Very soon after arriving in Vietnam, you'll see the first conical hat, and it is part of daily life until you leave the country. Conical hats can crown heads of cyclists, people working the ricefields, rowing a boat, selling fruit in the street, or with elegantly dressed business women. Under it, you can see a hardworking face, a sweet smile, a sweating vendor... Conical hats certainly add to the exotic picture of the country.
But the obvious reason for wearing the conical hat, or no'n ba`i tho in vietnamese, is of course not for esthetic reasons. It is an important aide in trying to escape the scourching heat or the tropical rain that often occur in Vietnam. They are extremely lightweight, resistant, and plaited with palm leaves. They can be seen on simple peasants wearing them with their working clothes, but as easily you can spot beautifully dressed women in the city with a conical hat.
The conical hat is another sign of Vietnamese inventiveness and simplicity. The only disadvantage seems to be that the person wearing a hat is isolated a little from her outside world. But maybe this is also an advantage. It has happened that I saw someone with a conical hat quietly observing her surroundings. For the visitor, conical hats are an integral part of the Vietnamese streetlife.
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