Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sir Lanka celebrates victory over Tamil Tigers

Muslims in Nuwara Eliya taking part in the victory procession.
What better way to celebrate than to let off tonnes of firecrackers!

Three wheelers, also known as tuk-tuk, in a convoy.

A 2 km-long string of firecrackers snakes around the Hill Country town of Nuwara Eliya.

Friday, May 29, 2009


It was a once in a lifetime experience when I witnessed how a nation responded to the end of a war which had plunged it into fear, suffering and poverty for 30 years.

People, including Tamils, poured onto the streets in spontaneous celebrations across Sri Lanka, ecstatic that the long dark night had finally come to an end.

I was overjoyed to share their happiness, and see history being made at the same time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Vietnam War

A cyclo is a great way for sightseeing.
Vietnamese artists hard at work earning a living.

Although there are no reminders of the Vietnam War as I travelled around the country (except in museums), I couldn't help but reflect, as I looked at the younger generation of Vietnamese, what a sheer waste in lives for all those kids and young people as well as their parents whose lives were cruelly snuffed out.

The young born after the war knows virtually nothing of the war. They go about their daily lives blissfully ignorant of the horrors of the Vietnam War. Everybody works hard for a better future, and recriminations for past misdeeds are a waste of time.

Vietnam is too busy building a better future for its people to be enslaved to the past. Given the industry of its people, I won't be surprised if it becomes the next Asian tiger.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Folks in Saigon (Vietnam)

A lane like this is where you find the real Vietnam.
Carrying two heavy baskets of food slung on a bamboo pole, the woman in the conical hat is a common sight.
Wearing hats to keep out the sun, and masks to protect themselves from the polluted air, these girls stand out among the crowd.

The pleasing thing about travelling in Vietnam for me was the absence of touts and beggars unlike in Indonesia and elsewhere. In my three visits to Vietnam I didn't come across any beggars in cities and towns or in the country.

I was impressed with how hardworking the ordinary folks were, both young and old. Everyone was busy with some kind of work or the other. No work was too humble as long as there was money to be made.

The younger generation knows little about the Vietnam war to be bothered. They are more interested in getting the latest cell phone, computer games and that status symbol, the motor-bike.

A fellow passenger,probably in her early 40s, in an inter-city coach said, "I hate war."

Americans need not worry about visiting Vietnam.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Vietnam - street life Part 2

Man hawking sunglasses.
A kitchen preparing food for the lunch-time crowd.
Getting his pushcart of food ready.
Cheap paper backs for backpackers. Quality is good except for maps and photos.

In Vietnam, the streets and sidewalks are where much of Vietnamese life is conducted. They are an extension of the home, serving as places to carry out small businesses, to socialise and to watch the world go by.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), Vietnam - street life

Fruit sellers in Saigon
Coconut seller
Banana seller

For those who come from more orderly cities, Saigon will strike them as chaotic, anarchic, disorderly and bewildering. These impressions are true but it's precisely these things that give Asian cities like Saigon a special character.

In Saigon the street life is full of colour and human interest. People practically live on the street, oblivious to the press of humanity, noise and pollution of all sorts.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) street life

Pedestrians brave the street clogged with bikes.
Bikes to the left, right and centre.

Anyone who sets foot in Saigon always exclaims, "Wow, so many motor-bikes!"

This is definite proof that such a person has good eyesight. An estimated 20 million bikes buzz up and down the country, in the cities, towns and countryside. Where there is anything that can support two wheels, there you will see a bike.

To own a bike is a status symbol especially among young people who dominate Vietnam's populace.

The noise generated by the millions of bikes is a backdrop against which Vietnamese go about their daily life. Sitting on little stools while sipping tea or an iced soft drink they watch the world go by, noisily.

I suspect they look on the bike-clogged streets with some measure of pride. Good for you Vietnam. You have come a long way.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon (Vietnam)

Peering out of my plane as it made its descent over Saigon, I noticed how, without tree cover Saigon looked so uninviting and bare. Packed with mainly low-rise buildings, Saigon is home to 9 million people.

The first thing that struck me were the thousands of motor-bikes whizzing by like flies. Like a charging army they take up every inch of road space. Pedestrians need to be alert all the time as a motor-bike may come upon you with a suddenness that can panic you into an accident.

The trick in crossing safely is to walk slowly without any hesitation and let the traffic flow around you. Crossing in a group is helpful.

Watch the video below to see how I crossed the road jam-packed with bikes.