People of Vietnam

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One of the most astonishing people who’s story I have had the privilege to hear. I met him at the top of a high pass just outside of an iron ore mining town. His face was kind and his demeanour agreeable. We chatted in the way two men with no common language do. I understood that the baby girl on his back was his granddaughter. It was only when Phong arrived that I grasped the full gravity of the story. A year before he had been walking in the woods when he heard crying. He investigated and found the baby, clearly freshly born, abandoned and hidden beneath leaves.

He is now the legal guardian of the girl, who is, incidentally, beautiful.

In 1970 he joined the army and fought the Americans and Southern Vietnamese until the war’s end in 1973. He then fought the Southern Vietnam force until the decisive victory in 1975. In 1979 he was once again at war, this time for seventeen days repelling an invading force from China.

This photograph does not do justice to the kindness in this man’s eyes. A saintly warrior if ever there was one.

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A days ride into the restricted area along the Chinese border in the north east these Dzao children and I mutually startled each other as I wandered into the woods to take care of nature’s call. I guess they don’t see many white men dressed like Freddie Mercury wandering around these parts.

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This style of bamboo water-pipe is popular allover Vietnam. Every restaurant and café has a communal pipe from which any passer by can draw on a large hit of locally grown and dried tobacco.

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The wife of the pipe smoker rests outside their shop. On the beautifully textured wall behind her is a reminder of justhow happy every one is under the rule of the Communist Party; tattered worn and at the end of its tether; the poster or The Party?

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Hmong kids on a high plateau. Their parents were drying hemp cloth in the sun whilst the boys lay in patient wait on the off chance of being able to race an enervated old codger across the hills and dales all one up on a rickety old bone-shaker of a bicycle. Incidentally they kicked the silly old fools butt.

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Working – washing hemp – with her baby lashed to her back. A familiar sight across most of the world

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a penny for your thoughts

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The lady beneath this icon of Vietnam, to conical hat, spends her days sitting here selling a little tofu.

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Mr Phong, a dear friend who has helped me far more than he knows. Still your turn to buy the bia hoi next time young friend-of-my-grandson.

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