Pic du Jour: Pineapple Vendor, Hanoi

Pineapple vendor Hanoi

Today’s Pic du Jour –the 75th(!) straight since this project was re-inaugurated– features a woman prepping for her morning pineapple sales route, snapped just a few minutes before she sold me my breakfast baggie.

This is for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge which asked for illustrations of Street Life. In Hanoi it starts humming at about 6 am.

Hanoi, Vietnam, 24-Oct-2010
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Agent Orange’s Golden Anniversary, Revisited

That unfortunate anniversary actually came two years ago this month, but I trust you’ll allow me the indulgence of reblogging this to coincide with Agent Orange Awareness Month. It’s a post about my October 2010 visit to the Thanhxuan Peace Village, or Lang Hoa Binh Than Xuan, an orphanage, school and clinic in Hanoi set up specifically for victims of Agent Orange, now on its third generation. Rarely a day passes that I don’t think about that afternoon on the fringes of Hanoi.

From 1961 through 1971, United States military forces dumped 20 million gallons, or about 80 million liters, of Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant containing an especially virulent form of dioxin, on southern Vietnam. Manufactured by Monsanto and Dow Chemical, it was housed in 55 gallon barrels adorned by orange stripes, thus its name.

The operation ultimately left nearly five million people infected with dioxin. Estimates vary, but on the conservative side of things, some 150,000 Vietnamese children today live with the fallout.

Please take a few minutes to check out the rest of the post – Agent Orange’s Golden Anniversary –and as always, feel free to share.

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Recuerdo Profundo by Jimenez Deredia

Circles, in the Round

Recuerdo Profundo by Jimenez Deredia

In her travel theme this week, Ailsa asked for circles. Who am I to say no?

I threw in a few orbs and spheres, too, beginning with Jimenez Deredia’s phenomenal chocolatey sculpture, Recuerdo Profundo, which I was fortunate enough to see near the Colosseum in Rome in July 2009. A few more snaps from that exhibit are on my flickr stream here.

Istanbul, March 2012

This one I found near the Galata Bridge in Istanbul. What’s not to love about this version of the Crescent Star?

Musee Olympique, Lausanne, 31-Aug-2008

There are lots of circles to be found at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne that have nothing to do with the five rings. Above is the view up from the library level.

Sticking with the Olympic theme, this is a bit of graffiti decorating some shrapnel damage to a wall of the 1984 Olympic bobsled run on Trebević Mountain just outside of Sarajevo. The hour or so I spent there, strolling down the destroyed and graffiti-covered run with just the sounds of forest birds and bugs as a soundtrack, remains the most surreal I’ve experienced in recent memory. There’s a high-speed video –and a few more pics– of that stroll here.

1984 Olympic Bobsled run, Trebević Mountain, near Sarajevo.

Vietnamese People’s Air Force Museum Hanoi, 27-Oct-2010

This is at the Vietnamese People’s Air Force Museum, or Bảo Tàng Phòng Không – Không Quân, in Hanoi. How many of these countries still exist? Below, a ‘Do Not Enter’ variation, seen in Paris.

Fun with road signs. Paris, April 2012

Istanbul, 14-Mar-2012

Above, Istanbul again, fresh catch caught from the Galata Bridge. Below was taken in London this past August, just before I watched this guy getting man-handled by private cops.

London, Aug 2012

Shanghai, May 201

This is a 10-second exposure taken inside the Bund Tourist Tunnel that runs under the Huangpu River in Shanghai. It’s hideously tacky but a fun place to take long-exposures. There are four more here.

Dicobole Lancant le Disque, by Mathieu Kessels

We return briefly to the Olympic theme with Mathieu Kessels’ Discus Thrower at the Royal Museum of Art in Brussels and conclude in Shanghai with these orbs that you’ll see when you exit the hideously tacky Bund Tourist Tunnel. Full circle.

Shanghai, May 2010

Now, go check out more circles, spheres and orbs at Ailsa’s Weekly Challenge here.

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Jarai Arap Grave House (Piran Café Post #800)

This is a landmark post for Piran Café, its 800th since its inception early one chilly December morning in 2006. At a loss for how to celebrate or otherwise mark this turning point, I turned to my grandmother for advice. Her suggestion? Symbols of virility, fertility, endurance and strength.

“Pictures of large wooden penises,” she said. “Lots of them.”

I hate disappointing grandma, so I chugged my second generous glass of calvados and got busy searching and eventually found these: eight shots from the Jarai Arap Grave House in Hanoi I snapped back in October 2010. The house sits in a nicely maintained sprawling garden on the grounds of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. The day I was there, lots of brides-to-be were on the premises posing for portraits.

There are lots of human figures represented by the carvings, but those depicting couples readying themselves for the act are most prevalent. Symbols of fertility and birth were extremely important in death and, the Jarai (Giarai) believed, in the afterlife as well.


If you haven’t guessed,
J is for Jarai Arap Grave House
in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge 2012.
Check out more participants here.

My explanation for this is here.


These snaps are also this week’s contribution for Travel Photo Thursday (#TPThursday on twitter) hosted by Nancie on her website, Budget Travelers Sandbox. When you have few minutes to browse, check out Nancie’s photos and those of others who take part. You’ll see some great photos and visit some wonderful places. The direct link this week is here.

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Piran Café will be inaugurating a free monthly newsletter in May. It’ll be loaded with travel tips and wine reviews, updates on CC licensed free-to-use photos, musings on my obsessions of the day, plus an exclusive FREE giveaway EACH month available to subscribers ONLY. Giveaway No. 1:  Sign up now and you’ll be automatically entered to win a FREE major publishing house travel guide of your choice. Drawing is on 1 May, so do it now!


Hey! Follow me on Twitter.

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Scooters of Hanoi

More photo organizing from last October’s Vietnam trip.

There are just over 6 million people in Hanoi and about 4.5 million motorbikes. I didn’t count, but there are probably several 100 of each in the short slide show below. And there’s even a really groovy soundtrack.

The Song:

Creative Commons License Test Drive by Zapac is licensed under a Attribution Noncommercial (3.0).

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Previous posts from Vietnam 2010:

Agent Orange, 35 years later

The shot above was taken in October at the Thanhxuan Peace Village, a clinic, school and orphanage in Hanoi for victims of Agent Orange. Over the course of nine years, US forces dumped 20 million gallons, or nearly 80 million liters, of Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant containing an especially virulent form of dioxin, on the southern Vietnamese countryside. That brutal legacy of war ultimately affected nearly 5 million people and is now on its third generation.

I’m working on a longer story on Thanhxuan at the moment, and came across this today – a good two-part report that aired recently on CBS5 in San Francisco. Check it out.

Part 1 -

Part 2 -

via Channel APA

Hoa Lo, aka The Hanoi Hilton: an Abbreviated Tour

Most Americans like to refer to it as the Hanoi Hilton, but Hoa Lo Prison’s notorious history dates back well before the American War killed 3 million Vietnamese and claimed the lives of more than 57,000 US soldiers.

In literal translation, Hoa Lo means “fiery furnace”. The name comes from the potters who fired their kilns day and night in the area, but the prison soon gained a reputation as a true hell hole. First by the independence-seeking locals, then by the invading Americans.

With anti-colonialism sentiment on the rise, the French began construction in 1896, and hastily began filling its cells and stockades less than three years later before construction was completed. Originally built to house 500 inmates, it held more than 2000 by mid 1952. The bulk of its tenants were political prisoners, men and women, many of whom were involved in the early days of the Vietnamese Communist Party. Torture was common. It has its own dark and dank Death Row. Executions were carried out by guillotine. There’s a mobile guillotine and vivid pics of decapitations on display.

After Hanoi’s liberation from the French in October 1954, the jail housed common criminals until August of 1964, when it made way for downed and captured U.S. pilots. Among them was John McCain, who would later be known as the man who unleashed Sarah Palin onto the world. Here’s McCain’s flight suit and a picture of him being treated by a doctor. Looks a bit staged to me.

All of what remains of the complex –two-thirds of the former prison was demolished in 1993 to clear room for Hanoi Tower, a high rise office and apartment building– is now a museum, focusing primarily on the French period, both a blunt reminder of colonial brutality and a source of revolutionary pride.

If you’re looking for remnants of the American War period, you’ll be a bit disappointed. (This was after all, a prison built by the French to detain and torture pre-revolutionary Vietnamese.) There are two rooms dedicated to the U.S. POWs; besides the McCain flight suit, plenty of propaganda photos of generally happy-looking soldiers grace the walls. Among the most interesting items on display is a letter written by POW Monika Schwenn to the prison chief requesting permission to keep her cat upon release (click and then magnify the image below if you want to read the letter). There’s also a carton of L&M cigarettes, a gift to the prisoners from the International Red Cross. (Does the Red Cross still dole out cigarettes to soldiers these days?)

Admission 10,000 VND (0.51 USD/0.37 EUR); Open Tues-Sun 8:30-11:30 and 1:30-4:30

There is an actual Hilton in Hanoi, by the way. Opened in 1999, it was carefully named the Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel.

Previous Vietnam posts: