Monday, 29 June 2015

Ninh Binh Province Northern Vietnam continued, (Post 3) By David Keegan

The People, Life & Industry Ninh Binh

Post 3 in this series from Ninh Binh province in  Vietnam features the lives and work of some of the local people from the small garment factory, to the cottage industry tofu maker, to the block maker and the couple building a house from this local block. Unfortunately any of the limestone outcrop not listed as part of the UNESCO world heritage site is slowly being blown up, pulled down, ground to a powder and finally turned into bricks with a lifespan of only 15 years.  The Tofu maker is one of my favorite picture posts as it offers a glimpse into the process from ground bean to finished block of Tofu. This is hard and hot work carried out a t a relentless pace but offers nonetheless a good living for the family All offering a unique glimpse of some of the local industry and people behind it. Meanwhile in the garment factory conditions here are better than most and better than sweatshops around Asia but long days, sometimes 7 in a row when busy with order deadlines, are spent to earn a living.

UNESCO World heritage site Tam Coc Limestone outcrops proper name Karst  description,  Karst: a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks including limestone, dolomite and gypsum. Characterised by sinkholes, caves, and underground drainage systems.

Preparing the rice field for planting

The Tofu Maker

The Tofu makers home, front entrance.

First the Soybean must be ground to a pulp in preparation for cooking

The Soybean pulp

Cooking the soybean slurry over a traditional wood fire

Checking the mix for consistency

The prepared mix ready for pouring into molds

Rectangular slab molds are lined with muslin cloth and filled with the cooked Soybean slurry

The muslin lined filled  wooden molds 

The muslin is then folded over the top of the paste and flattened out

Then wooden top is fitted perfectly to the top of the mold, this will be pressed into the mold helping to squeeze all excess moisture out of the mix.

Here an adapted iron reinforcing bar protruding from the wall is positioned over the top of the mold and pressed tightly to the top lid 

A heavy stone wight attached to the end of the iron bar pressures the mold further and helps to removal of moisture to form firm blocks of Tofu. 

After about 20 minutes pressing the Tofu is ready and can be removed from the molds

The muslin is carefully removed from the Tofu

Still steaming   perfectly formed Tofu ready for slicing. Many customers call in daily to buy fresh Tofu

The House Builder & The Block Maker

A house built of brick and bamboo. In the background a house being constructed of poured reinforced concrete. This one in the background is also more expensive to build than the block built in foreground which is constructed using locally manufactured blocks. The problem, many of the Limestone Karst are simply being blown up and torn down in order to make powder for block making. Unfortunately this is not sustainable as there is a finite number of Limestone Karst and the blocks produced will only last for 15 years. An environmental travesty.

Husband and wife building their house as a team.

The block works factory at the foot of a limestone outcrop. The location of the block making factory sits on land that was once the base of a Limestone outcrop now pulverized and turned into block

The block making is carried out by the 2 women pictured. Here the woman in foreground takes a filled block mold to the stack for drying

The pulverized block and soil mix create a monotone and surreal landscape.

One of the block makers pictured in front of the drying stack of previously molded block

This is hard heavy and hot work and these women will put in 12 hours shifts starting early morning and working 6, sometimes seven days a week, but in comparison to other forms of work it is outdoors and being very well paid allows them to provide a good living for their families.

The Garment factory

The principle and overseer checks quality of  work on an order for work-wear. View beyond is of bike menders across the street.

Here the work is shared between your men and women working long hours, but conditions are considered good here although again the hours are long and often seven days in a row, it is still a far cry from many larger sweatshops seen throughout bigger town and cities in Asia

Creche for the working mums consits of a cardboard box. These kids will sit quietly and without fuss whilst their mothers work the machines. One can only wonder how many western kids in similar situation would be this well behaved?

The factory floor

Round and about Tam Coc 

All local residents of Tam Coc and Ninh Binh are entitled by legal decree to man and operate a boat offering tours to visitors. The downside, there are so many of them they may wait up to a month between trips until their turn comes around again. They must also maintain a daily presence by their boat in order to keep their place in the que.

Here our rower  and her friends share a smile and some  lunch. Again this is another job traditionally carried out by the women

Fishing for supper in the canal.

One of many small lanes that wind their way behind and between the village houses. Here an elder looks on bemused by me and my camera.

Young parents, though not  a couple. These 2 people are neighbors, the  man in this picture stays home and takes care of the child whilst his wife works, and the woman opposite fulfills the more traditional but unusual role in Asia of staying home to take care of baby.

This post its contents and pictures is the copyrighted property of David Keegan 2015 ©
All pictures taken large format 320 DPI Picture quality is reduced to preserve copyright.s

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Ninh Binh Province Northern Vietnam continued, (Post 2) By David Keegan

 Mau Caves

Another must see is listed as Mau caves but the real attraction here is the view from the temple at the top of the hill. With sweeping views to the valley floor and surrounding rice paddies it is one not to be missed. There is a small entry fee but well worth it. Go early and watch the sun rise from on high.

This post its contents and pictures is the copyrighted property of David Keegan 2015 ©

All pictures taken large format 320 DPI Picture quality is reduced to preserve copyright.s

Pictures from Ninh Binh, Northern Vietnam (Post 1) by David Keegan 2015

Picture post from Tam Coc, Ninh Binh Province Vietnam taken  January 2015

 The first in a 3 part post this one is a series of Landscapes in and around around Tam Coc in the Ninh Binh  province of northern Vietnam. Often described as Ha-long Bay on land, in fact most of the limestone karsts rise up out crystal clear waters of the small local lakes and a meandering  2 kilometer stretch of the Ngo Dong river. I have spent 3 nights on a Halong Bay tour in 2013 and this was a very different experience but both worthwhile for different reasons. At the time of year we visited the the air hangs in a misty eerie adding to its magical ambiance. The town of Ninh Binh itself is of no great interest with little to see ort do so recommend you do as we did and stay in a shack by the side of one of the limestone karsts overlooking a small lake, magical. Nguyen Shack run by a Canadian and his Vietnamese wife its a wonderful place to stay.
click this link for their homepage  Nguyen Shack

A few of the biggest attractions here 1 the people in the small villages dotted around the place (covered in one of the next posts) and secondly a boat trip through calm waters in exploration of the limestone mounds. Many have tunnels that can be traveled in boats operated by local people. The trip we took lasted 3 hours and was one of the highlights of our travels in Vietnam. Some of the caves are very low and long meaning this is not suitable if you are in any way claustrophobic. it is however an incredibly peaceful and relaxing way way to spend a few hours with little more than the swish of oars pulling through the water. particularly if you go very early in the morning as we did scarcely seeing another boat during our tour. 

Mountain goats are a common sight around the limestone outcrops

Cave mouth of passage through one of the many karst

There are also many shrines dotted around the banks and accessible by boat only

An ancient temple dating from the 15 hundreds

Each tunnel entrance has a signpost giving the name of the cave along with its length in meters

Local transport bamboo boat

A shrine in the hills

Bich Dong Pagoda

Around the area

Bai Dinh Pagoda

This post its contents and pictures is the copyrighted property of David Keegan 2015 ©
All pictures taken large format 320 DPI Picture quality is reduced to preserve copyright.s