Encountering Cambodia and Vietnam - Ha Noi, Thursday 2016 March 10

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March 10th 2016
Published: August 8th 2017
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Ha Long Bay docksHa Long Bay docksHa Long Bay docks

A lot of tourists can come here.
Our boat engines started at 6:08 this morning; we had been consulted and had voted to start early to make the most of the day. After soup plus scrambled eggs, I went out onto the front deck to enjoy the sight of the mountains drifting by, wanting to soak up every moment of the unforgettable rock formations. The wind was stronger and the boat was moving faster, plus the mountains were more numerous – dramatic end to our visit.

Arriving at the embarkation harbour, we could see the incredible number of docking points – dozens, if not over a hundred. On shore again, Thuy told us that due to the weather forecast, sailing on Ha Long Bay was shut down for this day and over-night. We had a lucky visit, especially because yesterday's sun let us enjoy both the touring and the decks on our cruise boat.

Driving to Moon Garden resort took over four hours, for the most part reversing our journey out. The wind was blowing hard, tossing banana tree leaves every which way. Vietnamese flags are commonly on houses, and they flapped crazily. The rice paddies, and town busyness, and motorcycles packed with goods continued to

Natural green and blue landscape
entertain most of us. By looking continually out the window, I found that ever more details stood out. Janetta and Mary, who were behind me, also liked watching the scene go by, so we were able to call out to each other if something unusual caught our eye. As an example, a man in a black business suit was peeing with vigour on the side of the road, a problem Thuy had mentioned to us early in the tour. This was my first full view!

For our morning break (large, clean, western-style toilets, paper and soap), we visited the craft shop again. Since it was about 11:30, we gradually agreed this was the place to have lunch; there weren’t going to be any other convenient restaurants. Several of us had chicken pho. A few of us made purchases; I bought some coffee for Ruth.

There was noticeably more traffic this day. The passing of trucks and busses was harrowing! Just like all the others, our driver pulled out to pass a huge vehicle with inches to spare and in the face of oncoming traffic – because there was always oncoming traffic. The skill of these drivers in estimating
Bathroom fixturesBathroom fixturesBathroom fixtures

Open air shopping for home renos
is breathtaking. One truck was little more than an inch from our bus; I guess an inch is all you need! Perhaps the difference from driving in Canada is that Vietnamese drivers expect oncoming vehicles, bikes and pedestrians, and they anticipate their part in an astonishing “dance”.

When we were closer to Ha Noi, we went through a belt thick with factories. I made a list: Yazaki Factory, a steel factory, one with its ISO 9001 painted on the wall, Foxcomm, Canon Vietnam, Longtech Precision (China?), Nanotech, Smart Mobile Application Company (SMAC).

Shortly after passing the airport, we turned towards the suburbs of Ha Noi. I noticed that the houses were less often painted than in other areas, just grey bare concrete. The narrow houses, usually three storeys, typically had no windows on the sides, which made sense when they were jammed together but looked bleak when they stood alone. Rice paddies became more common again, with banana trees grown along the edges. Sometimes the verge of the highway was planted with taro and sweet potatoes.

We came to Dong Lam , another UNESCO world heritage site. Vietnam seems to be keen on UNESCO designation, and it does help
Gate into Duong Lam VillageGate into Duong Lam VillageGate into Duong Lam Village

Every village and town must have its gate.
preserve the heritage that would otherwise be under threat of rampant urbanization. Our bus was too large to enter the gate, so we said a final goodbye and thank you to our driver, who had been cheerful and helpful and who seemed to enjoy our holiday as much as we did. We walked along a street that curved around the houses. One house was officially designated historic. The residents made money showing their main reception room, which was almost entirely occupied by a large wooden table and eight large carved wooden chairs. On the step, two women were shelling peanuts, and one performed the hosting duties for the WC. Thuy bought some typical candy for us, a kind of marshmallow with mild ginger flavour – a heavy bite, very sticky and not to my taste.

Around a couple more curves we came to the “communal house”, which held a shrine and two large meeting rooms on the side for discussing community affairs. Across the plaza in front of the communal house were a couple of houses whose porches were also shops. To one side was a pagoda, of which part dated from the seventeenth century. The central shrine was
Duong Lam Village templeDuong Lam Village templeDuong Lam Village temple

Excellent birds!
for Buddha and one of the side shrines was for worshipping the founder of the village. Unusually, some of the large statues were made of papier mache. A small side shrine was more Taoist than Buddhist, but Thuy explained that it was a role of the pagoda to satisfy those who believed in worship and to forestall them from moving completely to Taoism. She considers Taoism a questionable form of worship because it encouraged the endless giving of gifts and money in the hope of gaining good luck, life goals, wealth and other wishes.

We continued our walk along the village streets, which became busier with motorcycles, and residents taking care of their late afternoon business. Some other tourists were visiting the same village. At the sides of the street, women were selling the local marshmallow, cutting it from a roll according to what one wanted to buy. A few children were around, the younger ones sticking close to the mother, grandmother or aunt taking care of them. We started up a conversation with a young student out of curiosity and to help her practice her English. The standard questions they seem to study at school revealed that she
Marshmallow candyMarshmallow candyMarshmallow candy

Dubious taste for the uninitiated
was twelve and in secondary school.

Our destination was a large traditional house with a vine covered walkway to the courtyard. As this house was also from the seventeenth century, some of us agreed that doing some research at home could help us understand why that century was the time of creating beautiful buildings in Vietnam. The dark wood used to build this recently restored house indicated that it had been owned by a wealthy family.

We were more than ready to abandon site-seeing and get to our special hotel, Moon Garden . Thuy had been one of the original investors and developers, although she sold her share fairly early. A van-style bus had already taken our luggage and returned to take us. Thuy had the driver take the back road because “it was more interesting”, thus we could more closely see the fields and home of the villagers and farmers. Their life, while not rich, seemed quiet and worthy of pride, shown by the tidiness of the properties and the calmness of people completing their tasks for the day.

View map of trip.

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


Traditional houseTraditional house
Traditional house

Tranquility amongst carefully arranged plants

Small town shopping
Decorated roundabout Decorated roundabout
Decorated roundabout

Ha Noi street art
Highway signHighway sign
Highway sign

Magnificent approach to utility
Vendor of candies and sweetsVendor of candies and sweets
Vendor of candies and sweets

Tough sell in slow times
Villagers shelling peanutsVillagers shelling peanuts
Villagers shelling peanuts

... and minding the WC
Village familyVillage family
Village family

Opportunity to practice English phrases
Traditional towerTraditional tower
Traditional tower

Duong Lam Village
Offerings in the templeOfferings in the temple
Offerings in the temple

Beautiful expressions of faith
Founder of Duong Lam VillageFounder of Duong Lam Village
Founder of Duong Lam Village

Reverence from loyal villagers

11th August 2017

Cranes and Buddhism
I've seen several herons/cranes in representational form - have I missed the real live birds? They're so common in the art that I assume they're common in the flesh, too. Regarding the shrines, I don't know whether you read Nevil Shute as a teenager. He was an English aeronautical engineer who had something of a love affair with the East, and a lot of admiration for Buddhism, finding it a pure form of religion.
12th August 2017

Cranes and Buddhism
Indeed, I did read Nevil Shute's novels. I might have to try one again. And I did see cranes, although usually at a distance in paddies. The closest ones were in Cambodia when on the river.

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