Today we hit 60 kph!!

Toby here, Barb is sleeping.

For a brief moment today we hit 60kph! thats under 38mph for you metric deficients. Actually that was a brief spurt. we are usually under 50kph (32mph)all the time and often down to 30 or even 20. Despite haveing american tv shows, the Vietnamese lack any understanding of our road network. When we said our son lived around 45 miles (taking pity on you) away, Khanh said “So it takes you 2 or 3 hours to go see him?” The idea of visiting someone who lives 150 miles away on a day trip is inconceivable.

The road net is often on a 4 meter standard for a principal road. That’s around 17 feet wide which is no more than a lane on an interstate. That’s for passing on curves, and dodging by large lorries, and buses.

Some of the smaller roads are under 10 feet, and today for the first time, I saw a road that I would call normal. It’s in a demonstration industrial park on the Chinese border.

Falling rock zones are a bit different. Here that means that some time in the millenium a stone might fall. Here you read the statement as meaning the present tense. The rocks are falling. There WILL be rocks varying between tennis ball and water buffalo sized, and some of them may still be moving.

Road building: Labor is not the same part of the equation as it is here. In a road side where blasting took place there may be 20 people with picks and hammers breaking rocks to the correct size for laying roadbeds. These are loaded into dump trucks by carrying them over and throwing them up. The rocks being reduced start at the size of a truck and are just chipped away til they dissapear.

The construction zone spreading over maybe 50 miles of road must have had a crew of over 1000, maybe 3000 I wish I’d done some estimating.

Center line was painted maybe 6 inches off center around a curve of new road. Solution: have 4 workers with chisels and hammers chip off the offending pavement to remove the paint. Said workers are squatting in the middle of the road (+- 6 inches) spaced around a curve back to traffic, and apparently perfectly safe. When you drive all roads like you expect a water buffalo to lurch from the ditch at any moment it does tend to make looking for unanticipated suprises part of the plan.
Use of road is intrepid, water buffalo herds have absolute right of way (stupid and obstinate) followed by fuel trucks ( you die when you hit those) followed by the mass makes right rule. Motorbikes carry EVERYTHING! 12 piglets in trussed harnesses- 2 full grown pigs- 4 and even 5 people. We saw one today dragging a bundle of 30 foot long bamboo behind. Just held by the passanger on the back of the bike, and trailing along behind on a roadway 15 feet wide. On a curving mountain road with hairpin turns! the stuff was in the ditch on both sides as often as not. Finding a stretch of road to pass it was interesting, our driver just waited till the bamboo was on the outside of a sweeping curve and passed on the inside, in the blind other lane of course.

It isn’t russian style, but the bureaucracy is the king of the country. A town of 3000 people will have maybe 6 or even 8 impressive government buildings. All doing the functions a town hall takes care of. The staff is humongous, there are as many people administering education as teaching it. Schools while good are nowhere near as impressive as the admin buildings.

The industrial park the govt is setting up on the Chinese border is big enough to hold Boeing aircraft. Maybe 50 or more 10 to 25 acre sites flattened out of foothills with the widest roads in the country. Not a factory built yet at all, and the location is at the rear end of the transport system, but the master plan has been drawn up. I think they are trying to out compete the Chinese based on gigantism, ooch.

No libraries, anywhere! The idea strikes people as quaintly demented. Give someone a book and expect it back? Why?

Well this is a developing country, and things are developing, for the most part not so bad. Theres a hundred things where the ingenuity of solutions that are undertaken with resources that are severely limited is truely amazing. Just not as good a story.

Late here, I’m off to join Barb.