Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Easy Rider Tour - Day 1

We spent five days motorbiking through Vietnam with the Dalat Easy Riders, a group of motorcycle tour guides who trek through the Central Highlands - or really, wherever you'd like to go. It blew our budget completely out of the water, and was worth every penny.

Here's Gabe, on the morning of our first day. Mount up!

Safety first.

One of our first stops was a rice wine factory in Nam Ban. "Wine" translates into "moonshine." "Factory" translates into "family's backyard." That little stream coming out of the green tube translates into "buzzed on the back of a motorbike."

A lot of trip was seeing artisans at work. This guy makes straw brooms. But not just any brooms. His brooms are renowned throughout the Central Highlands, and some people will only use his brooms. His brooms are a big deal.

This woman, a member of the Koho hill tribe (Vietnam has dozens of minority ethnic groups), makes baskets for a living. They are incredibly elegant and nearly indestructible. We were ready to toss our frame packs for a few baskets.

By far the most fascinating stops of Day 1, however, dealt with silk production.

Silk worm growers take newly hatched worms and leave then on racks to start growing cocoons. Little naked worm here wanted to play:

Once they've developed a cocoon, racks of larvae are kept until the prime time for harvesting - they only have a few days when the cocoon (the raw silk) is at its biggest, but before the larvae hatches.

Eventually, the cocoons are harvested. The poop is collected as fertilizer, then the cocoons are shipped off to a factory, where they are boiled and strung onto machines that pull them into silk thread. The choicest larvae sometimes get picked out for eating.

And then comes the dying and weaving. Nom nom nom.

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