Green. Palms. Dragon fruit trees. Knee-high grass. Foothill mountains. Rice paddy fields. Shrubs that house vibrant flowers. Geckos that scale the walls. Gardens that supply the entire village with food. Pineapples before they're ripe. Watermelons. Basil leaves that flavor the pho soup. Vegetables that accompany the fresh spring rolls in rice paper. Mint leaves tasted and smelled at every meal. Onions that top each dish. Aloe Vera after a long day in the fiery sun. US dollars that are accepted everywhere. Green.
Watch out for the motor scooters. Everyone uses their horns. A herd of brown cows slowly crosses the road followed by three small women swatting them from behind. A mother and child bicycle home from work and school. A barefoot toddler walks alone from shop to shop along the street. An elderly woman sells dragon fruit from the road side. Next to her sits oranges, papayas, watermelons, squash, cucumbers, cabbage, green onions, and carrots. I veer to miss a stranded cow standing the middle of the road. The local market is stocked with everything from cigarettes to bottled water to oil for my motor scooter to local fish sauce. More scooters. And bicycles. Some traveling solo, and others in packs moving in unison like ducks flying south for the winter. Most travelers wear the triangular shaped rice hat, covering everything but the tips of their noses. There is an accident; a bus, car, and passenger van failed to avoid collision. People come from all directions. So do the cows. More people honk. Both lanes are used to drive in any direction. I eat pho and com (noodles and rice). The river is lined with tin shacks and weathered docks on their last legs. Each boat on the river is painted royal blue, bright red, and school bus yellow. The clouds hug the foothills and shade the palms. The ocean surf is in view. The rain washes the car, sometimes violently and at other times, soothingly. Three hundred and sixty degrees of green. Yellow, fuchsia, and white flowers sprout from every bush. Another village. There is a light on inside each roadside stall"”each has something to sell. The rain does not stop traffic. The chickens play together inside a makeshift wire fence. A one room cement house is abandoned. A man cycles his pigs to market on his bike; the pigs sit in the front basket. Where do all these people live? Some of the men on the scooters wear ponchos, with flip-flops. Everyone wears flip-flops. One-hundred kilometers and not an English word in sight. No one wears a helmet except two children traveling home with mom on their scooter. Cargo trucks, tour buses, very few VIP cars. More honking. Television sets are the focus of every tin shack and concrete one-room home. The front of every shop, restaurant, and home is wide-open. Don't the mosquitoes bother them? Someone has up Christmas lights. It's September. Watch out for the motor scooters, and the cows. The music plays. Watch closely, and you too will hear it.
Written by Tara V. Russell
Photography by Andre Lettau