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Published: October 20th 2009
Bhaktapur city, Nepal - April 2009
This 23-year-old Nepalese student worked part time as a porter during my treks in Kathmandu valley. He is one of the best Nepalese I've ever met.
A trip may be ruined or not, it depends much on how we deal with the people we meet. While I don't deny that I too was hassled by persistent touts and beggars, or overcharged by hotels, travel agents and local drivers, and hurt by some westerners who judged me based on my nationality and said rude words to me, I still can say that 90% of the people I've met when traveling are great ones. Everyone tells me stories of their lives, and even if they are happy or sad, I always learn something from them. There are numerous stories that I would like to share with you, but due to the limitation of a blog, I only can write two stories about the two special men whom I met in Vietnam.
Photo No. 7 in this blog was very famous in the American war. It was taken by AP photographer Nick Út in Trảng Bàng, Tây Ninh, South Vietnam on 8 June 1972. The photo was then awarded a Pulitzer Prize and was also chosen "the World Press Photo of the Year for 1972". Kim Phúc, the 9-year-old girl in the center of the photo, was running naked
Wedding of the Dzao people in Sìn Hồ
By chance I met a Dzao ethnic groom before his wedding day. He invited me to his wedding party and ceremony. This was my first ever experience with wedding of the ethnic minority people in the North West of Vietnam.
on the street after being severely burned on her back because of a napalm attack. She was yelling "Nóng quá, nóng quá!" ("too hot, too hot") in the picture. Both the photo and the girl then became famous world-wide.
The reason why I uploaded this photo into my blog is that I had a great chance to meet with one of the children in the famous photo. Some years ago on a business trip in southern Vietnam, myself and 3 Japanese in my company (a Japanese contractor) traveled on the Trans-Asia Highway for a survey. On that day we were heading toward the Vietnam - Cambodia border crossing. It was mid-day and we all felt tired after running around like crazy during the past few days through northern, central and southern regions of Vietnam. The Japanese men decided that we would stop somewhere for lunch then continue our way later.
The driver stopped the car outside a restaurant and as soon as we entered into the house, the Japanese with great surprise saw the famous photo on a wall of the house. A middle aged man (see Photo No. 8) came out to say hello to us and
A Sri Lankan artist & his paintings
This guy owns a painting shop in Negombo town and he helped me order food during my stay. I loved to talk with him every day when I was there.
he introduced himself that he was the older brother of Kim Phúc, the famous napalm girl. He was the boy who was wearing white shirt and running on the front side of the photo. Kim Phúc and other cousins were behind him. We all sat down and drank tea, while he answered our questions and turned on the video tape with a speech of Kim Phúc. He said at that time he was 10 years old and the street in front of his house was the place where the famous photo was taken. We wanted to take some photos with him and he agreed. He was holding a book written in Dutch with the famous photo on the cover, and on the wall behind us there was a photo of Kim Phúc. They are now in the middle age. Mrs Kim Phúc has lived in Canada with her husband and sons. According to the older brother, sometimes she and Nick Út went back to Vietnam and visited his family. We then enjoyed the food at his restaurant. "Bánh tráng Trảng Bàng" is the local specialty in this area. "Trảng Bàng" is the name of the location, "Bánh tráng" is the
Dinner at a H'mong house in Dào San
i met a H'mong woman and she invited me to her house and we had dinner together (Lai Châu province, North West Vietnam) - October 2012.
rice papers which we use to roll with vegetables and meat then eat with special sauce.
Right before I made this entry, I found an article written by a young Vietnamese boy. He wrote that the older brother of Kim Phúc (the man I met) died in 2004 after a heart attack and now his wife is taking care of the restaurant. If that was true, then it was a very sad news for me and many people who would like to meet and talk with him. His life was so short, he died at age 42. Whenever I look at his photo, I remember how friendly he was on our short visit. This is address of Kim Phúc's family restaurant that you might be interested, if you have a chance to visit the town: 19/26, Trảng Bàng town. Tel: 066-881008.
The second story I would like to share with you was my meeting with a special Norwegian tourist in Vietnam. While waiting for my flight from Huế city to Hanoi after a business trip, I talked with some Norwegian tourists who cycled along Vietnam from south to north. The tour leader took me to one of the
Two Nùng ethnic girls in Hoàng Su Phì
I met these girls at the Sunday market and they invited me to their house for lunch.
tourists and introduced me to him. This Norwegian man is blind, deaf and mute and the only way to communicate with him is to touch the fingers with the help of a friend who traveled with him and also was a translator for us. They traveled on the tandem bicycle and he sat behind.
After arriving in Hanoi, the tour leader contacted me and invited me to join their dinner and I agreed. I brought a Vietnamese gift for the disabled man. He opened the lacquer box and touched the ceramic dolls I placed inside it. Based on the expression of his face, we knew he could feel which one was a boy and which one was a girl. Both dolls wear Vietnamese traditional dresses and the girl has a conical hat and braids. He was so happy with my small gift and it would travel with him back to Norway as a memory of Vietnam.
When everyone was happily talking with each other or dancing, the man was sitting alone and I felt how lonely he was. How does someone have to stand so many unlucky things in life? He was married but his wife died of
cancer. But I also think that perhaps he was still lucky, because he was born in a wealthy country where he could get some financial support to travel in many countries. Even if he couldn't see, talk and hear, he was still feeling the world in his own way. In one of the photos of him and Vietnamese children by a rice field, I saw they all were smiling happily. I also think that with such great efforts he enjoyed traveling even more than we normal people do.
Here are a few photos of the people I met in Vietnam and in other countries. I must admit that I am embarrassed whenever I ask someone if I can take their photo. To end this blog, I would like to translate the Vietnamese paragraph in my Bio. You may wonder what I have written there. The words mean "In every Country I have visited and in all the places I have been to, there have been not only beautiful natural landscapes and magical works of history and culture, but above all, it has been the people I have met and their friendliness that have made unforgettable impressions on me."
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