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Sunday, 18 December 2011

Of markets, flies and a dead dog. Dalat, Vietnam memories 1965 1975


Post 120

Of markets, flies and a dead dog. Dalat, Vietnam

The Vietnamese people in their move from the North to the South over the preceding centuries had largely kept to the low coastal areas and the Mekong Delta. The highlands had been left to the Montagnards whom they generally treated with a contempt I never felt. I had once suggested to PB that she wear a sarong without a top at home. She was utterly shocked that I would want her to dress like a montagnard; we had one hell of a row. Frankly being British my sympathies were with the underdog. I fully supported the Vietnamese against the communists but found their attitude to their own minorities rather lacking in fairness. They gave the impression that these minorities, be they Montagnard or Khmer, barely had a right to be tolerated. The Cham of course had long since disappeared from the scene. This keeping to the lowlands was probably due to the necessity of cultivating rice. However they appeared to prefer the overcrowding that resulted to living in more isolated communities in the highlands.

Dalat had been developed by the French as a hill station to escape the heat of the plains. Most of the western style vegetables eaten in Saigon were produced in Dalat. The market in town was always thriving, although when eating there on outside tables I've never seen so many flies which also seemed to flourish in the climate. The girls all had a healthy flush to their cheeks.
The Vietnamese always seemed to be eating. One moment we would sit down to a dish of very small birds the name of which I've forgotten, another KC would take me to some obscure isolated wooden hut-like structure in the kitchen of which I had one of the most delicious noodle soups I've ever had. There again I wish I could remember the name.

One day coming back to the house I found the dog was dying. It had that look in its eyes that dogs have when they know their days are up. Evidently a passing soldier had shot it. No reason was given, perhaps it had just barked at him. I was always wary of single, armed, sometimes drunk rogue soldiers whose actions were unpredictable and who sometimes settled personal or imagined grievances in a violent manner.

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