A colorful Vietnam

In fifteen days it is not possible to understand the “life” of a distant country. It strikes immediately however – at least in the places of Vietnam where I have been – the tranquility of the people and their cordiality. The landscape is pleasant, with high and steep hills full of trees. I especially visited the villages of the North, on the border with China. Then down to Hanoi via Dien Bien Phu with a boat tour of the countless stone islets of the Bay. The legend speaks of twelve hundred islets that would be nothing else than the soldiers who had won the battle of the “Mandarins in bloom” against the army of the “Evil Queen” which dominated throughout the region. The “Evil Queen” then, out of rage, turned them all into spurs of rock, scattered across the bay. Even today, after more than five thousand years, no one dares to pronounce the name of the “Evil Queen”. With the boat we sailed among those petrified, silent and immobile soldiers. We also slept, by boat, among those “islands”, and at night, in the moonlight, the thrill of being in that mysterious battlefield was very strong. Up in the North there are more than fifty ethnic groups, one different from the other in customs and language. The costumes, hand embroidered, are colorful and worn by women since they are small until their death, every day and all day. With the costume they go to school or to work in the shop or in the fields. In costume they stay at home or go to the market or some party. We were in Vietnam in the first half of January, fifteen days before their New Year. Many mothers gave their daughters decorations for the party. Extremely complicated hats that match the colors of their own ethnicity, or complicated faux silver necklaces. No one was surprised or came to snoop while I was sketching the scene in my notebook in front of them. A look, and a smile. I saw two women arrive with a “taxi”: a well-draped and clean cart complete with a number plate, pulled by a buffalo. I also bought two “short-sleeved” shirts, very wide, beautiful, hand-embroidered. I tasted some strange “hazelnuts”, a very small banana and other fruit unknown to me and with a name unrepeatable for me. They didn’t want money, but we exchanged a bow with a smile. In the small villages the houses are made of wood, bamboo and straw, raised more than a meter above the ground, and the chickens and a few piglets scratch under it. There is always a small garden, outside the house and often a small “pond” with some fish inside. Under the house, together with the pile of firewood, the chickens and the piglets, there are the scooters resting on the piles. They too are beautiful, clean and colorful.