This week’s Travel Photo takes us to the “Pearl of the Orient”, Vietnam. Claudia and I encountered this scene while exploring the Mekong River outside of Ho Chi Min City (Saigon). Throughout time, rivers are the life blood of countless civilizations providing food, income and transportation. The Mekong River is a critical part of the daily lives of over sixty million people in southeast Asia, beginning in the Tibetan plateau and running down through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to it’s delta in the South China Sea.
Almost as iconic as the Mekong River, are the non la or conical hats of Vietnam. They can be seen being worn everywhere from the simple rice farmers to the elegant society ladies in their long silk dresses of the bustling cities. They are both fashionable and functional, shielding their owners from the tropical sun and rain, or carrying fruits and vegetables. They also provide a useful social barrier by demurely tipping them down.
The literal translation is leaf hat. Different areas reflect unique styles, typically depicting colorful hand stitched words or local scenes. While the hats from Hue are famous for their poem non la, containing poetic verses, the writing can only be seen when the hat is held up to the sun.
There is a Vietnamese legend of a goddess in the form of a very tall woman who often wore a magical hat crafted from four round leaves woven together with bamboo. She sheltered the people from the sun and the rain and taught them to grow vegetables and rice. When the people who were protected and fed fell asleep, she ascended into the heavens. She has been honored ever since by the wearing of these traditional hats.
Do you want to explore daily life on the Mekong River? Or experience first hand the fashion and functionality of the non la? Contact the Travel Consultants at GW Nunn Adventures for your Vietnam adventure.