When it comes to traveling in Vietnam I cannot help but think of my guide Mr. Cong; a friend, colleague, a scholar with a great sense of humor and a wonderful family man. I have known Mr. Cong for almost twenty years and cannot imagine a trip to Vietnam without stopping by to say hello.

A long time ago, Mr. Cong and I traveled to Northern Vietnam, to the Sapa area, where many of Vietnam’s ethnic hill tribe people live. This part of Vietnam is home to some small mountain towns, which host bustling and colorful markets. We spent our days hiking in the mountains and strolling through the local markets, which are not only a photographer’s paradise, but also a treasure trove for souvenir shoppers. Afterwards, we went off on a hike through some of the nearby villages, which turned out to be a true treasure hunt. Who knew that Mr. Cong was an avid collector of clay pottery! Full of excitement and with a big smile on his face, he would walk up to the villagers, strike up a conversation. Next thing I know, he would disappear in their small huts and emerge with a clay pot, some simple in shape, some elaborately colored and glazed, but always unique and beautiful.

Today, after all the years of traveling, Mr. Cong’s home houses a kaleidoscope of local pottery, a tribute to the wonderful people of his country. Often times one of our travelers will ask if they should bring a gift with them to Vietnam. I always reply: “If you bring a piece of pottery, Mr. Cong will be very happy!”