Thursday, March 31, 2011

Women's Museum - Part 2

Vietnam has a lot of museums.  They are of varying quality, but so far we have enjoyed every one we have visited.  A couple of weeks ago we went to the Southern Women's Museum in Saigon.  This museum was so good that I have at least one more post about it up my sleeve after this - so this one is a series!

In my last post, I talked about the looms and fabric production that is displayed on the first floor.  The second half of the first floor covers costume and dress.  After seeing the traditional fabrics being woven, we are also shown the dress made up.

You can still see the ethnic minorities who make these beautiful clothes dressed in the traditional garb in some places in Vietnam, and in other places around South East Asia too.  Traditionally, many of the hill tribe populations were nomadic, so their customs of dress and skills as weavers and embroiderers followed them throughout the region.

Large numbers of the Cham ethnic minority who were responsible for building the breath-taking towers at My Son and other sites, converted to Islam after their final defeat by the Viet.  They are not forgotten in the Women's Museum, and an example of their beautiful silk costume is on display.

There is also a really great example of a Chinese Wedding costume on display.  Vietnam has at various times been under Chinese occupation, and so wedding costumes like this were in use in parts of Vietnam as recently as 150 years ago.

It is an extremely elaborate costume with silk tassels, embroidery, sequins and a headdress that looks so heavy I don't know how the poor girl would be able to hold her head up!  I'm not sure about the exact provenance of this example, but given the expense and time that must have gone into one of these, I imagine that they would have been handed down between generations and added to or altered with each new bride.

The Vietnamese national costume that is still in use is the ao dai. In its current version it is a sleek, tight fitting tunic over loose-fitting trousers.  The tunic has split sides from just below the bust down, leaving a little triangular peek of flesh above the waistline of the trousers.  They are very commonly worn today - not just for special occasions at all. The girl who sits on reception in my apartment building wears one as part of her uniform.

I was really interested to learn about the history of the ao dai in the museum.  It is a relatively modern national costume - I think it began to be worn about 250 years ago. And it is had undergone many small changes in that time.  It is a fashion that changes rapidly, just as any other fashion does.  At times, the tunic has been loose fitting, at times a cross over style, some times short, and sometimes long.

 This example was made for a wedding in the early 20th century.  It is much more loose fitting than the modern ones which tend to have raglan sleeves and cling tightly to the  bust!  Like the Chinese wedding costume it is lucky red, and has a headdress and collar that reaches over the bust - though it's much less extravagant!

I was really interested in the belt and armband.  What are they made of?  It is a row of glistening metallic green curved plates, sewn on to a strip of leather.  This was made in a pre-plastic era, and while it's possible that it could be some kind of brilliant paint on metal moulded thingies - I think they look like wingcases of some kind of metallic insect. There is nothing written about it on display information, and there was no one around to ask.  What do you think?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Keepsafe angel

It's 5:00pm here, which means that the sun is almost completely set and the dusk is starting to fade. It's also the beginning of the rainy season.  There hasn't been much rain yet, but in the afternoons we are sometimes getting a bit of a drizzle, and most days it is clouding over.

My brain developed its weather pattern recognition software in the deepest darkest Dunedin.  Where the wind comes speeding either up from the Antarctic-chilled Southern Ocean or down from the glaciers of the Southern Alps.  The days are longer (in the summer at least) and the sun is bright and quick to burn pale and sensitive skin like mine.  It doesn't snow much down there (too close to the sea) but at the sight of low dark clouds my brain still wants to prepare for howling winds or biting sleet. 

After I moved to Auckland,  it took me a full year to stop carrying my knee-length woolen coat around with me everywhere, just in case.  Looking out of my window now I can see the clouds that gather every afternoon here.  They look dark and heavy like those windy icy clouds of my childhood, but they don't behave in at all the same way.  They mostly just hang in the air, getting bigger and bigger. They don't march across the sky.  In the early days of aerial warfare I think they used zeppelins - and I imagine that the rain clouds of March in Saigon fill they sky much like a slow-moving zeppelin would.   The spring rainclouds of Southern New Zealand are more like the messerschmitts in comparison.  Noisy and beautiful and swift.

Soon, these zeppelin-like clouds will get too heavy.  And when they do, they will simply drip. They will soak one drop at a time into the dust of the city below.  At this time of the season it is like an anointment* - later I'm sure the storms will have fire in them but now they seem almost peaceful.

I am watching these clouds swelling out the window and even though the air outside is actually heavy and thrilling and still warm and dry, I want to curl in a cosy corner and banish the damp from dark corners.

I turned the lamp on at my desk and noticed again this crystal angel that I hung from the lampshade.  My friend gave it to me when I got my first car, to keep me safe on my travels. It used to hang from my rear-view mirror, and after I sold my car I tucked it into my suitcase to keep me safe on my journey here.  And now it's watching over me in my little room - a keepsafe angel for when the clouds are darkening. 

* I doubt the motorbike riders agree with me on this point!

Crooked Little House - Part One

Saigon is close to the equator, and so all the days are about the same length. There are no late summer nights, and no late winter mornings either. Dawn starts to break at around 5 am, and by 6 many people are already very busy into their day - including the builders who are putting up a new apartment block on our street.  Every morning we are woken by the light pushing it's way through all the cracks in the curtains, and that same light is heralded by the banging and crashing of the builders tools and hammers in the street below. It's as if they were celebrating the sunrise with a parade of drums and cymbals, in the same way that the Hare Krishnas welcome the Friday night sunset with their parade down Queen Street.

The building site today.

When we first moved in, the building site was a few holes in the ground, and I regret it now, but I didn't think to take any pictures at the time. We watched the foundations being built and the concrete being poured, by hand, into the holes.  It all seems pretty precarious and undoubtedly not earthquake-proof!

I got my first pictures at around February 24th, when we realised that the building going up was going to incorporate the existing building on the section behind.

While it would be a bit of a stretch to call this an ecologically-conscious project - it is interesting to see how much building material is recycled and reused.

You can see that a lot of the materials in the
foreground here are pre-loved.
In the shots below, you can see the lengths that were gone to to demolish parts of the existing building below without damaging the valuable bricks it was built from.  Three or four men worked up there for about three days, knocking the bricks out one by one.
The pile of bricks behind the 2 guys on the lower
level are all salvaged

This was an exceptionally NOISY day!

I am fairly certain that the building I am living was built in pretty much the same way as this one.  Our building is quite new, and there are a lot of similar building projects happening in the neighbourhood. You might remember this shot of all the rooftops I can see from my balcony window.

Most older buildings in Saigon are 3-4 short storeys high.

In a few years time I'm sure that that view will be greatly changed, as the older buildings are pulled down one by one, and new, high-rise building (which can collect much higher rents) go up.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Painting t-shirts with the Smile Group

I have been doing some activities recently with a group called Helping Hands in Saigon. This weekend I was asked to help lead an activity with children from the Smile Group - a local group that works with children (and their families, where possible) affected by HIV and AIDS.

There were some kids visiting from Singapore who wanted to do some volunteering while they were here, and they wanted to do painting on t-shirts with the Smile Group children. So my job was to find plain t-shirts and some fabric markers.  It sounds easy - but it wasn't!

Actually, what I really wanted to use was fabric crayons - as I thought the easiest way to do this activity would be to get the kids to do a crayon drawing which we could then 'iron-on' transfer onto the t-shirts.  The activity was scheduled for Saturday morning, so I set out on Thursday to try and find the fabric markers or crayons.  I completely failed!

On Friday, I texted my young Vietnamese friend, Luyen, and asked her if she knew where I could find the markers and she came and picked me up on her motorbike after she finished her classes at university in the afternoon. Rainy season seems to have started, so I had to stop and buy one of those attractive disposable raincoats to wear on the back of the bike, making me look like a giant polka-dotted marshmallow.  Some markers and fabric paints ok.  I wasn't that happy with them - the markers are big and kind of difficult for little kids to use - and fabric paints are quite messy - but it was the best we could get.

Then we went off try and buy t-shirts and couldn't find them anywhere. It's not that you can't buy kid's t-shirts - they are available everywhere.  But you can't buy plain ones.  All the t-shirts have patterns, or big pictures or words on them.  Plain t-shirts just didn't seem to exist.  In NZ there are a lot of shops in malls and such that sell plain t-shirts and offer to print or embroider them with whatever pattern or words you choose.  You can always buy plain t-shirts at those places if you need to.  But I haven't even seen any places like that here in Saigon yet.

Luyen took me home, and unfortunately for her made an illegal left turn at the traffic lights. She was stopped by the traffic police - and this particular police-officer was absolutely incorruptible.  He would not accept a pay-off, no matter how hard she pleaded.  He also spoke quite good English.  Poor Luyen had her license confiscated and has to go to the station to pay a fine before she can get it back.

In desperation that evening, Martin and I headed out shopping again.  We would buy plain t-shirts of any colour if we could find them, obviously.  But if we couldn't find t-shirts we would buy maybe pillowcases, or baseball caps. Luckily I found some polo-shirts for sale at one of shopping malls.  It wasn't ideal, as polo shirts don't have smooth fabric so using the pens was a little bit difficult, but at least I didn't show up the next day with nothing!

I sat most of the time at a table with the two youngest - a 6-year old boy and 7-year old girl.  We got them to practise their drawings with crayons on paper first, before giving the t-shirts out. My kids in particular kept reaching for the crayons to use on the t-shirt - crayons are just a lot easier for little hands to use.  Most of the other kids were between 10 and 12 years old - so the activity was easier for them. 

I really enjoyed working with my little boy, in particular.  He was the less confident of the two, in the beginning.  When they were doing their crayon drawings he didn't know what to draw, and was copying exactly the picture the girl next to him was making - which was annoying her!

So I intervened and showed him how to draw a bicycle using and M as a starting point.  He was off! This is his t-shirt below:

The bicycle in the center he drew by himself with only a little bit of prompting.  Because the t-shirt fabric was quite bumpy, it was difficult to use the fabric paints to draw in a line.  So I showed a lot of the kids how to make a line by dotting the paint from the dropper.  The girls were getting me to make heart shapes on their t-shirts, and bunnies and other girly things.  But that doesn't appeal to the boys so much!  So I showed my boy first how to make a 5-pointed star, and next I offered to draw a helicopter for him to colour in.  That excited him so much he asked for two of them!

The final set of t-shirts drying

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vung Tau 3 - The last day

We had a pretty quiet day on Sunday.  Originally we had planned to go up the other mountain and look at the giant Jesus statue, but getting up early always sounds easier than it actually is...

Instead, we stay in bed until it was too late for the hotel breakfast, checked out, and went wandering off to the beach.

We got some smarts, though.  First we stopped and bought sunscreen.  Just by a stroke of good fortune, we entered the beach by walking through this little resort.  They had a nice swimming pool, but our togs will still back at the hotel.  Instead, we sat under the shade of four umbrellas in their cafe courtyard, sipping Vietnamese iced coffee.

From our privileged perspectives we watched workers picking rubbish up from the beach.  You can see the rubbish bag under the umbrella shade in this photo:

All beaches we have seen in Vietnam so far suffer from litter, washing up - as well as just being carelessly dropped on the sand.  I hope that as the tourism market increases in Vietnam a local awareness of the rubbish problem will begin to develop.  Because it is really the only thing that is marring this beautiful beach, and many others like it.

We stepped our feet in the water and it was deliciously warm.  Obviously the resort we entered at must be one of the most expensive spots on the beach front, because it wasn't crowded at all.  But the rest of the beach was stuffed with people.  Lots of delightful scenes like little kids burying their dads in the sand, and packs of boys dunking each other fully clothed under the surf.

We walked past this place on the beach-front too - obviously encroaching sand is a slight problem for this nicely shaded cafe!

Our hydrofoil back to the big smoke was at 2pm. Quite early because we didn't book tickets in time!  So we didn't spend all that long on the beach.  We hurried back to the hotel to collect our bag and for one last dip in the pool for Martin.  It was close to the middle of the day, so I didn't swim - still afraid of the sun!

Here's a picture of one of the guards in the garden at the Rex:

We are definitely keen to go back to Vung Tau some time soon - it's such an easy trip from Saigon.  If you have been, I would really appreciate any restaurant recommendations for our next trip!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vung Tau 2 - Gone to the dogs

After our excursion up Big Mountain, we retired to the hotel for a little nana-nap.  This was great, because it made our one-night holiday into a two-sleep holiday.  Sort of as if it was two nights.

It was after I woke up that I noticed the sunburn (it's bad) - and that kind of did put a little bit of damper onto the rest of the weekend for me, because it made me sun-shy.

Luckily for us, our next planned activity wasn't a day-time one.  After a great dinner at an Italian restaurant we decided to take our friend's advice, and get some excitement at the dog track!

Gif Created on Make A Gif

It was pretty fun.  I've never been to ay kind of races, and I didn't quite know wat to expect.  It was very family-friendly - as most things in Vietnam are - with little kids running all round the place.

When we first went in, there was a man standing by the entrance with his dog. The dog was sporting a cool set of sunnies and a big number 10.

I immediately decided to place all my bets on number 10, but of course it's only an 8-lane track, and there were no number 10s racing that day.

There was another man further around the track who had two pairs of puppies in a couple of play-pen style cages.  The puppies were very friendly, and the idea was to encourage kids to come up and pet them.  Of course, we were about as excited by that as the little kids were.  The little kids all had paper bags of candy-corn that they were sharing with the pups.  We didn't have any popcorn, but the man gave us each a small handful of doggie treats to give to our slobbery friends.  We couldn't get any decent photos of the pups, they were far too wriggly.  They were in excellent condition.  Most Vietnamese puppies that we have met so far have been all mangy and flea-ridden and mis-treated, but these guys were healthy and strong-looking with glossy coats and bright eyes.  Their fur was very soft, and their long pointy noses give them an air of sophistication that is really quite out of place - there is nothing very sophisticated about a licky waggly pup, really.

We went ritzy at the ticket booth, and bought VIP tickets.  They are double the price of regular tickets - a whole $3 each.  Being VIPs bought us access to the private air-conditioned bar upstairs, booking offices with no queues and a balcony view of the track. As Martin's mother says, you have to be in to win - so we laid bets on every race.  $1 on each race, for each of us. The idea was to pick a winner.  Did you know that when a greyhound poops on the track before the race, there is a great stir among the crowd as everyone rushes to change their favourites?

Shitty job!

My criteria for picking was mostly aesthetic, though I thought if they had pooped on the track then they were probably more likely to run faster.  Depending on the state of the poop.  In my opinion, a good dog is one with a nice smily expression, and a tail that points upwards a bit, or at least wags.  I was distrustful of the dogs with tails that hung flattish.  Also, it should look strong and maybe a bit unruly, and have no bandages - lots of the dogs have bandages on their ankles.  I also like dark dogs with white tips on their tails, or dogs with very uniform pale coats.  The pale ones remind me of racing camels.

I took this camel picture in Abu Dhabi in 2003. 
Not only did the camel-colour greyhound come in last,
it turned around and ran the wrong way in the final few metres!
 So, if you're planning on making a fortune at the dog races now you know how to bet - just pick any dog that doesn't fit the criteria above.  None of my dogs were winners.  Though  quite a lot of them did get second or third.  Martin picked two winners.  But because the ticket clerk misheard me and gave me a ticket for dog number 3 instead of dog number 2 on one of the races, he only got the payout for one of the bets.  Tripled his money, though!

This is the face of a man who is 64,000 dong richer!

Vung Tau 1 - Big Mountain

It's not all air-conditioning and suicidal housekeepers around here.

This weekend we decided to have a short seaside holiday, and so we went to Vung Tau. You can find out more about Vung Tau from the wikipedia entry here, but all you really need to know is that it's the closest beach town to Saigon.

There is apparently a good road now between Saigon and Vung Tau, but we are still a bit afraid of roads in this country, so we chose to go by boat.

The hydrofoil looks like a torpedo and takes 75 minutes.
We left early on Saturday morning so on Friday I tried to go and buy tickets.  What a fiasco!  I went to what I thought was the address of the ticket office, and found a building site.  This is not the first time that this has happened to me in Vietnam, actually. Building sites are going up faster than websites can be updated.

So I went back to the apartment and explained my dilemma to the girls at the reception desk here, who were more than helpful. One of them insisted on accompanying me to the ticket office at the ferry terminal, and when we got back, the other had found a map of Vung Tao, and marked all the attractions on it.  She had even marked out the race-track.  "Racing dogs." She said, knowingly.  "Very exciting!".

Martin studying the map at a beach-side cafe
I got tickets for 7 am because we wanted to get as much time away as possible. Even at 7am the hydrofoil was full.  But the problem with 7 am means that we had to get up a full 2 hours earlier than we usually do.  And, we didn't get time for breakfast.  By the time we arrived at Vung Tau we were STARVING.

It was only 9am, but the hotel let us check in as soon as we got there - we were expecting just to dump our bags.  Love you, Rex Hotel!  The Rex is kind of old and maybe a tiny bit expensive for 3 stars, but everything worked, and it was reasonably clean, and the facilities were fantastic. And by that, I mean the swimming pool was fantastic, and the business centre was staffed and had working computers and printers*.  We did a lot of stuff in our two days, but actually we probably would have been quite happy just to hang around at the hotel swimming pool.

Not immediately seeing a restaurant anywhere, we consulted our bible (Lonely Planet) and decided that Black Cat would be just the place to go.  The taxi dropped us off and of course it was closed, because - duh - it was 9am. So we went to the restaurant next door, which was open and asked for the menu.  Foiled again! This place only serves drinks...

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

 Vietnamese iced coffee really deserves a post all of it's own, so I'll only allude to it here with this tantalising picture.  Suffice it to say - it was delicious enough to make me smile, despite literally not knowing where my next meal was going to come from.

Look at all that beautiful sunshine!
 The current issue of the Lonely Planet is getting to be a bit out of date. So imagine our surprise when we realised that the Black Cat restaurant and the Cafe Without Food were parked right underneath a cable car ride to the top of Big Mountain.  After the man at the ticket office ($5 each, return) assured us that there was FOOD AVAILABLE at the top, we went for a ride.

At the top of Big Mountain is a kind of amusement park. I thought it had a very odd feel to it. It's like a park still under construction, but also it has a kind of sense of decay.  There are some areas that are clearly being worked on and built still, but other areas look like they were good once long ago and now are forgotten. For example, there is a man-made lake at the top of the hill.  Construction of the lake and waterfall appears to be complete, but the water is brown and full of  clayey sediment.  There are areas for feeding the fish, but no fish. Were there fish once?

That area on my back Martin later dubbed the 'frying V'.

Here is the Giant Buddha who oversees the whole site, including the lake. Great photo, right?  You can click on the picture to make it bigger.  Martin had the camera for most of the day.

The trees and shrubs are still quite small. 

When you go right up to the Buddha, there is a path lined with statues of (I don't know - are they gods?).  They are huge, and it feels quite whimsical to walk down that path. But lots of them are broken - with fingers missing and stuff like that. And at the end of the path, it is just rubble. The giant Buddha is designed for people to climb inside and peek out of his belly-button, but it's all blocked off, and either unfinished, or collapsed so you can't get in.

Can you see me walking down the path?
I feel like Alice in Wonderland must have felt after drinking the potion.
The sense of foreboding hopefulness was most highlighted for me at the Christian Cave.  There is a cave cut into the rock on the side of the mountain, and it is set up as a Christian shrine, with a very Christmassy theme - including the most forlorn Santa I've ever laid eyes on.

Maybe he's too hot in that red suit.
There were some pretty hilarious things at the theme park.  Firstly: our selected mode of transport was bicycle-built-for-two.

 A second thing that made me giggle was the Musical Stage.  Literally, there is a stage. And it plays music. Loudly. I didn't get a photo, but it's just your average small outdoor stage, with a couple a massive speakers, and presumably a DVD player.  But it seemed funny to me, to see a stage just sitting there by itself on the lawn, blasting out music, with the signs all pointing to the Musical Stage. OK, maybe it's not that funny.

And Mr Martin was fascinated by this, though we weren't allowed to go up and see it.

Some kind of WWII era gun emplacement at the very top of the hill.
If you're in Vung Tao I would seriously recommend checking out this weird place - if only for the cable car ride. But be smarter than me and pack sunscreen and a nice big hat.  THere is very little shade, and I got badly burnt.  It's easy to forget about sun protection when you're in the big city, because the smog does it for you, but at the beach the air is much clearer and the sun is STRONG.

* Don't forget to bring your passport with you when travelling domestically in Vietnam. Hotels are required to hold your passports while you're checked in, and can't accept guests without suitable ID.  Lucky for us we had scanned copies of our passports on google docs, and they let us print them out and use them as a substitute.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Surprisingly efficient explanation of Japanese nuclear crisis

And that, boys, is why we never, EVER fart in public.

Airconditioning and the power of the internet

Thank you for all the caring comments and emails. Even though you are obviously a pack of fear-mongering aircon haters - it's nice to know you care!

Just to put my mother-in-law's mind at rest – the air conditioners I have are the individual kind, where you have one unit on the wall in your room, and a fan unit outside. Just like a heat pump at home. These types of air conditioners are not particularly prone to growing nasty disease bearing bacteria like the air-conditioning systems you get in large buildings can do. So, if you have to have an air-conditioner, they're probably the best kind to have.

This is a naked air conditioning unit.
Looks like a photocopier part to me.

Also, in Vietnam the air outside is DIRTY and full of dust. Furthermore, the air in Vietnam is WET. Which means that if you don't use an air-conditioner, you can end up with mould growing on your walls and possessions very very quickly. Like, within a couple of days. So, even when people are away from their house for a few days, they usually arrange for someone to go in and turn on the air-con for an hour or so, to act as dehumidifiers. And so the best way to get safe, clean, dry air indoors is to keep the windows shut and to use the air-conditioners – providing, of course, that the filters are cleaned regularly. This is particularly important for Mr Martin who tends to get allergic asthma when exposed to dust and (especially) to mould.

But – you are also all correct in wondering if the air-con was in fact contributing to my cold! I did a bit of research, and eventually found some real (not pseudo) science which pointed out that the dehumidifying function of air-conditioning can contribute to susceptibility to colds. Not because it sends cold viruses into the air, but because our bodies need a certain amount of moisture in the air to keep our nasal passages nice and wet, so we can flush dust and viruses particles away. We have the air-conditioning on all night, mostly, in our bedroom. Because otherwise it gets too hot to sleep. And I have noticed that I often wake up really parched. So I am sure that the air-con is probably contributing a bit to the colds. But – I think maybe not enough to make me turn it off, just yet! People – it is often over 35 degrees outside! I am a delicate flower and will wilt under those conditions!

This delicate flower also lives in my bedroom at the moment

Shortly after we moved in here, one of the air-conditioners stopped working. And workmen came, and I was shown one of those charming notes I occasionally get, and the note apologized for 'our dirty histories'. That unit was cleaned that day. Yesterday, when the maids came, they brought more workmen with them, and all our air-con units were cleaned.

This is an interesting process that involved dismantling the units, and hosing them down on the bathroom floor.

I asked the guys if I could take their photo first,
and while they agreed, they really thought I was a nutcase.

So I wonder – is my landlady reading my blog? If so, thank you! And welcome…

Oh, and finally - Yes, I am all better now!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Paracetamol is cheap, at least

I am sick again.  One or the other of us has been sick or at least poorly in one way or another since about a week after we arrived. Sometimes we have both been sick at the same time which is very miserable because I am a horrible patient but an even worse nurse.

I really would much rather that I didn't have to deal with sick people, and body fluids and their noises.  Do you realise how noisy another person's headcold is?  Very inconvenient. But also when I am sick I don't want any ministrations performed on me no matter how well intentioned. But that doesn't mean I don't want you to offer. I just want to refuse you. It's like the power of saying 'no' is all I have left, since I no longer have control of lung functions.  (Or my bowel functions. Depending.) So if I'm sick, and Martin's sick at the same time - I am irritated by his sickness, and even if he tries to be nice to me I am horrible.

The problem is of course that we haven't been to Vietnam before.  We eat as carefully as we can - no street food etc - but it is inevitable that we are getting exposed to new bugs all the time.  I imagine that in a few months time I will be the picture of good health with a rock solid immune system, but right now I am grumpy as all hell with a runny nose and a cough and no voice beyond a whisper.  Again.

Thank god for e-books and my iPod touch.  And air-conditioning.

After a lengthy consultation with the Guardian's bookshop I have decided to download The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. 

Anybody out there read this?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Woman Day!

Today, March 8th, is International Women's Day.  It's not really celebrated in New Zealand, and I had never heard of it before.  In Vietnam, however, it seems to be a proper commercial holiday just like Valentine's Day and Mother's Day.  There signs proclaiming 'Happy Woman Day!' in all the shop windows.

(For Valentines Day this year I got a box set of nature DVDs.  I wonder what Women's Day will bring me?)

Fittingly, then, we went to the Southern Women's Museum on Saturday. What a cool museum!  One of the best we've seen in Vietnam so far.

Take home message - Vietnamese women are mothers and fighters

You are greeted at the entrance by 30 foot high statue of an old woman.  It's not a subject that is widely represented in public artworks - so I thought she was extra special.

I really like the way her legs are
clearly outlined beneath her trousers. 
She is very strong.
Old mother has no teeth but she is not stooped
The first floor of the museum is all about costumes and womens work in making textiles.  I love textile arts, and so this whole floor was wonderful to me. There were all sorts of different looms on display...

Reed mat loom

Reed mat on the loom

Fine silk loom

Silk loom detail
Skeins of silk being stretched before being used on the next...
Loom for making traditional rough silk woven textiles

And the finished product...