Boat Eyes in Vietnam

A photograph of the author, Brooke Edwards.

By Brooke Edwards

February 10, 2012

Writer Christian DeVries recently traveled to Heifer projects in Vietnam to collect field stories for Heifer. Below, Christian gives us a snapshot of the culture he had the chance to see while traveling for us.

Photo by Russ Powell, courtesy of Heifer International

Anyone who visits Vietnam’s Mekong delta will be dumbstruckby the quantity of boats floating in the river, its tributaries, canals, pondsand seemingly even puddles. Many peopleknow about the quaint sampan, but inmy opinion the most graceful are the vo lai.

These long, slender boats are typically propelled by largeengines which sport long drive shaft and a propeller on the far end. Their flat bottoms and sleek lines help themcut quickly through any canal, no matter how shallow or narrow.

Painted on the front of many vo lai, and lots other watercraft in Vietnam, are two stylized eyes. Legend has it that these eyes protect riverboats from monsters or evil spirits. They add a special touch to the character of each boat.