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On Saturday, my husband Steve and I returned from two weeks in Asia. We spent a few days in Hong Kong, where we visited places that held special memories to us after four years of living there. Then we went up to China to pop into our daughter Meredith’s world. She’s a teacher at an international school. Meredith had a week’s vacation, so we went to Vietnam together! It was a fascinating week—Vietnam is beautiful, similar to other Asians countries and yet very unique. And it’s a complicated place for Americans. We went to central Vietnam (Hai On and Hue) then to north Vietnam (Hanoi).

For the next few weeks, I’ll be posting pix from our trip. Below is one of my very favorite shots—taken from my iPhone and entirely untouched.

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This elderly woman was at a Buddha Temple near China Beach—central Vietnam. Her teeth were blackened or painted with resin. Think . . . lacquered. She had them blackened them when she was a young teen—hardly ate for over a month as the process was underway.

I’ve read a number of different reasons about the custom of blackening teeth—that it was a beauty ritual, that it saved teeth from decay, that it was meant to make the women look ugly in the eyes of foreign invaders (and Vietnam has a history of military conflicts: China, Japan, French, and American).  It was a tradition in many parts of Asia—for both men and women. I found an informative blog post about it, if you’d like to read more.

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One of the many things I love about traveling is how it stretches my mind to understand and appreciate cultures and traditions. Teeth blackening might seem odd, even dangerous—but so was foot binding for the Chinese. And corsets for Americans.

So what current beauty trend do you think will be viewed as strange in another fifty years? (Me, I’d say tattoos!) 

[Tweet “Ever heard of teeth blackening? Get a look at beauty around the world with @suzannewfisher”]

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