Hidden Treasures: Melting Ice and Sunrise in Nha Trang, Vietnam
Until very recently in history, most people didn't have easy access to ice. In David McCullough's book The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914, he explains how ice made its way to Panama in the mid-1800s. It certainly took some work:
"The ice was supplied by the Boston and Panama ice Company and it sold for as much as fifty cents a pound when first introduced on the Isthmus. One ship from Boston carried seven hundred tons of ice packed in sawdust all the way around the Horn to Panama City, with a loss from melting of only one hundred tons. But in the process of getting the ice from ship to land to the Panama icehouse, a distance of two miles, another four hundred tons melted. Yet such was the demand that the sale of the remaining two hundred tons paid for the voyage. Within a few years, ice on the Pacific side was being supplied by ships from Sitka, from what was then known as Russian America."
Holding David McCullough's book in the Panama Canal
Fast forward to the early twenty-first century, and move from the Americas to the streets of Nha Trang, Vietnam. At sunrise you will see blocks of ice being hauled by modified bicycles, bound for paying customers. The cost of this ice, for sure, is less than that of the ice shipped thousands of miles to Panama 150 years earlier. But one thing that is the same is that it melts, and in looking at the water dripping from the blocks to the pavement, you feel contemplative, and consider ice as symbolic of the human condition. The ice does in a matter of hours what your body will do in a matter of decades. What begins as a defined block -- your flesh and blood -- commences a change of state from the moment it is released into the world.
Nha Trang, Vietnam
To the contemplative traveler up at dawn, the ice conveys a sense of urgency, speaks to the value of time, whispers a little about what it means to be in bodily form.
Joel Carillet, chief editor of wanderingeducators.com, is a freelance writer and photographer based in Tennessee. He is the author of 30 Reasons to Travel: Photographs and Reflections from Southeast Asia. To learn more about him, follow his regular photoblog, or purchase images, visit www.joelcarillet.com or www.istockphoto.com/jcarillet.