Bill and Sue-On Hillman: A 50-Year Musical Odyssey


PAGE 17:
The G-Force Motorcycle Gang

Meet the Rice Lady
After breakfast at Asia Hotel, we joined four others from our group for a motorcycle tour of the countryside. It was cool to see our line of blue helmets streaming down the highway. We didn't have to worry about crazy traffic here as we had to in Hanoi. It really was a great feeling to fly past the rice fields and the many market gardens. We went through villages and small lanes, seeing many of the locals sitting outside, eating lunch alongside the lanes. Everyone here seemed to squat or sit on very low plastic stools. The rice was very green, in head.  The trees were huge: papaya, sakura, plumeria, local olive, bamboo, oleander and some were like a golden yellow wisteria - called Golden Showers ;-)  Sue-On was very envious of the vegetation, but not of the lifestyle or homes. 

Some buildings were quite quaint but most were SO basic and weathered. There were ornate gates located at the entrance of either villages or neighborhoods -- very Chinese in style. Many families also had their own temples, again much like the ones that Sue-On remembered back in Toisan. The Chinese controlled Vietnam before the French and other conquerors and there is still a very large Chinese population. In fact, the written language was through Chinese characters until the French introduced the alphabet. We still saw a lot of Chinese characters on signs, etc.

The first place we visited was the rice museum. An 80-year-old, stooped-over lady showed us the process of harvesting rice, beating the grain stalks into a special container, getting the husks off the rice, winnowing, polishing, etc. It was all accompanied with her singing traditional folk songs. We were amazed that the rhythm and the "words" and  music sounded similar to that of North American Indians. But then, there always have been some theories that the Indians are descendents of the Chinese, crossing from Asia over the Bering Strait on an ancient landbridge about 15,000 years ago.

The equipment used to haul irrigation water up from the ditches and dug-outs onto the fields were made of bamboo. They have been used for hundreds of years. Sue-On remembers Po-Po (her mother, Jade) describing all of what we saw in the museum. The lady was very good at pantomine. She showed how the bed was just planks, the pillow a block of wood, and she used her foot to rock a "baby" in the basket. When done, she went back to chewing bettlenut.

At the end of the demonstration two other ladies directed us to a display counter where they had souvenirs for sale. We bought a highly decorated turtle that opened into a compass. Leaving the museum we travelled a short distance to a nearby ancient covered bridge and prepared to mount our bikes to ride on to the next stop: The hilltop French/American bunkers overlooking the Perfume River.

Click for larger full-screen images

Leaving our bikes to enter the Rice Museum

Some of the many rice harvesting tools on display

The energetic 80-year-old Rice Lady demonstrating the harvesting and processing of rice

The Rice Lady demonstrated the every-day chores of a woman of the fields
She talked and sang all the while - especially when she rocked her "baby" to sleep

Demonstrating the system for irrigating the fields

Joining our Rice Lady for treats

The Souvenir Display and Farewell from the other Museum ladies

Supplementary Photo Gallery



Copyright 2015
Bill and Sue-On Hillman