Monday, July 23, 2018

The Occupations of Vietnam: Silk, Coffee, and Cricket Farming in Dalat

Students and kitties munching on crickets in Dalat
I'll begin with my least favorite stop on our farm tour - the cricket farm. We visited the large boxes in which they breed the crickets. An orange kitty started flirting and following us at this point. She came back to the table with us and got her share of crickets fried in lemongrass. I didn't even consider partaking in this local treat, but most of my classmates did.

Lets go snack on crickets

Mr. Phu's cousin and neighbor with his silk
worms, munching on mulberry leaves.
We visited a silk factory in Dalat province, guided by the charming Mr. Phu, a farmer of coffee, macadamia nuts, jack fruit, and peppercorns. Now I know where silk comes from. Silk worms are kept by local farmers, who feed them masses of mulberry leaves.

Silk worm pupa
The farmers bring the silk worm pupa to the factory (as seen above).

Close-up of silk work pupa, which are boiled
to release the one long thread of silk
thread they are made from.

Silk factory. The white disks at the top
of the frame are strands of silk, fed up from the hot water below.
Silk factory workers place the pupa in hot water, loosening the one long strand of silk that the pupa is made of. They attach the thread to a machine which spools it. Above you can see the white disks - those are silk threads - raw silk. Mr. Fu explained that silk factory workers are likely also coffee farmers. They can come and go as they please at the factory. They are paid for how much they produce.

This buddha is happy because they store coffee in his belly.
The highlands of Dalat are thriving with a combination of farm crops, factory jobs, and tourism. Farmers grow coffee, macadamia nuts, peppercorns, silk worms, and mulberry. Locals can combine multiple crops, part time work in silk factories, and, sometimes tourism to make a living. This way of life requires creativity, but affords an attractive flexibility.


Elephant Falls
We climbed slippery rocks to be drenched by the back of Elephant Falls. Exhilirating! Sadly, even this popular natural wonder was polluted with floating trash.

Behind Elephant Falls

Mr. Phu, demonstrating his coffee farm

Mr. Phu let us taste the red coffee berries - sweet and slightly bitter, with two giant coffee beans inside.

Coffee berries!

Coffee on Mr. Phu's farm


Mr. Phu's wife, daughters, and neighbor boy served us
coffee in their home.

Caffeinated and happy on Mr. Phu's patio

One of the weasels who eats the coffee to poop it out.
Weasel coffee is some of the most expensive coffee you can buy. We visited a farm, where they feed the weasels the red coffee berries. The weasels swallow the beans whole. The beans are cleaned, then roasted and made into coffee. I was mystified as to how this seemingly insane custom had started, and Mr. Phu explained that fermentation is prized in Asia and the beans become slightly fermented by the weasel's digestion process.

Weasel poop coffee brewing over the coffee fields.
We tasted the coffee on a terrace overlooking the coffee fields. It was tasty, but so strong I could barely drink it. That was partly because I drank too much coffee on Mr. Phu's farm beforehand.

The whole San Jose State group

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