Early mornings have been our only break from the unrelenting heat here at An Bang Beach near Hoi An, Quang Nam, Vietnam. So, up we get to mount our bicycles to exercise and explore the village. At 5:30 or 6:00 am the roads are already busy with bicycles and motorbikes; people dashing to work, school or the market.
We have a number of routes that we can choose through and around our village or down the road to the Tra Que vegetable village.
This organic garden is a co-operative where neighbouring families work together to produce vegetables for hotels, restaurants and locals lucky enough to live close enough to stop by for their produce.
We watched one morning as several workers prepared the soil for yet another harvest....3 or 4 a year....lettuce and small greens more than that. The seaweed that they were shovelling into the earth had come from a kilometre down the road. Everything is so fresh and green here.
The southern end of An Bang is not so attractive. As we have written in our book, Back to Vietnam, this area has been targeted for big development and the evidence of that is all around. For much of our ride out of the village, we travel on a small seaside road where simple and small fishermen's and sod farmers' houses once stood.
Now on the oceanside of the road, there is nothing but rubble. The families have been relocated and although the houses across the road are large, the streets paved and streetlights glow at night, we wonder how many of them are actually occupied by the fishermen and their families. There is some evidence that these new abodes are not occupied by the villagers.
Back on the main road, we pass a row of houses made from metal shipping containers. They are new, but obviously small, crushed close to the roadside. When I asked Quyen whether they were indeed containers, she said "Yes, the building supplies for all those big new houses came in those containers." The fact that the last container in the row has been set up as a shrine, with an altar, incense and a Buddha gives me hope that these "refugees" have taken their spiritual strength with them to their new homes of tin.
In contrast....today I admired a young girl on her way to high school. Dressed in the traditional white ao dai she floated along like a swan. I was so struck by her elegance and upright posture that I almost missed the fact that she rode upon a very new electric bike. Unlike most of the youth she also wore a very spiffy helmet, and of course a face mask to protect against sun and dust. But it made me laugh to also see that she had a cell phone to her ear.
What a contradiction.....as the Swan floated by with her cell phone, she too would have passed the container "condos", their metal already sizzling as a mother fed two children sitting on stools by the roadside. Did the Swan see them? What would she be thinking?
I have thought about this all day!