Cutting Rice
A high point of my bicycle tour

As I note in the index page, this picture is probably my favorite, for several reasons:

Cutting rice in Vietnam. 23apr2004, Nikon 990, f/7.0 EV 0, 1/128s, ISO 100, WB daylight; cropped, value adjusted slightly in gimp 01apr2023 (click for full-size version)

  • it represents heart and soul of the Vietnamese countryside for me;
  • I happen to enjoy looking at farms;
  • it's a decent photo; and, most of all
  • The people in it were very friendly and one let me cut rice!

This, to me, was way cool. The standard way of requesting a photo is to tap take the camera and tap on it—if you get smiles in return, then you're good to go. These ladies consented, so I took their picture (actually, 2 or 3, hoping to get one good one.) But, in the past, I noticed my photographic subjects had enjoyed seeing the pictures in the camera viewfinder (as my mom noted, not as good as a polaroid but still worth some smiles) and as I'd particularly wanted this shot, I wanted these ladies to understand how much I appreciated it.

Well, as you can see, wet rice cultivation takes place in rice paddies...which are (surprise!) wet. After surveying this situation for awhile, I took off my bike shoes and socks—I wore capries as the best compromise for sun, bike chains, comfort & modesty—and waded in. The rice-cutters enjoyed seeing the picture enough that one actually offered to let me cut rice. I was absolutely thrilled to try it (and am quite certain I would've been miserable if I'd tried to do it on an ongoing basis for even half an hour).

They use a slightly curved metal knife, perhaps 14–16 inches long, very sharp. The rice is piled as you see in the picture, and usually threshed right in the field: sometimes with a motorized thresher, but quite often with one that is foot operated. As far as I could tell, most people cutting the rice seemed to be women, though men more often threshed it. The stalks are saved as well, and bundled up; the rice is spread to dry—quite often on the highway

Update 01apr2023: fixed the weird characters with em- and en-dashes; added full-size version of image; added year tag and title