Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Where are the birds? and other ruminations on Vietnam

So where were the birds? Virtually no pigeons...who doesn't have pigeons? Few sparrows. Few egrets, herons (with all those rice fields?). Only an occasional gull or two. We saw a few hawks in Halong Bay but virtually no place else. Very few places had morning chirps outside the window. I was happy that I wasn't lugging around a bird book through Vietnam. So here is my theory. In hard times people eat everything and anything and Vietnam has had a lot of hard time. So they eat pigeons and other feral birds, they eat rodents and small critters. So any kind of bird dependent on small critters for food either starve or move to better territory. Other birds dependent on the picking and leavings of people...are fair game and in close proximity. And then you add the ecological devastation of decades of war and defoliation practices...its a wonder there are any birds whatsoever!

Honda: definition: any motorcycle or scooter. Honda has become the "kleenex" or "xerox" of Vietnam. Any msall motorcyle or scooter can be referred to generically as a Honda whether it is one or not (Honda's by the way are about 3 or 4 times as expensive as Chinese made cycles)

The $68,000 Camrys: Cars are very expensive in Vietnam. Partly due to economics and partly due to political design. It is correctly perceived that the road and circulation system is not ready for an onslaught of's barely surviving the millions of motorbikes/scooters that have popped up like bunnies with the increased prosperity of the last decade. So import duties are very high...up to 250%. So a Toyota Camry shipped from the US costs $68.000. I'm still trying to calculate what the Porshce Cayenne I saw in Saigon would cost...I calcuate about $240,000.

Water Buffaloes don't eat rice, cattle do. One of the reasons you see so many more water buffalo's pulling equipment in the field. When they are on break they don't eat the product!

Motorbike Washing Parties. When someone is finally able to save up enough money to buy a motorbike, they will have a party where they invite friends for the "first wash". Who is bringing the Bia (Bia is the Vietnamese word for Beer....Bia locally produced beer...consistently good and cheap).

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