1/9/10: Central Highlands, Vietnam
I ate a silkworm today.
I was debating ending the post there – it seems very poignant. It would be like George Costanza leaving a meeting after getting in a good one-liner. Perhaps it would have been our best post ever, but there’s just so much more to say that I’ll risk killing the silkworm-eating mood and continue.
The reason for the eating of the silkworm stems back to the end of Zhou’s post yesterday. Today we started our tour with Easy Riders Da Lat, a company that Smucker’s once called the best thing since sliced bread. The reviews for the real Easy Riders had been so good (“This is heaven on a motorbike” and “I’d trade my firstborn for another day with Easy Riders”) that we were bound to be let down. And when we made our first stop to watch a female pig get artificially inseminated, I thought we were in over our heads. (Although to be fair I didn’t know pigs could make babies that way, so I suppose I learned something right off the bat.)
I soon found out though that we really were in for an experience we won’t forget. We wound up learning more things in a day than I learned in an entire year of 8th grade English, although it did help that I paid attention today. With guides like Mui and Duc though, you couldn’t help but pay attention.
Before leaving Da Lat, we toured a hotel that’s affectionately known as “Crazy House.” It’s hard to describe it in the space I’m going to limit myself to here, but I will say this: it was crazy! My only concern with the hotel would be that all the tourists taking pictures would severely limit the privacy of an actual hotel guest.
Our next stop was a flower plantation which I have to admit would have made Super Mario’s enemy hide under the nearest Goomba.
We learned how to make rice wine, and I re-learned why I don’t drink. That stuff is awful!
We watched workers make natural brooms out of a tall grass. Like many people who use grass all day, they were surrounded by a fluorescent haze.
Our next stop was the silk factory. Just like at all our other stops, our guide (in this case Duc) explained in incredible detail the entire process. We saw every step from the silkworm cocoon to the loom creating the final product. We had only been with the Easy Riders for a couple hours at this point, but they had already welcomed us so warmly that when Duc offered a dead silkworm to me to eat, my heart overrode my stomach and I couldn’t say no. Zhou also tried one, but that’s not nearly as big of a deal.
We saw perhaps the happiest Buddha in the world.
We talked with a Chin family through the help of Mui. The Chin number about 500 and are one of the many minority tribes in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
We met three Mnong girls carrying baskets of vegetables the seven kilometers back to their homes.
At our last stop, we watched a family build a new house on the water. Throughout the process one boy kept diving down what must have been over ten feet to the bottom of the lake to retrieve tools that had been dropped.
Not only did we see miles of gorgeous scenery today, but also the effects of the war over 40 years ago. Much of the land we drove through is just now becoming safe for reforestation after being destroyed by Agent Orange and other chemicals. Both of our guides grew up in southern Vietnam and told us stories of their lives during the war. Mui was unable to go to university afterwards because his family fought with the south. Duc’s village was destroyed, but luckily his entire family fled to safety just in time.
Whatever misconceptions I had about becoming dumber during our year of world travel I definitely have no longer.
Picture of the Day: One of the many experiences from today that I failed to mention in the lengthy post was our driving over several hundred meters of tapioca laid out in the road to dry.