Hanoians on basalt land

Thursday, 2018-12-27 07:27:01
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A corner of Dinh Van town, Lam Ha district, Lam Dong province. (Photo: baolamdong.vn)
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NDO – Vietnam’s history is associated with the struggles to preserve and expand the territory. Hanoians leaving the Red River Delta to reside in a new land in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong is also a continuation of ancestral traditions.

Over 40 years after the difficult southward journey, those who set up their first steps in the new land now remain only a few. But after four decades, the land has not betrayed its owners. Sweat and tears that were poured into this land has turned to prosperity and attraction of a busy area with vivid and diverse culture.

From Nam Ban, Dinh Van, Tan Ha, Phu Son to Da Don, Gia Lam, Me Linh, Hoai Duc and Phuc Tho, the prosperous countryside of Lam Ha district (Lam Dong) now has welcomed not only Hanoians but also people from Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Ninh Binh, Hai Duong or Nam Dinh provinces, as well as ethnic Thai, Tay, Muong and Mong people from the northern mountainous areas, who come here to join their ethnic Ma, K'Ho and M’Nong compatriots in the fertile basaltic land. Every October, on the occasion of the Hanoi’s liberation anniversary (October 10, 1954), they head to the capital city together like in the verse of soldier-writer Huynh Van Nghe: "Từ thuở mang gươm đi mở cõi/Trời Nam thương nhớ đất Thăng Long” (Since leaving home to join the struggle to preserve and expand the nation’s territory/Compatriots in the South always head to Thang Long (Hanoi now). I heard the words again tonight in the heart of Nam Ban town, which used to be the capital of the New Economic Zones programme in Lam Dong four decades ago. The poetic verses are quite suitable for the scene now, and through the delicate tone by Minh Hue, they are filled with emotions.

Just a few dozen steps ahead, the majestic Voi (elephant) Falls still flows. The water from the remote mountain source flows through Nam Ban town to form a waterfall and tell the old mystery of the legends of elephants. The story mentions a love associated with the war between the Cham and Ma tribes. People in Lam Ha and Nam Ban often remind each other about the heavenly love affair. And now, in an open party in the new homeland of Hanoians, my friends recalled the ups and downs in their lives. Although each is in different circumstances, they are bond to this land and love their new homeland with a profound connection. Their lives have become an inseparable part in the history of this land.

The memories of each person I met have been merged into a short history of over 40 years during the period that Hanoians built up their new home in the Central Highlands. On that day, October 10, 1975, while the capital was gloriously celebrating the liberation day, the first delegation of Hanoians headed to Lam Dong province under the New Economic Zones programme to relocate and develop uninhabited mountainous forested areas across the nation. Vice Chairman of Hanoi People's Committee, Tran Duy Duong, and a member of the committee, Tran Xuan Bay, led the team. In those early days, with the help of the Lam Dong authorities, they surveyed and set out the first steps on the new land, establishing a new homeland for Hanoians on the basalt land. When the survey team set foot on the South Central Highlands, the place was still wild with the Da Dang stream flowing since thousands of years ago, and primitive imprinted forests such as Bai Chay, Lan Tranh and Sinh Cong. The land still suffered from wounds by the two devastating wars.

On the 6th day of the first lunar New Year month in 1976, the first 100 young people from Hanoi packed up and headed to Lam Dong. Next, eight teams with more than 2,000 people from all districts of the capital city also joined their peers. They set up camps and sowed the first seeds on the newly reclaimed land. Phan Huu Gian, one among the first Youth Union members participating in those first days, who later became the Secretary of Lam Ha Party Committee for multiple tenures, said: "It is impossible to count all the difficulties Hanoians had to face against malaria, hunger, and many dangers. Many of them sacrificed their lives.”

Their dedication and sacrifice were returned with dozens of new residential areas on a land stretching over 50,000 ha. Nam Ban, Bai Chay and Lan Tranh overflowing with weedy grass were conquered and divided into plots. New residential areas were formed with familiar names from Hanoi, such as Ba Dinh, Dong Da, Hoan Kiem, Tu Liem, Thanh Tri, Gia Lam, and Dong Anh. Schools, clinics, markets, administrative facilities, roads and cultural houses have been erected on this land, thanks to the efforts from Hanoians. The vibrant life inspired by the Thang Long atmosphere has brought a new life to the majestic Central Highlands.

Amidst many shortages, in a strange land with burning nostalgia, it took them many years with many concerns to set out the right direction. Struggling against hunger by growing corn, sowing rice fields, raising livestock and planting industrial crops, they spared no efforts, sweat and even blood to be successful. In October 1987, the Hanoi New Economic Zone officially completed its task. Hanoi handed over a "part of the capital city" to Lam Dong province. Lam Ha (combined the two names of Lam Dong and Hanoi) district was born with that meaningful enlightenment.

The first people laying the foundation for a prosperous Lam Ha today have spent almost of their lives in this land. Their memories still recall a hard period full of difficulties. Nguyen Van Loc’s family was one of the first 11 households to build a new economic area here in Me Linh commune in 1976. Today the commune has 1,670 households with 7,336 people. "The loneliness and nostalgia in the new land full of hardships always nibbled at the miserable people who left their hometown in Hanoi to move to this land. Many times I thought about giving up to go back to my homeland," Loc recalled. However, with determination, patience and diligence, they created a new stable life. Me Linh cooperative was established and Loc was the first chairman. Looking at his grey hair, I can sense the hardship from an energetic young man to an elderly farmer who is approximately 70 in this basalt land.

Like Loc, young man Nguyen Van Ky of 40 years ago has now become an elder. In his spacious house in Nam Ban town, Ky shared: “I left my hometown in Hanoi’s Dong Anh district to reside here in 1976, like a lot of young Hanoians. For me, I will never forget this period. At that time, we were soldiers who had just returned home from the war and immediately set out on a mission to build a new homeland in Lam Dong. Remembering the old days of hardship, we are always proud of what we did."

Before bidding farewell to Nam Ban town, I sip a cup of basalt-flavoured coffee in a corner on Dien Bien Street, listening to an old melody about Hanoi’s autumn mixed in the majestic sound of Voi waterfall and thinking about the difficult days of Hanoians building a new life far away from their homeland. That period of time during a human life is just an eye’s blink but for a new countryside, there have been great changes. In the wild dense forests and weeds, Lam Ha district was formed. The name recalls the sentiments of a land in the North, along with the love for the new homeland in the Central Highlands. During their migration, Hanoians carry both the name of their originated locales, the whole Red River Delta civilisation, and the values of ancient Thang Long to make the Central Highlands flourish.

At the top of the green pine hill, the highest point of Me Linh commune in Lam Ha, I stop and look back. From here, I can capture the whole plains below with lush green gardens and various houses, streets, factories and roads. Looking at that scene, not many people can imagine that this place was once a wild forested area that has turned into a prosperous locality. Nowadays, young people born in the new homeland hear about the old stories from their predecessors like listening to fairy tales. That fairy tales only happened in this land more than 40 years ago.