viernes, 15 de mayo de 2015


Text and Pictures: José Manuel Serrano Esparza.

40 years after the end of the Second War of Indochina which brought about appalling suffering to the Vietnamese civil population and more than 2 million deaths, Vietnam is nowadays a thriving country with 90 million inhabitants and one of the most beautiful nations in the world, featuring a wonderful landscape wealth that has turned locations like Nha Trang, Mui Ne, the Mekong Delta, Sa Pa, Hoi An, Lake Hoan Kiem, Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue, Ha Long Bay and others into top-notch tourist destinations leaving an indelible imprint on every visitor who has had the chance to behold them.

But there´s another Vietnam, far away from the customary scenic routes and large cities, exceedingly genuine and representative of the ancient culture and history of its people and embodied by small villages and hamlets located next to big rivers and their tributaries.

Settlements in which fluvial fishing, agriculture, wood craftsmanship and a textile industry  (wisely diversified into looms, tailor shops and massive use of mostly mechanical industrial sewing machines by highly qualified workers featuring remarkable experience, prowess and mastery of their trade) that is currently an international benchmark, are the main labour driving forces of throbbing communities organized with great levels of efficiency and in which bicycles and particularly small scooters sporting low displacement engines have become the widespread choice to guarantee both mobility and quickness of movements.

A fairly dynamic Vietnam with very promising future prospects and whose more significant rising values are a culture bestowing great value upon family and community, along with the amazing skill and working ability of its inhabitants in the scope of professional training, since Vietnamese people have an incredible natural gift for a number of different occupations and all kind of works requiring uncommon manual skill, which results in the manufacture of top class products featuring outstanding duration in time and hugely competitive prices, enabling the creation of motley synergies with other countries and different supranational firms alike.

If we add to that its very high percentage of young people and children, together with an education ruled by respect to elders, a very good level in spheres such as mathematics, agricultural research and biology, there can be no doubt whatsoever that Vietnam has got a very hopeful future ahead, since besides, they are striving after improving the infrastructures, their domestic innovation capacities and the regulatory stability to the utmost, without forgetting the fact that the country is beginning to be a technological power and is about to turn into one of the world outsourcing neuralgic centers as to software development, with more than a thousand cutting-edge companies in this domain (Vietnamese software engineers are presently among the best in the world, as proved by Flappy Bird, the game for mobile phones created in 2013 by the Hanoi programmer Nguyen Ha Dong for Android and IOS platforms, and the figure of Vietnamese students choosing Computer Science as a university career has increased a 70% since 2006) and rather low production costs allowing very interesting profit margins and above all security and continuity.

Since eighties and nineties decades, Vietnam has steadily been evolving from being a centralized state led country to a market economy which has made possible the setting of businesses of their own by its inhabitants, and now, already well into the XXI Century, it is in a decisive social and economical turning point, with fairly abundant margin for improvement in the most various spheres and the guarantee for the future represented by a mostly young and burgeoning enough population, with the real option of complementing the traditional international relevance and prestige of the nation in the textile, handicraft, agricultural, fishing and scenery fields with the advanced and information technologies and other ones as the principal working and exporting value, of which some realities like the cooperation with Japan in space technology have started consolidating through the Project of Vietnamese Space Center in the High Technology Hoa Lac, a multifunctional science city, near Hanoi, in which 200,000 people live and work, the manufacture and design of CNC machines that are being used in the construction of ship hulls in dockyards, reducing production costs and improving quality, etc.

The wooden craftsmanship has always been one of the most prominent sides of Vietnam, whose denizens possess such a huge built-in talent that are able to make art pieces featuring very good quality, level of detail and realism, even sometimes working with the simplest tools, as can be seen in this image taken near Phu Long (Nam Dinh Province) in which an under twenty young Vietnamese artist is able to manufacture an excellent carving of Buddha from a solid wood chunk, using only - as amazing it can seem - two electric drills with different thickness of bit, something extremely difficult and requiring an enormous level of skill, together with a stunningly firm pulse, great experience of movements making up for the vibration of both appliances to do the nicks and an unutterable resistance to fatigue making possible a continuous labour under such conditions for several hours.

The picture was made when approximately a 40% of the manual carving of the wooden sculpture with the drill was still to be done, but both the commendable accuracy of the work and the personality and charm infused to the statue by the artist can be seen.

Selective reframing showing the impressive level of detail achieved by the Vietnamese artist in the ribs and flakes of the shells located on top of the statue (and likewise made through handheld electric drill incisions) and that because of its small size and contact one another enables an error margin not exceeding 1/3 of mm.

The shavings visible on the right central area of the image reveal that each and everyone of the nicks feature different angle and depth.

Something like that is only accomplished with an inborn gift, a huge love for the trade, a vast experience gained since childhood being in contact with other craftsmen, an extraordinary visual eyesight sharpness (since no kind of magnifying glasses are used), a boundless patience and the economical spur begotten by the chance of creating wooden works sporting very high qualitative level and durability in time and selling them at exceedingly cheap prices both in the domestic and international market.

Fluvial fishing with small nets in the very beautiful Kien Giang river (Song Kien Giang) near the village of Quang Binh (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

It has abundant reaches, the main one flowing from the river Tra Vinh in the city of Thai Binh, subsequently getting into some towns of the District of Vu Thu, and following east direction it enters the Districts of Kien Xuong and Tien Hai, where it runs into the river Lan, of which it is a tributary.

It provides an excellent illustration of the complex maze of inland waterways which have been lifelines of Vietnam and its people throughout the ages, supplying a steady source of food and water to the communities residing beside them.

Kien Giang river, whose banks are very densely populated, makes up the backbone of the irrigation system of the Thai Binh Province south and has a framework of rivulets and channels connected to Red River and Tra River through a clever sewage setup, being also linked to other fluvial ways of the region like rivers Duc Duong and Nguyet Lam.

Sturdy wooden chairs manufactured at a handicraft workshop in Dong Tien (District of Thai Binh, Thai Binh Province). They stand out in stalwartness, nice finishing with lavishness of carved ornaments and great endurance to the elapse of time with identical cosmetic appearance. Needless to say that quality/price ratio is very difficult to beat.

Handcraftedly manufactured large table at a workshop in Than Hung Dao (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province), boasting excellent robustness and beauty of lines enhanced by plenty of carved adornments and wood filigree on its middle area and the outer side of its legs. The price tag is incredible for its size, heavy weight and superb quality.

The contrasts and colour of Vietnam appear at every moment, even in the most everyday scenes, like these two peasants who have just come back on bicycles to their home in Tán Thuât (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province) after the agricultural tasks, clad in traditional Vietnamese black colour apparel and the typical nón lá conical hat.

Walking Vietnamese peasant transporting two huge bamboo canes on his bicycle across a stretch of the road linking Thanh Nê (District of Kien Xuong, Province of Thai Binh) with the District of Tiên Hái (Province of Thai Binh) going eastbound.

The Bamboo has been an essential part of the Vietnamese life and culture for many thousand years, and a great use of its extraordinary traits of strength, resistance, flexibility and usefulness through simplicity has been diachronically made for the manufacturing of very peculiar and large fluvial fishing nets, whose structures describing an outstanding degree of bending have to bear a great weight of water on being raised, beams for houses, all kind of objects, etc.

Awesome fluvial fishing net near Quang Lich (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province), utterly built in a handcrafted way by means of a structure of bamboo canes, some pieces of concrete used as counterweights and a single pulley used by the Vietnamese fisherman to pull handheld off a thick rope regulating the curvature degree of the bamboo canes placed over the net, whose first hoisting stage can be seen in the image.

Intermediate stage of the fluvial fishing net hoisting.

Final stage of the fluvial fishing net hoisting, in which the small fish and crustaceans captured have reamained inside a handcraftedly made elongated bag.

Detail of the starting bending of the bamboo canes located over the river fishing net during the first stage of its hoisting.

Detail of the superior height and much bigger degree of curvature reached by the bamboo canes (particularly the one on the left and the highest of the three on the right, as they appear in the image) at the final stage of the fluvial fishing net hoisting.

The resistance and flexibility of bamboo are truly astonishing.

Mechanic loom at Hòa Binh (District of Vu Thu, Thai Binh Province).

The textile industry is one of the traditional standard bearers of Vietnamese economy and a matter of national pride, with highly experienced and trained personnel, to such an extent that superb levels of quality are attained

in the manufacture of thread and all sort of fabrics and stuffs, both natural ones (specially linen, silk, cotton, hemp and wool) and a wide assortment of fibers (natural, artificial and synthetic ones).

Clothes making and tailoring family workshop in Vu Trung (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh). The tailor and owner featuring a lot of years of experience, poses proud at the main entrance.

Throughout Vietnam there´s a massive presence of family businesses devoted to textile activity and developing a vast range of works at an excellent qualitative level: pattern designing and apparel manufacturing of different styles, epochs, sizes and types of fabric, works with sewing thread and many more assignments.

They are domestic artisan centers whose ground floor is the shop offering dressmaking, tailoring, apparel making and selling to public, while the first floor is the family dwelling.

Therefore, a very good working atmosphere and worthy labour conditions enabling to live on the trade are guaranteed, handcraftedly manufacturing top quality attire (dresses, skirts, suits, trousers, jackets, shirts, ties, etc) made with first-rate components.

Juki DDL-555, a mythical high speed single needle lockstitch industrial sewing machine featuring straight stitch and manufactured in 1983 by Tokyo Juki Industrial Co., Ltd at its factory in 23-3, Kabuki-cho 1-chome, Shinjuku-ku (12 years before the foundation of Juki Vietnam CO., LTD).

It has been intensively used for 32 years of uninterrupted service without any kind of breakdown, and two generations of persons of the same family have taken advantage of its flawless functioning.

Its production started in 1976, and it is relevant because of its straight stitch, high speed, wholly mechanic working, construction like a tank and huge reliability and endurance to daily constant use for many decades.

During the second half of seventies and eighties and nineties it had a leading role in one of the greatest feats in the history of textile industry, on being decisive in the slow but progressive economic recovery since 1975, when the Vietnam War ended leaving the country devastated and poverty-stricken.

The walloping working capability, perseverance and dazzling ability and talent for the most various textile works of the Vietnamese people made them forge ahead little by little, by dint of strenuous efforts and dedication, within exceedingly humble domestic contexts yet mostly holding this model of fully professional industrial sewing machine which enabled to spawn an acceptable national and international (the latter being limited then to above all some countries of Southeast Asia) network of customers that enabled the subsistence during the second half of seventies, a small economical take-off during late eighties (fostered by a comprehensive program of commercial reforms carried out in 1986) and the beginning of the economical upturn and development between 1991 and 1997, with growth rates superior to 8%, along with the liberalization of the economy, the domestic private initiative and the opening to foreign investment.

Vietnamese dressmaker and sempstress with a piece of fabric in her hands. The synergy, love for the trade and common goals between her and the tailor owner of the family business make possible a great mutual trust.

Needless to say that the perfectionism, thoroughness and high working speed reached by both of them enables to carry out a large amount of daily labours at a noteworthy level, reducing the delivering times to the utmost, because in addition, this type of craft profiled shops have an important production volume of all kind of tailor made garments which are ordered both by people from their village or province and the rest of Vietnam who visit them often, and increasingly by firms from other countries.

Gentleman suit with shirt and tie displayed next to some reels of different colours threads.

During the last eight years (since its entrance in the World Trade Organization in January 2007), the textile and clothing sector along with the manufacture of apparel have experienced in Vietnam a sustained surge and development even bigger than during the last decade of XX Century and first one of XXI, to such an extent that it presently takes the second place in the ranking of foreign currency income from exportations (a 18.4% of the total), with an annual growth of roughly a 20% , and contributes in a fundamental way to strengthen the gross domestic product of the country, its main markets being United States, the European Union, South Korea, Canada, Middle East and Singapore.

Woman coat visible in one of the areas of the family business, along with some models of trousers and dresses in different colours.

The catalogue of garments for both men and women is rather comprehensive, sporting a wide array of styles, sizes, colours and fabrics according to the customers´ tastes, who are frequently taken measurements and acquire clothes specifically made for them, because tailoring remains wholly in vogue in Vietnam.

On the other hand, the Vietnamese dressmakers, seamstresses and tailors feature very deep knowledge of the thread and its correct selection according to the type of apparel, which together with their uncommon skill, symbiosis and experience with Juki industrial sewing machines, make that they do stitches with consistent shapes and without jumps, along with a sgnificantly efficient and aesthetic seam, at a very high speed, without any breaking and with an outstanding uniformity, to avoid tension changes during it, both when working with polyester threads (the most widely used because they are stronger than the cotton ones in similar sizes and are available in a full choice of sizes and colours) and when doing it with threads sporting multiple layer nucleus and center of polyester filament with cotton fibers or polyester being covered around the nucleus, withour forgetting the nylon or silk thread.

Vietnamese needlewoman and couturier cutting pieces of fabric with a pair of scissors during the handcrafted manufacture of a black colour garment.

The accuracy working handheld with all kind of tools and appliances exhibited by the highly qualified Vietnamese artisans is really breathtaking, in the same way as their visual acuity.

In the background on the left can be seen on its hanger another gentleman suit with shirt and tie on which rest three steadily used classical tailor´s measuring tapes, since there are plenty of customers ordering custom-made apparels which are delivered to them in record time.

Vietnamese farmer in Da Cát (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province) going on his motorcycle to do the countryside chores.

In spite of the huge development along with the national and international commercialization capability undergone by Vietnam during the last ten years in the textile and clothes making sector, information tecnologies, mobile phones, computer science, footwear industry, wood and bamboo craftsmanship, etc, the agricultural sector keeps on providing work to approximately 45% of the country population, currently being the first world exporter of rice and a very important one in coffee, pepper and other products.

A Vietnamese father driving through his wireless remote control the JL 818 electric classical car featuring a 35W powerplant and a top speed of 3.5 km/h inside which his 3 years old son is advancing. Thanh Nê (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

The happy young pilot on board of his automobile.

Plantations and orchards of various producs on the south bank of Kien Giang river at its stretch between Quang Binh and Vu Quy (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province) at 7:30 a.m.

The adjacent areas to this fluvial way have been very densely populated since the most remote times due to their fertility for the cultivation of an extensive range of products.

Early in the morning, a thick and very special mist created by the high levels of humidity often wraps everything and the landscape becomes truly startling, with the fairly lush green vegetation and trees occupying the adjoining area to the river, in stark contrast to the houses, temples and ancient large gravestones visible on the horizon amidst the haze.

A young Vietnamese woman on a bycicle returning to her home in Quang Minh (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province) across a narrow path beside which there´s an attentive big water buffalo.

The water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) is an extremely valuable asset in the rural areas of Vietnam, because of its colossal strength and physical stamina that has enabled the rice sowing on the muddy lands of the paddy fields by means of ploughs drawn by these powerful animals.

There are almost three million water buffalos in Vietnam, and these massive tamed bovids are part of the culture and families of Vietnamese farmers, with whom they live in close partnership, for their physical traits are optimal for the work on the deep mud of the rice fields, thanks to their big hooves and the great flexibility of their limbs, enabling to plow deeper than would be attained with oxen or horses.

06:15 a.m. A young Vietnamese student crossing a street of Thanh Nê (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province) while going to school on a bicycle. In Vietnam, both children and teenagers start their classroom activities very early in the morning, since the aim is to utterly take advantage of the sun hours, beginning around 06:00 a.m.

Mathematics class inside a secondary school classroom in Hòa Binh (District of Vu Thu, Thai Binh Province).

The literacy rate of Vietnam is nowadays of the 97% (a great success bearing in mind the heap of terrible hardships suffered by its civil population throughout the two Indochina Wars between early fifties and mid seventies), the poverty rate having also been reduced to a 12%.

Vietnamese pupils during the Mathematics class at the aforementioned school center.

Their ability to learn in a short elapse of time is really uncanny, in the same way as their great discipline, persistence and working capability.

Nevertheless, the country educational system is in full evolving and shifting stage, because the aim is to particularly foster science, the most advanced technologies and innovation, through an increasingly better training, so giving rise to an intellectual capital specially geared to research and development.

If we bear in mind that more than half of the Vietnamese population is under 25, this country has got a very hopeful future ahead.

Small store of large bamboo canes in Thanh Nê (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

House being built in Thanh Nê (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province) using a knowledgeable mixture of bamboo, bricks and concrete.

In Vietnam, bamboo canes often reach sizes between 8 and 12 meters long, depending on the species and up to 30 cm wide, and their huge strength, flexibility, lightness and low cost have turned it into a stuff massively used by the Vietnamese people throughout many centuries in the construction of all kind of dwellings, architecture, furniture, manufacture of a comprehensive range of handicrafts, domestic implements, baskets, fans, large fluvial fishing nets, etc.

Specially valuable is the "luong" species of bamboo, boasting extraordinary properties for architecture and which has been very frequently used by the internationally well-known Vietnamese firms Vo Trong Nghia Architecs at Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in works like the Kontum Indochina Café (awarded with one of the International Architecture Awards IAA in 2014), the Eco-Resort Pavilion in Hanoi, the Bamboo Booth of the Vietnam Architecture Exhibition held in Hanoi in 2012, the Son La Restaurant (which won the Hotel and Leisure Building Section Award of the World Architecture Festival WAF 2014 in Singapore) and H & P Architects in Hanoi, author of the bamboo dwelling prototype Booming Bamboo Home (which was also bestowed with one of the International Architecture Awards IAA 2014), designed to endure floods up to 3 meters high, and whose walls, ceiling and floor have been built with this material, standing our because of their multifunctionality and exceedingly low cost, since it can be used as a private house, school classroom, small medical center and community space, needing only 25 days to be built by its dwellers, with a price of 2,500 dollars.

Enormous fluvial fishing net over the Ken Giang river in its stretch near Dong Vinh (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province) just at the moment in which the Vietnamese fisher is collecting the small fishes and crustaceans that have remained inside the large elongated leather bag after the remarkable hoisting of the fishing net (in the beginning mostly within the water) by the spectacular structure of "luong" bamboo canes manufactured to that effect.

It can be observed in the image the amazing degree of curvature without breaking reached by those bamboo canes supporting the whole weight of the net and the great volume of water from the beginning, during the previous filtrating stage.

Detail of the Vietnamese fisherman on his handcraftedly made wooden boat, picking up the fruit of his work: fishes and small crustaceans that have been caught inside the large elongated leather bag.

Two-storey house in Thanh Nê (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

The chromatic richness of Vietnam is a steadfast whole in which nature, houses built by their inhabitants and domestic animals set up an ineffable mishmash of colours and contrasts.

Barges for transport of high quality sand on the Red River (Sông Hông) near the east of Nam Dinh city (Province of Nam Dinh).

This great waterway, one of the most important of Southeast Asia, crosses the northern area of Vietnam from Lao Cai Province, following its path southeastbound.

It has been a vital artery of communication and transport of all kind of goods for thousands of years, and keeps on performing that role, featuring typical reddish-brown heavily silt-laden water, making up a wide delta encompassing from the provinces of Vinh Phuc, Húng Yen, Hà Nam, Hanoi, Nam Dinh and Thai Binh up to its mouth in Tonkin Gulf.

The hugely fertile Delta of the Red River is the most plenteous in Vietnam from an agricultural standpoint, the Province of Thai Binh being the most powerful regarding rice production.

Farmer of the area of Quàng Binh (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

The Vietnamese countryside is very rich, particularly in the northern area of the nation, and the most important cultivations are rice (first exporter in the world), maize, coffeee, cassava, sugar cane, tea, pepper, soya bean, peanut and different vegetables, and big endeavours are being made to achieve a progressive greater updating.

A lot of rice paddies in which advanced technologies are being applied have already been created, prioritizing the work of farmers and peasants with new tools in large areas that allow the maximum feasible saving in seeds, land working and watering and a restructuring of the crops increasing their economic value.

Furthermore, Vietnam is an agroindustrial power, with great future prospects, above all in regard to the agricultural products of the provinces and districts of Red River Delta, of which there are a number of examples, like the Binh Minh Food JSC firm, specialized in top quality canned vegetables, which have become one of the country´s benchmarks within the sector of agricultural products treatment and their subsequent export to other countries.

The Kien Giang river is to practical effect a channel with different tracts spreading across its entire course, specially in the south area of Thai Binh province, in the districts of Vu Thu and Thai Binh, as well as fulfilling a major function as an essential water supply for the irrigation system of its densely populated nearby areas and as an inland waterway to convey goods, with frequent subchannels featuring sluice gates intended for controlling the waters during their rise stages and surrounded by trees and lavish vegetation, which shape unique locations, often sailed by the villagers on small wooden boats driven with rows, like the one appearing in this image near Cho Soc (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

Vietnam also excels in its imposing biodiversity, greatly thanks to its wide range of latitudes, and possesses large expanses of wood and tropical jungle covering around 200,000 km2 (45% of its surface), holding more than 15,000 different plants, of which roughly 1,500 are endemic.

The exoticism and beauty of its vast assortment of flowers, like the ones appearing in this image captured in Thon Vinh Ninh (District of Tien Hái, Thai Binh Province), is certainly gripping, with a constant chromatic lushness.

Vietnamese fluvial fisherman in the area of Quang Lich (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province) with his younger son.

It can be seen the amazing physical strength of this man featuring approximately 1,70 m height and a weight of 82 kg, product of a diet made up by fish, crustaceans, rice, and highly energetic dairy products from the water buffalo, in synergy with a great daily physical activity (optimizing the mitochondrial multiplication in cells and their transformation into enery), particularly the handheld hoisting with a simple pulley of the huge fluvial fishing net built by himself and requiring great brawniness, above all during the starting stage in which it holds a larger volume of water, it all added to his steadfast work in agricultural labours, manually growing up in a traditional way all kind of products in the areas next to his home beside the river.

It is a vivid example of adaptation to biotope through a striking athletic ability ruled by huge stalwartness and power, not lacking agility and enhanced by a noteworthy resistance to fatigue, along with a genetic base and a huge psichological boost exceedingly consolidated by the quest for survival and specially by the yearning of carrying his family forward.

Endemic plant in Thon Giao Lac (District of Tiên Hai, Thai Binh Province).Vegetation grows everywhere in Vietnam, at a dizzy pace, and coexists with infrastructures made by man.

A peasant in Vu An (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

The Vietnamese agricultural products are on their own merits among the best in Southeast Asia, thanks to their variety, quantity and quality making them highly appreciated in the international markets.

It all is powerfully reinforced by a key factor: the substantial abundance of water resources: heavy rainfalls, a myriad of underground aquifers and a huge river network made up by approximately 3,500 rivers (13 of them rather big and long), with the Red River and Mekong River Deltas being particularly relevant in this aspect, making up 70% of the country´s water.

The small capacity motorcycles have been widely spread throughout Vietnam since early sixties, when the first four stroke 50 cc single cylinder engine 4.5 horsepower Honda Super Cubs featuring their typical underbone frame with very low center of gravity (which enabled an easy handling even by novices) began to arrive, and this Japanese brand has been the most commonly chosen hitherto.

Here we can see a Vietnamese user in Thanh Nê (District of Kien Xuong, Province of Thai Binh) repairing by himself a damaged piece of his five years old Honda Wave 110, sporting 109.1 cm3, an air-cooled 4-stroke, SOHC, 2-valve single-cylinder engine delivering 8.5 H.P, carburetor fuel intake system, Constant Mesh 4-Speed transmission, dry weight of 94 kg and a top speed of 105 km/h.

Honda Wave 100 at the entrance of a small maintenance and repair workshop for scooters in An Ninh (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

The Hondas Waves are hugely popular mopeds in Vietnam, because of their affordable price and proved high reliability and duration in time, fostered by the shifting of gears lacking clutch lever and the engine location in a forward position favouring a high stability, with the added benefit of an available very comprehensive slew of transmission pieces and that they are easily customizable, without forgetting the far-reaching side of their very low consumption: 1,76 liter/100 km, so its 3,7 litre engine guarantees a range of more than 200 kilometers.

Besides, both the powerplant of the Honda Wave 100 and Honda Waver 110 sport a similar size to the Hondas Super Cub, with which they share mounting, unlike the Honda Wave Alpha 125 that features a larger engine, incompatible with the mountings of Hondas Wave 100 and 110.

Honda official dealer of motorcycles in Thanh Nê (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province), with some Hondas Wave 125 Alpha and Hondas Wave 110 displayed at the entrance.

In March 1998, Honda inaugurated its first factory in Vietnam, foreseeing the huge potential of future and market chances of this country, and since then, the Japanese firm has founded a lot of authorized dealers all over the nation and has increased its efforts to offer the Vietnamese citizens motorcycles boasting the best possible quality/price ratio, and particularly a great reliability, because the inhabitants of this nation are great motorcycling enthusiasts, study deeply the different models and their performances and generally don´t wish at all low quality clones manufactured with run-of-the-mill components, featuring scarce reliability, and giving problems, but genuine Honda scooters.

In this regard, from a historical viewpoint, Vietnam greatly stands for the wholesale success and culmination of one of Soichiro Honda´s most important dreams, started in 1958 with the Honda Super Cub (the most sold model ever and with which both the Wave 100 and the Wave 110 share abundant common traits): the building of low capacity motorcycles featuring very low price, huge engine efficiency, mechanical simplicity, very low fuel consumption, range beyond 200 km, great stability and that could be used by everybody, to such an extent that Vietnam is currently  the fourth biggest market for motorcycles in the world, approaching the figure of 3 million units sold per year, a milestone for which the building of three new Honda plants in Vietnam in 2011 has been a key factor.

Vietnam is a country in which a very high percentage of its inhabitants feel a great passion for motorcycling since their early childhood, like this young fan in Thanh Nê (District of Kien Xuong, Province of Thai Binh) and acquire small capacity Honda scooters, the Honda Wave 100, Honda Wave 110 and the Honda Wave 125 Alpha being the most popular models, along with a massive amount of Hondas Dream II 100 cc from late eighties and nineties which work seamlessly all over the Vietnamese geography and have often been overhauled with new pistons and rings, high performance chromed oil filters featuring a sturdy 17 mm wrench nut and which improve the flow with a lesser pressure drop, more evolutioned chains and sprockets, heavy-duty shock absorbers boasting excellent damping of the springs oscillations on uneven terrain (reducing the suspension movement to the utmost, since they automatically adjust to different conditions of roads and ways  without any efficiency decrease, avoiding that the wheels rebound at a different rate than the springs and making them be in permanent contact with the ground, bringing about a global betterment in the motorcycle driving and safety, with a remarkable control by the pilot), along with an optimized carburetor, exhaust pipes featuring two layers and protective panels that increase security and elegant halogen headlights with chrome rim lights.

Inside a small motorcycle workshop and spare parts supplying store in An Boi (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province)

The Vietnamese people have excellent knowledge on motorcycling mechanics, of which they are tremendous enthusiasts, and are often able to solve glitches by themselves or to repair defective parts, as well as carrying out very good tuneups of their mopeds, wih the abiding possibility of taking them to artisan familiar profiled assistance centers massively spread all over the country.

Another area of the same small motorcycle workshop and spare parts supplying store in An Boi (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

Detail of exhaust pipe, oil filter cap, clutch cover, engine with mechanical gearbox featuring a 4-step rotary system and carburetor of a Honda Dream II 125 cc, the most modern version of this famous scooter, whose first 100 cc models were greatly instrumental in the incredible growth and development experienced by the Vietnamese motorcycling industry since 1992.

Barges for goods transport in the Kien Giang river at its tract near Thôn Dông Thành (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

The ubiquitous lavish and constant vegetation on both banks of the river, with exuberance of plants and flowers of the most various species, along with tropical palm trees and endemic trees can be seen in this image.

The prevailing very high levels of humidity and heat generate a rather peculiar mist heightening the peerless beauty of this ancestral inland way and its surrounding areas.

Vietnamese women help in the countryside tasks, attired with multicoloured garments,

and the typical Nón Lá conical hat enhances their legendary beauty. Near An Boi (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

Artisan factory of tombstones in Thon Doan Ket (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

In addition to the village of Hai Dong (Province of Danang, on Vietnam eastern central coast, a traditionally par excellence area devoted to stone carved sculptures, a trade from which more than 600 families earn a living), the handcrafted carving of stone, mainly made in granite, marble and sandstone, is another of the most prominent aspects of the Red River Delta and its different provinces, where the craftsmen committed to this occupation have always been well-known for their remarkable skill, manual dexterity, patience and painstakingness, together with their singular working techniques enabling them to create unique art pieces.

In this respect, there are some significant craft centers like the sculpture town of Nhan Hien (Commune of Thuong Tin, Hanoi) specialized in figures of animals, Buddhas and reliefs and in which reputed craftsmen like Nguyen minh Phu are making a praiseworthy divulgative labor, besides beefing up exports to United States, Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Denmark and other countries, and the Commune of Phung Chau (District of Chuong My, Hanoi) in which there are ten large workshops with three hundred workers handcraftedly manufacturing all kind of stone carved sculptures featuring a superb level of detail and beauty of designs in different styles and sizes, both for indoor and outdoor spaces, by means of ancient special techniques taught by the expert artisan Nguyen Van Cung.

The bycicle is the second mostly used means of transport in Vietnam after the 100, 110 and 125 cc scooters. Near Ha Long (Province of Nam Dinh).

Old cemetery next to Kien Giang river at its stretch between Quang Binh and So Choc (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

Local inhabitant smoking Thuôk Lào genuine tobacco in a special 45 cm high  handcraftedly pipe made of bamboo. Thanh Nê (District of Kien Xuong, Thai Binh Province).

© Text and Pictures José Manuel Serrano Esparza