Thursday, October 05, 2006

More pictures from Vietnam

I decided it would be easier for me to post all my pictures with short captions now, and post a more serious piece later. Partly this is because of requests for pictures, and partly it is because my internet connection at home is so slow, blogger times out when I try to upload pictures from there. So while I'm still at work I should upload the pictures.

First, Cao Dai, a religion homegrown in Vietnam in the early 20th century, who see themselves as a successor to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.

There are various levels here: while most wear white, there are those who wear other colors to represent various Asian religions: red for Confucianism, yellow for Buddhism, and blue for Taoism. This worship happens 4 times a day: 6am, 6pm, noon, and midnight. We saw the service at noon. People go through various bowing motions on the floor as a choir and orchestra chant.

Our tour guide says it's in Vietnamese but though he's a native speaker, he can't understand what they're chanting. The symbol they use is the all-seeing eye of God, just like on the dollar bill:

These eyes follow you as you walk by them.

Cao Dai does seances, and this is their main source of religious knowledge. Through these seances they contacted various people from the past, including Sun Yat Sen (founder of Modern China) and Victor Hugo (author of Les Miserables). Here they are, as saints, pointing the way to Cao Daism.

A bit out of order chronologically in our tour, but while I'm on the subject of religion, here's a Buddhist temple. This is Theravada Buddhism, in a Khmer community. North Vietnam has a bunch of Mahayana Buddhism. That bookcase has a bunch of books in English, including one on Zen, which is NOT Theravada Buddhism. Vietnam seems to be a place where different religions get along a bit better than in other places.

Khmer youth all train in a Buddhist temple until they turn 18 and decide whether to remain monks or not.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon:

This is during a service. Note the crowd around, some trying to get in, Others feel it's a party. Note the balloons being sold on the lower left.

Next: During a service. It was packed. Service in Vietnamese. I tried to be discreet so I didn't use flash and couldn't get a good angle.

Meanwhile I hear singing across the street. I go and find a kind of Sunday school class, I suppose. It's next to a Catholic bookstore. I know it's Catholic because it's featuring books like these:

But it also has books like these:

Steven Covey, of "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" fame (here's one for teens) is, of course, Mormon. But, as I said, in the atmosphere in Vietnam, Catholics and Mormons get along fine together.

Here's another look at the church. Lots of traffic. Takes lots of practice to cross the street.

Motorbikes everywhere. Worse than in Taipei. And not all of them are experienced drivers, either. Sometimes a whole family is riding one. They follow traffic lights, but as a pedestrian you often can't see them lights. There are often no crosswalks. Luckily no one is really speeding, so you can do quick negotiations with each driver as you approach collisions.

Here's rush hour going to the airport:

On another topic, we toured the Mekong River delta. No one knows how long it is because its source is somewhere in the inaccessible Tibetan plateau. But it brings lots of rich silt and periodically floods the river delta, depositing fresh fertilizer every year. Farmers just plant, sit back, then harvest. They still do that. Not because it's quaint--it's still a viable way to make a living. They only make about a dollar a day, but they grow their own food and live on boats. It's apparently a viable way of living. We toured by boat.

There was some rain, but not the sort you would associate with a hurricane. We got more water splashing up from the river. Not comforting to think how many countries the Mekong goes through to get to us, and how polluted it might be. Some have a different attitude than others:

That's Sangi in the front right, basking in the water, stretching out his legs, having a good time. YiChieh is behind him, using him as a shield and crouching to avoid getting any of that dirty water on him.

As the weather gets nicer, students relax on the bow:

And we eventually get two human prows, looking out over the bow:

Here is a floating market, where people buy and sell from boat to boat:

A view from the floating market to the houses on land. Lots of TV antennas. The guide says that ever since they had something new to do at night (watch TV), the birth rate has gone way down.

They pop rice, just like popcorn, in a big skillet:

We handled a pet python at a restaurant on one of the islands:

And we walked on rickety bridges.

Well, not rickety, really, but you have to watch your step and the railing is only on one side. They call these "monkey bridges" because you have to be a monkey to cross them. I'm proud of Priscilla here, especially. Who would have thought she'd agree to this?

Speaking of monkeys, you can feed a monkey at a rest stop on the way to the Mekong:

At the same stop, a truck pulled up with a tarp on the bottom, filled with water, and live fish. Here's someone bucket brigading the fish into bags.

We see Mt. Ba Den on the way back from the Cao Dai temple and the Cu Chi tunnels (yes, these pictures are out of order).

Those are rice paddies in the foreground. The canal is an irrigation ditch. Sangi hops across one:

and loses one of his slippers:

The response back at Pepperdine's International Programs office is, "What's he doing without close-toed shoes in an Avian Flu-infested area?!" But I trust our tour guide Viet, who keeps up on these things, and when he says you can wear sandals, I go with that. Mind you, he didn't think Sangi was going to wander into a rice paddy. But we did cancel our tour of the aviary because of a recent case (in a bird, not in a human) there. It's been over a year since there's been a human case of Avian flu in Vietnam, mostly because the government has been very quick to react to it.

Don't worry about his slippers: Sangi got another pair at a market later that day, and probably paid less than a dollar for it.

Here are a couple of flower vendors pedaling on the highway who stopped to see the commotion about the slipper:

Now for miscellaneous: Across the street from where we stayed in Saigon is a youth activities hall of some sort, that has the internet cafe where I had trouble typing because of the Vietnamese accents that kept coming out. Still, it was a few cents an hour.

They also have concerts. This one was from Sunday night. They did a bunch of Western pop songs, Vietnamese style.

There weren't many people inside at the concert. More of them were outside, peering in through the front gate. Perhaps they couldn't afford admission. I don't know. But they were really into it. I wonder if maybe the bigger party was happening outside than inside.

Okay, I've got the pictures from Vietnam up now. Now I can post even when I'm at home without worrying about how long it will take to upload.


At 1:35 AM, Blogger j.Hipp said...

killer pictures, Dr Iga. I especially like the blurred one of the mopeds - it really captures the essence of Saigon.

And the one with that guy in the yellow shirt with the python wrapped around him is insane! That guy must have been nuts!

See you tonight

At 10:23 AM, Blogger Kevin Iga said...

Hey, Jon! Yeah, we're going to have to start calling you "Python Jon" now, just like "Croccodile Dundee". Everyone, that's Jon Hippensteel (j.hipp) in the yellow shirt holding the python.


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