"Wow! I feel like I'm in Vietnam."
We were driving toward Manzanillo when my Air Force buddy Rob tossed that one out of the blue.
The problem is, I knew exactly what he meant. I occasionally feel that way myself. I have another friend who said something similar on a visit. But he thought he was in The Philippines.
There is something about the tropical Pacific coast of Mexico that starts the search function in the nostalgia file. It happens to me at least twice a week.
And I came across part of the answer on Saturday. My blogger friend, John Calypso, recently bought a house in Puerto Escondido. One of the joys of home ownership is house repairs. In this case, the roof. A palapa roof.
You see them everywhere on both coasts of Mexico. But John gave us a nice history lesson about roof thatching.
It turns out that the familiar Mexican palapa is not Mexican, at all. It is one of the imports the Spanish brought from The Philippines. Another, of course, being the coconut that is not native to Mexico, either.
That helps explain why the thatched roof below looks as if it might be somewhere on Luzon. When it is really just two lots down from my house.
But there is something more. Even when there are no palapas to give visual clues, I still get that feeling.
Enlarge the photograph at the top of this post by clicking on it. That view is on the road to Manzanillo. In fact, the very spot where Rob had his Vietnam flashback -- and where I have the same thought every time I drive over that hill.
Or this photograph. Doesn't it speak southeast Asia to you?
The bare rock hills. The water reflecting the tropical landscape. The jungle vegetation.
Maybe it is as simple as realizing that coastal areas in the tropics are cousins. And that is the reason the Spanish imported the palapa to Mexico.
It is the perfect roof to allow air circulation in humid areas and to keep out torrential rains. Something that Malaysia, The Philippines, Vietnam and tropical Mexico share.
The part about Rob being positive he saw North Vietnamese regulars sneaking through the rice paddy will have to wait for another session.