Gassy Feeling

 Today's sunshine in Dong Hoi, Quanh Binh province, was the first I have seen in at least ten days, five of which I spent shrouded in mist in Cuc Phuong National Park. I arrived here last night with rotting laundry after spending all day on the train crossing North Annam on my slow, rail-bound route back to Saigon. Dong Hoi is a pleasant and little visited fishing port city only an hour or so north of the former Demilitarized Zone, meaning it was flattened during the Vietnam war. Now it is calm and balmy; I emerged from the air-conditioned railway car to discover that I had left the Vietnamese winter definitively behind to the north.

Just steps across the street from my excellent and comfortable hotel, the Nam Long, I found the riverfront fishing boat refueling fleet, wooden vessels outfitted with large diesel holding tanks and standard-issue gas pumps sprouting from their decks. Smoking on board is not advised.*

The concept of branding seems to have great traction in Vietnam. As I noted recently on facebook, if I had a dollar for every iPhone I saw on the streets of Hanoi, I could afford my own iPhone. The notion extends to gasoline sales. I have seen many of the small, rural oil-barrel mounted, hand-pumped gasoline dispensers sporting a crudely painted "Shell" logo.

Here in Dong Hoi, the news that BP is responsible for the toxic death of a major world fishery seems not to have penetrated, for the company is still getting free, hand-painted advertising.

Another hand-painted logo, the "P" for Petrolimex, which sounds like a joint Peruvian-Mexico oil company, but is actually Vietnamese.

 Note the gas pump shrouded in blue polytarp, and the two others, one on each vessel in the background. Just pull your ship into the adjacent berth and gas up with the extra-long hose.

*Although I'm told you can stub a cigarette out in diesel fuel and it won't ignite.

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