came out of this. I must admit it was intense and a little overwhelming to have so many young kids running around.
These two boys seemed the most energetic and wanted to be in every photo. We also saw some children who seemed to have some medical issues. There was only one carer and we wondered how she could manage.
We asked Xuan how this orphanage is funded and he replied that the government actually provides a lot of the funding and the rest comes from donations. It highlighted how important a good and solid start in life is for these children. A very special place to visit and we felt privileged to have been allowed to see it.
This French colonial church made entirely from wood was at the front of the orphanage. A beautiful building. To get back from the orphanage we had to ride through a minority village.
Below is one of the communal houses built by the minority village. It’s a place for meetings, celebrations, weddings, and also a place for young, single men to hang out. Women are to enter from the ladder on one side, while men are to enter from the other. It was very impressive, especially knowing it’s all hand made and men would scale up the roof to replace the grass every few years.
The golden gate bridge in the middle of the central highlands. Very cool!
We also saw another, newer communal house next to the bridge. As it was so new and constructed differently to the other communal house we wondered if it was really used for ceremonies by this minority village or if it was built there for tourists. When we asked Xuan about it, he told us that the villagers do use it and that they had had a celebration where the men drank quite a bit too much rice wine and then accidentally burned the building down. After that the government built a new communal house for them. Cheers!
I am really starting to enjoy riding and I don’t think this is the end of my motorbike days. I kept thinking how much I would like to ride through a few countries on my own bike.
Once we returned to town, it was evening traffic and the market spilled well into the street. People were literally buying stuff while still rolling on their motorbikes. I somehow made my way through this very exciting mess.
We went for a bit of a stroll and it didn’t take long to find some interesting stuff. This one lady was selling dog and seemed very excited when we asked her if we could take a photo. She decorated her table and piled the dog bits up for the photo. She kept bringing more paws and then a second head. One of the paws fell on the ground and I picked it up for her. Emma did not want me to touch her after that!
There is apparently no point in fearing that you will unknowingly eat dog as it is an expensive delicacy that is usually served up for special occasions. Still a confronting image. What a day.