viet15_halong_peoplephoto.jpg Looking back at our trip to Vietnam in December 2005, browsing through the photos, I realise that our journey through this diverse, history-packed and sturdy country encapsulated some exceptionally beautiful moments.
For me, Sylvia managed to capture in her photos the very essence of this country, and I have added her best shots here. Especially, the motives from Ha Long bay are striking, almost bizarre, like paintings. viet17_halong_manwatching.jpgOn the whole, the colours are thick and rich with an earthy quality as much as are the people – deeply rooted and connected to their land.
If we call Vietnam a basic country, we do so only with regards to our western standards of technology. On closer observation, Vietnam turns out to be a complex and complicated land and society, enmeshed in situations of conflict and struggling to compromise their culture with religious demands and economic growth.
Still they manage to retain an attitude of humanity, which our western societies are more and more alienated from. This attitude, for me, is oddly reflected in the Vietnamese traffic. Throngs of vehicles, from rickshaw to truck, way to many for the narrow and badly maintained Vietnamese streets, go hither and thither like busy ants. viet11_hanoi_litmanlake.jpgOn our first attempt to cross a street in the old town of Hanoi, Sylvia and I were almost dumbstruck: in no possible way could we see any chance to cross the street, even at a crosswalk. viet04_hanoi_litmanwalk1.jpg The thick traffic passed us by and nobody seemed willing to stop. But when we took the first step into the street – taking up our courage, clenching at each other, as if that would help – we realised that the traffic suddenly started to separate and let us easily cross the street. The drivers of the vehicles were watching our steps closely and reacted to them immediately but gently so that the driver next to them, in turn, could react to their movements.
The traffic there is wild, and here in our western world would, almost certainly, lead to a complete collapse. viet05_hanoi_litmanwalk2.jpgBut there, magically, it worked perfectly. The traffic did not move fast, but it moved constantly, incessantly, patiently, never stopping. Accidents do happen there, I am sure, but we have, fortunately, not witnessed a single, minor incident on the street on our whole trip.
People in Vietnam, especially in the North, may appear distant and reserved but they exhibit a warmly human quality, one that respects the human being right next to them. There, so it seemed, they still paid attention, they still watched each other, with a heart-warming lack of aggression and selfishness. viet10_ninh_ricepaddies.jpgIn Bali, I realised that this phenomenon is not limited to Vietnam but seemed to be an integral psychological quality in Eastern societies, mainly those rooted in Hinduism, Buddhism and religious belief systems akin to them.
It may strike you as odd that I have chosen traffic as a way to explain a culture’s mentality. But go out and take in the scene of a crossroads here and you will be surprised by what you see: a reflection of a societies attitude and behaviour.viet02_hue_street.jpg