MISCHIEF ON THE MEKONG Part Two...CAI DAI CU CHI


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June 22nd 2013
Published: June 22nd 2013
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MISCHIEF ON THE MEKONG Part Two...CAI DAI CU CHI.

We Guests of Honour from OZ...attending a party tonight...Quynh's parents' Wedding Anniversary.

Indian arm wrestle Shane for who'll be M.C.

"O.K. Shane you can be M.C."

"I've been to Toastmasters. I'll give our Acceptance Speech as well...O.K.?"

"What? You've attended Toastmasters...you want to be M.C...and you want to do the Acceptance Speech as well...fair crack of the whip...flogging the old wallaby aren't you?"

"What about me???"

"Keep out of it Nick."

"Shane & I'll have a dance off."

"#%!&(MISSING)"

"What...you think that's unfair? I'll teach you unfair."

"Come on boys...eat your breakfast...we've got a long day!"

********

We are in Bien Hoa...Nick & Quynh's home town...about an hour's drive from Ho Chi Minh City...great meal last night by the river...feasting on fish, chilli, more fish, more beer.

Massive hotel rooms for the visitors from OZ...massive ante rooms...massive bedrooms...Done well Nick...nice choice.

Nick's organised a 7 seater van for 8.30 a.m to take us touring today...bit of culture before the formal evening.

Nick in his Travelblog T-shirt...gotta be on our best behavior...brand ambassadors and all.

Me in the front with the driver...Denise, Shane, Nick & Quynh in the back...great...I'll change the CDs...always prepared.

Let's start with some Baaba Maal..."Television"...our Travelblog Patron Ali Watters likes this one...then some Rock...some Blues.

Rockin' along nicely.



CAI DAI

Arrive at Cai Dai Temple at Tay Ninh Town at about 11:45am...just in time for the 12 Noon ceremony.

Cai Dai is a Vietnamese religion claiming about 6 million adherents based on facets of Confucianism, occult practices from Taoism, karma & rebirth from Buddhism, and hierarchical orders from Catholicism such as a Pope, cardinals & bishops.

It believes that all gods worshipped by the world's religions are the same god, which is named after the Taoist supreme being Cai Dai or High Tower.

Saints include Jesus Christ, Buddha, Muhammad, Pericles, Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Sun Yat-Sen and Nick's favourite, Victor Hugo.

Adherents filing in...shoes off...tourists in the rear foyer or upstairs side balconies...photos no problem...sea of adherents in rows...men on the right...women on the left.

Some monks with fancy hats...the head monk in yellow representing Buddhism & Virtue with an eye on his hat and back which means he is
THE SPIRITUAL LEADERTHE SPIRITUAL LEADERTHE SPIRITUAL LEADER

Cai Dai Temple
a Bishop or Cardinal.

Other Bishops in blue representing Taoism & Pacifism or red representing Confucianism & Authority.

The temple was enormous and very elaborate...pinks, reds, yellows, blacks & blues...marble floors...28 dragon adorned columns representing the 28 manifestations of Buddha...7 headed cobras representing the 7 human emotions...an eye in a triangle watching over...the Divine Eye (left eye representing Yang with a Ying/Yang pupil)...lot of bowing...hierarchy of the worshippers evident.

Then a wander in the gardens as the monks and worshippers file out...clear fine day...colours sparkling everywhere ...can't help feeling this is a wealthy place.

No time for lunch...only time to photograph Shane's companion...again...then off we go...gotta hurry...the next place closes at 4.



CU CHI

Over an hour in the van...intimate talk getting to know each other...and then we are there...well sort of. Nick been here a number of times before but not maybe this site.

The Cu Chi tunnels is an area of about 12 sq. kms that the U.S. forces in the Vietnam War had reduced to a lunar landscape...destroyed all vegetation so it was barren & denuded...then bombed the crap out of it some more.

There were piles of bomb casings including cluster bombs, so whether that meant they were unexploded I do not know, but think probably so.

We had a guide as part of the ticket price and headed off on narrow clay tracks into the jungle that had regrown in the intervening 40 years or so.

The displays were sensational.

There were huts with mannequin/wax figures in uniforms and various guises to show how the Vietcong carried out an existence in an area that was continually blown to bits.

They lived underground in various levels connected by tunnels.

There were hospitals, living quarters, deep wells, weopan storage areas, all that was needed to live underground and undetected.

There were smoke chambers to ensure slow release of smoke from cooking fires to avoid detection...booby traps to catch "tunnel rats" which were U.S. soldiers and dogs who went down the tunnels to flush out the Vietcong.

There were narrow sections of tunnels designed to be too narrow for U.S. soldiers to squeeze through as they had "big backs" as they carried packs & equipment etc.

I was amazed.

I could not help feel immense admiration for the resourcefulness & determination of the Vietcong...determination necessary to protect their homeland and fight for independence...determination necessary to survive against an enemy armed to destroy them at any cost.

********

I could not help but be reminded that I was in the next group to be conscripted to fight in Vietnam when Australia pulled out of that insane war...yep...my birth date had been selected in that lottery that changed lives...to fight in a foreign land where the "enemy" was more determined than we were.

But a change of government changed all that for us Aussie diggers.

Thus I am still around to tell this story.

How lucky am I???

Bloody lucky...I say.

*********

The guide then showed us a clay pile...not unlike a termite nest...that had a horizontal slit...from which the Vietcong fired rifles at U.S. & South Vietnamese soldiers.

Then he kicked a pile of leaves...gave me a start...and there was the cover for a tunnel entrance...about 15 inches by 15 inches.

He lifted it and disappeared within...then emerged explaining the technique...had our attention I must say.

"Who would like a go?"

I went down first...diagonally to fit my shoulders...disappearing within with a one finger salute like Angry Anderson had done in one of the Mad Max films when he was gobbled by quicksand or whatever... a tunnel big enough to crawl or waddle down there...a light illuminating the experience.

After I re-emerged, Shane went down next...grinning up at us...then another kick from the guide indicating a larger trapdoor for Nick to go down & join Shane...the Travelblog logo framed like a picture frame as the Cockle disappeared within.

We were shown other tunnels to meeting rooms and other rooms that Denise & Quynh crawled through...even an exploded B52 bomb crater...near it some holes in the ground where tunnels had started to cave in...even a field hospital.

Nick & Shane got held up in one waiting for a briefing to commence...had to pull rank to get them out of there..."Squad...Atten Ha...they're only dummies...get a move on!"

We had to admire the ingenuity of these people...no wonder they won the War.



A blast from the past

Shane was anxious to get to the firing range before it closed...that's an understatement...what's a stronger word than anxious...virtually chased us out of there.

Arrived at the firing range as workers were filing out...so we filed them back in...opening up for us.

Shane fired an AK-47...10 rounds for 300,000 dong.

It was pretty hot...and we were sweating...but from Shane's exclamations it was more than that.

Having seen so many AK-47s in Ethiopia in our travels with the Omo River tribes...and to show Shane how a real marksman does it...I put down my 300,000 dong and blasted away.

But Shane...not to be outdone...got a Browning 30mm Machine Gun for 500,000 dong...and let it all off in one orgasmic discharge...better than sex...his reaction assurred us!!!



Getting to the party...or will we ever get there?

As all TBers will appreciate...sometimes the journey is as exciting as the destination...and so it was getting to Quynh's parents' 29th wedding anniversary.

The party started at 6pm but we didn't get back to Bin Hoa until 7:30pm & required quick showers to get the dirt off from tunneling and into party clothes...more of the same but clean.

Quynh arrived on a moped looking like she'd been born to ride...instructions to taxi driver in Vietnamese & we were off..."Follow her."

But the taxi driver did not understand "Follow her" or anything else it seemed.

Quynh in the middle lane...we in the left hand...Quynh in the middle...taxi change to right hand lane...me trying to say stay in the same lane...we stationary...u-turn...there she is...or is it...zillions of mopeds...zillions of headlights...there she is...follow...Shane sure...me not so sure...Shane insisting we piss off the taxi & get out there...me not so sure...Shane insisting we return to the hotel...me not so sure...no idea what the taxi driver thought...Den just enjoying the ride!

Well we got back to the hotel where we had started and Shane was insistent the taxi driver just go...me insisting he come with me to Reception first...to find out if Quynh had told him our destination or just to follow her...Shane insistent he just go...me insisting my way first.

Turned out Quynh had told him where to go...and she turned up shortly after...and ripped right into him...then we let him go.

Got another taxi who took us to a Wedding reception place...this can't be it...we're going to their home aren't we?

And then like an angel of the night there was Quynh...smiling & confident..."Now follow me"...down some narrow lanes and we were there...about two hours late...some guests already leaving.

Still want to be M.C. Shane?



The Wedding Anniversary Party

Being a V.I.P. is an art not a virtue...being expected for about a month and finally arriving is a cause for celebration.

We expected to arrive with a bang...not a whimper.

Thank goodness Nick was there to greet us so we could "Dah Dah...we have finally made it!"

Met the Matriarch first...remembered the greeting for her we'd practised during the day...couldn't remember any other instruction so winged it as usual.

Met the rels...given heaps of delicious food...given heaps of beer...present from Shanghai for the parents...Anniversary Portraits not negotiable...came out well...then settled down for a night of feasting with Quynh's father, brother & Nick's boss.

Being a V.I.P. is an art not a virtue...and when it's me it's time for toasting...and white spirits...wasn't my idea but that's how it ended up.

Vietnamese medicine...not unlike Chinese medicine...and as I was missing a tooth from Shanghai I hope I didn't inadvertently smile for photos.

********



The Gift

And then like an apparition a surprize for me that lifted
NICK & QUYNHNICK & QUYNHNICK & QUYNH

We miss you guys
my spirits so I was soaring in that home in Vietnam...renewed that part of me that was missing...filled that empty void that had been wrenched from me in Shanghai...that which had been taken...nicked by an anthropologist...and hidden behind a fire wall.

Nick presented me with a piece of paper...which had 3 dots on it...3 giant dots...3 Vietnamese dots.

I can blog again.

Come here Nick...that's the best present anyone can give.

How about a drink to celebrate?

Relax & Enjoy,

Dancing Dave


Additional photos below
Photos: 97, Displayed: 29


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22nd June 2013

Still laughing...
loved your blog, still making me chuckle
22nd June 2013

Still laughing...
Thanks for commenting Jo & Ian...a number of emotions in this blog. Happy memories.
22nd June 2013

Great Cai Dai Pictures...
...the others were okay too and your tales of the tunnels were riveting. But how could anyone be serious about a religion which has saints like Joan of Arc and Victor Hugo - or Julius Caesar the Roman geezer, married three times, a dictator, and an invader (of my country no less!)? Okay, he was a direct descendant of the goddess Venus, he invented our calendar and gave us the month of July - but a Saint? Nah!
22nd June 2013

Great Cai Dai Pictures...
Thanks for commenting Mike. As to Cai Dai...surely 6 million adherents can't be wrong...and maybe their saints or revered figures are not as unusual as those from many other religions when you think about it.
23rd June 2013

Yes, Nick...come here!
Thanks for sharing your wonderful time together. As for memories, I also remember that my draft number was 107...not a number one ever forgets in a life time. I went to school in Dalat, Vietnam from 1956 to 1964, and didn't want to go back to fight for something that was a total mistake. I eventually did go back to my school, taking my son there in 2009. We were received very warmly. Not only are the Vietnamese very resourceful and determined, they are also very forgiving.
23rd June 2013

Mixed messages
Sounds like your connections with Vietnam come with mixed messages Bob...schooling, draft, forgiving people. Schooled in Da Lat during the early stages of the Vietnam War...stories in those years I'm sure. Da Lat was scene of a major battle in 1968, 4 years after you finished school. I'm interested in hearing your memories of your time there.
23rd June 2013

No Mischief and No Mekong!
I have been in contact with my lawyers... Oh, and since I now own the intellectual property rights to the three dots they seem to think I have another case if you don't immediately desist propagating these knock-offs to the world.
23rd June 2013

No Mischief and No Mekong!
Well, well...a challenge...a slap across the face from the Nomad...with a feather...a plasticene arrow from behind the fire wall. In anticipation of you attempting to nick the "mischief" and the "Mekong", I'm pleased to advise I hold the intellectual property to any mischief there...jointly held with my partners Mr Cockle & Mr Camel...a formidible triumvirate, trio, some may call a triad. All will be revealed after Intermission...no play complete in the first half. And as to my 3 dots...they know where their real home is...and so do you!!!
23rd June 2013

Dalat in 1968
That was the year I graduated from high school in Malaysia...and then had a student deferment while in college until I graduated in 1972. By then the war was winding down and they didn't get to my draft number. However, I returned to Vietnam in 1973 as a civilian, as head of design for all U.S. construction in Vietnam. Now, back to 1968 and the Tet offensive in February. We received word that six missionaries had been killed in Ban Me Tout...hiding in a ditch and the NVA just tossed grenades into the ditch. Their children were informed at our school so that was a pretty terrible time for all of us. We also heard that the NVA had gone to our former school in Dalat to kill the missionaries there...Hanoi Radio had even made the announcement that the mission was successful. However, The missionaries and their small children...39 total...had hidden in the storage room behind the gymnasium/chapel...the door of which was covered by purple drapes that extended the length of the wall. Everyone, even the babies, were quiet while they heard the NVA searching for them outside. One of my former math teachers, a Canadian named Mrs. Hall, was eight months pregnant and soon started contractions. Anyway, the NVA left and Mrs. Hall's contractions stopped. Back to Ban Me Thout...the sole survivor in the ditch was Mrs. Ziemer. Her son was a U.S. Navy helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He eventually became an admiral and commander of the Norfolk Naval Base. He recently served as both President Bush's and President Obama's lead for the eradication of malaria around the world. Another surviving son of the Thompsons who were both killed, David, became a medical missionary in Gabon, Africa. I could go on and on...perhaps when we get together again!
23rd June 2013

Dalat in 1968
Thanks for your info regarding the Tet offensive in 1968 Bob. May I ask what construction projects were the U.S. doing in Vietnam in 1973. Was this after U.S troops had withdrawn?
23rd June 2013

The Saints Come Marching In...
I've just discovered that William Shakespeare is also on the list of Cao Dai saints. Now you're talking! :0)
23rd June 2013

The Saints Come Marching In...
William Shakespeare is a Saint you say. Kinda proves this Cai Dai saint thing is not "much ado about nothing"
23rd June 2013

Connections...
I wrote my previous response to you just before going to church. During the greeting part of the service I introduced myself to the couple sitting next to me. Her name was Penny. I said that I had just posted something on the internet about a Penny...Mrs. Hall's first name is Penny...regarding Vietnam. They said they knew a missionary there...last name Heffer...did I know them? I said yes...I went to college with their daughter, Janice. It went on from there. You would think the odds of this happening are very small, but I have these kinds of experiences all the time. As a traveler, and one who doesn't mind starting conversations with total strangers, the odds become greater that one can make such connections.
23rd June 2013

Connections...
I am often amazed how often when travelling I meet someone I know or knows someone I know...how the world is sometimes such a small place. Now that would make a great TB thread subject don't you think?
24th June 2013

Construction projects in Vietnam.
Yes, most U.S. and allied troops were out of Vietnam by 1973. The projects were for the Vietnamese military...and I was glad when the funds were finally cut off in 1975, because we were wasting taxpayer money. Every time we would put in a utility system, they would rip it out and sell the materials. I remember having designed a fire system water intake at Cam Ranh Bay that went out a 25 meter long pier and then into the water. When we went to build, the pier was missing. I also stopped many over designs...to many window air conditioners. I knew that once the air conditioners landed in country, they would be stolen.
24th June 2013
TIME TO GO

Keeping an eye on you
Since you tended to wander off or lag behind, I always had to monitor where you were in case you were waylaid by some clandestine dancing society.
24th June 2013
TIME TO GO

Keeping an eye on you
Some like walking away...some like their photo taken...Sounds like a blog coming on
24th June 2013
NICK & QUYNH

''We miss you guys''
Hi girls! Can we all be girls, instead of all guys?
24th June 2013
NICK & QUYNH

''We miss you guys''
Fair comment. Guys...girls...maybe "We miss you unisex"..."people"...doesn't quite have the same ring to it
24th June 2013

Guys -v- girls
I come from a strong feminist tradition & pepper my speech regularly with the word "guys" - like many words their meaning evolves with time & need to be read in context- I never for a moment imply male supremacy or female lack thereof- just like the use of slang - just saying...

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