Good Morning, Vietnam! And in response, Vietnam gave me this awesome sunrise:
This is a perfect moment to use this most famous line from the movie of the same name. We watched “Good Morning, Vietnam” on the Mekong Princess during our visit, and it was even funnier and more poignant, if that can be believed, than my previous viewings. It is also a reminder of the loss of a truly talented and brilliant man, Robin Williams. Here is a clip from the movie:
Vietnam has seen much growth and change since the war, particularly in its major cities such as Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon (more on that in a later post) but it still has charming villages in out-of-the-way areas along the Mekong where locals still live a simple life. But before we can visit, we once again must present our passports containing Vietnam visa documentation to the authorities, in a reversal of roles, came to us via motorboat:
Once the officials took our passports back to the mainland for review. we were stranded for a bit, floating in the river without papers. Believe me, being “stranded” on the “Mekong Princess” is not a hardship.
Visas approved, we cruise downstream, marveling in the vistas of daily life along the Mekong:
Finding another wooden plank to walk we climb onto the banks of the small village of Hong Ngu. Walking through the lanes we are constantly met with smiles and inquisitive looks from both adults and children:
We were invited into one of the homes where they were weaving kromas, which ironically are traditional Cambodian Khmer scarves:
Of course we had time to purchase a few/many trinkets to take back.
We next explored temples from two syncretic (combination of different forms of belief or practice) Vietnamese religions: Hoa Hoa (pronounced “Wah How”) and Cao Dai (pronounced “Cow Die”).
Hoa Hoa is one of the first groups to offer armed resistance against the French and Japanese that were trying to colonize the rich Mekong Delta area of Vietnam. Formed in 1939 many of its followers were peasants, farmers and other rural workers and many of these people joined the Communist National Liberation Front in the late 1960’s. Hoa Hao emphasizes home worship, combining elements from Buddhism, animism, Confucianism and other local practices with simplified doctrine, eschewing temples and icon worship.
Cao Dai began in 1919 as an indigenous religion of “spiritism.” It combines elements from Taoism, animism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity in an attempt to create a universally acceptable religion that promotes harmonious relationships. Unlike Hoa Hoa, Cao Dai employs the appeal of pomp, pageantry and ceremonial rituals. I must say the temple in the nearby town of Long Xuyen was very beautiful:
This is actually an inkpot and written documents, I though it was a teapot.
The grapes and other ornate decorations reminded me of Italian Capodimonte porcelain.
Those are not German swastikas, but rather Buddhist. The word comes from the Sanscrit word “svastika” which means “that which is associated with well-being” and was used by Hindus, Buddhists and other Indian religions long before being appropriated by Hitler as an Aryan symbol of hate.
The ceilings were magnificently painted:
It was cool and tranquil inside the Cao Dai temple and so easy to understand how followers find this a perfect place to find balance and harmony.
Next week we go from tranquil to organized chaos.