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In Search of Muong Luan Tower, Viet Nam
Heavy rains have washed out many roads in Vietnam including the roads of Pa Bat. A crowd of people drinking beer, tea, coffee, and smoking, gathered in a nearby building to watch the action of an automatic machine – a backhoe attachment and road grader – make repairs. A mound of dirt lay across the road for what seemed like a day’s work. We were not far from Muong Luan, our last destination, and getting there before dark was important. Night falls quickly in the mountains of northern Vietnam.
I am looking for an old statue of Muong Luan supposedly built by early Buddhists on their journey through Asia. Not much is known about the statue except that it is located in a small town of wooden houses in Muong Luan next to a river that constantly lights up glass every month from the moon that looks bigger than other moons around the world where scrawny lop-headed chickens and black pigs root through the mud.
The road to Muong Luan from Dien Bien Phu is classified as a paved number of lower state roads, in this case highway 130 and is not good. The construction in Vietnam is a constant effort, in part, to the mysterious nature of Vietnam. Instead of building a proper road with a thick layer of asphalt that will last for ten years or more, they dig out a settlement of dirt and cover it with a thin blanket of asphalt that starts to chip, broken, and the ground at one end. while they are still working on the other end. In a year the road is destroyed by rocks, ruts, pot-holes, caves and furrows, a no man’s land of danger to travel as a truck Go and motorcycle waiting for a large cloud of choking dust or grind the soil into a gluey paste. of vacuuming.
That may be the only way to build a road in the other side given the materials available: an education, children, water cows and human power. The students dig a little way; the water buffalo pulls a log over the top to complete the level; a layer of 4 to 6 inch stone chips followed; again the water buffalo ran; tar is carried in buckets by trucks; Then the workers gather the crushed quarter-inch stones into flat baskets and throw the stones in tar. The roller flattens everything once more and the process is complete. Maybe a quarter-inch tar and rock layer is about all they can do. Just the thought of stacking six inches of rock and tar would crack up any worker.
The scenery along the way was amazing, rolling hillsides covered with quilts of green, cows grazing like dots of caramel on the almost vertical slopes, rivers of silver cut by gorges, and small dusty towns of dozing citizens hanging limply on hammocks in the shade. shop.
In Dien Bien Dong we stopped at a local orphanage to deliver food. There are only ten children in the orphanage, eight boys and two girls. The staff keep the house clean and take good care of the children; all smiles of joy to see the foreigners. Nev Tickner, an Australian who lives in Dien Bien Phu as a volunteer, bought a pot for the orphanage and demonstrated to the staff how to fry the chicken after mixing it for in the batter of eggs and crumbs. As the only Australian in the area, Tickner says that is a minority, and a very important one.
I wonder in the city with my friend Linh looking at the bright colors and cheap goods from China. With a small economy in the country one would think that Vietnam would start producing their own products but in this respect they are like most countries and find it easier to buy cheap products Hear from places like China instead of supporting themselves.
An old man, wide grin beaming across his face like a beacon, waved to me. Waving does not mean hello in Vietnam, but hello and come for tea and chat. We shook hands like old brothers when the tea was brought out. For a westerner, Vietnamese hold your hand for an uncomfortable amount of time and usually won’t let go until the meeting is over. They are loving people and rarely see men walking hand in hand or holding each other. Women are always intertwined like ivy. Foreigners, after meeting a Vietnamese woman, often confuse them to hold, hug, and pull her arm, especially if the arm is covered with hair, as something traditional sex but these are just gestures of their sociability and love in their lives.
The man is 82 years old and in very good health. He was in the army, just like me, but he only said once as the man said, “that is in the past.” He seemed very happy to see me because foreigners are rare in this isolated area. He invited me to dinner and stay as his guest in his house as long as I like. There are two types of people in Vietnam: those who pretend to be friendly and sincere and who have the best intentions to clean your bank account. Then there is the majority of Vietnamese people, the middle class people found all over Vietnam who are kind and generous and want nothing more than to create the will of the people.
The journey to Muong Lun Ancient Tower was long and difficult and took us from Dien Bien Phu through Hong Cum, Huoi Le, Sam Mun, Non Nua, Huoi Mua, Na Son, Dien Bien Dong, and now, the last city before us. destination, Pa Bat. At Pa Bat our efforts seemed to be in vain and we stood staring at the washed out road. The washout left a large ditch before the bridge and the trucks were loaded with large amounts of dirt to fill the ditch. A small backhoe sits on the other side of the dirt and, even if the tractor is working with little confidence the hole can be done without any time of work.
The operator was drinking beer with the audience. He observed our anxiety and jumped out of his chair and told us to give him ten minutes and he would clear our way. Of course, we thanked him for being kind, then had a good laugh among ourselves because his bad thoughts were true. Laughter for us. Like a butterfly he twisted his backhoe from side to side tossing dirt everywhere in a show of passion as we just stared with disbelief. In less than ten minutes it was burrowed through. I don’t usually pass on free money but both Nev Tickner and I were so happy that we gave him $10 for the show. The gift seems to make him unhappy and he will appreciate nothing more than seeing the smiles on our faces and the warm handshakes we give. The $10 proved to be the best money I spent in Vietnam and ultimately saved us a lot of grief.
The road to Muong Luan is not improved but the destination is worth the drive. Muong Luan is a beautiful little village clinging desperately to the steep hillside like a spider on a brick wall. The road through town is a cacophony of mud and rocks. Some development seems to be on the horizon since a child sits on the far side of the bridge and can see the prospect of construction around the tower. The children used the tower as a giant toy, a fake mountain that had to be rolled around.
I couldn’t find any information about the statue from anyone in the village and there is little on the internet other than conflicting opinions. A Dien Bien Phu tourist guide, poorly written in the language of government boredom with a seizure of narcolepsy, provides all the happy details that appear in most Vietnamese books – nothing special not the length.
Muong Luan is a Laotian village and many locals said that the tower was built by the Vietnamese-Lao tribe in the 14th or 16th centuries. (Dating from hundreds of years is a good practice in Vietnam.) Others say that the statue was built in the 12th century. Others asked the monks to work as statues on their way to China. This explanation seems to be the most accurate since the statue is like many other symbols of religion.
The structure is carved with lotus, flying bird, snake, dragon and moss and mold drape the stone side in silky green robes. A headless soldier rests on the base. The wooden frame of the tower and the river and mountains make a good background for the pictures.
Unfortunately few people, except for the most hardened tourists, will visit the tower because the road is not accessible. Very bad. The scenery is very beautiful.
When we reached Pa Bat a pile of new dirt blocked our way and the tractor driver went home. Word was sent of our arrival. Within a short time he came down the road with his tools, a smile on his face. Again he cleared the road. The best thing about Vietnam is always the people.
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