|Map location is for Ho Chi Minh City, but I visited the country area near where we docked at Phu My. The map can't seem to find that!
Thursday, January 23
Today we are in Vietnam. We docked at the industrial port of Phu My. This is the access point for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). I wasn’t that interested in another big city with a long drive, so I opted for a local tour to the area of Ba Ria. We first went to a residential temple. It has men, women, and some children there. There are some wealthy who are simplifying their life, and some who are poor. It is relatively modern, but has beautifully traditional style buildings. There were vegetable and flower gardens, and folks in their monastic wear working to clean and care for the property. Community support can be money, rice/food for the residents, or working to maintain the facilities.
There were services going on that involved the leader chanting, and the group responding. It was very pleasant to listen to. It was interesting to look inside and see the Buddha figures at the front actually had halos/auras that lit up (as in neon)! The next stop was a temple for the Cao Dai religion. This was developed in 1926 as a blend of Buddhism, Catholicism, and other Eastern Religions. The temple looked like a Catholic church with Asian embellishments. It reminded me of the place in Mexico that had the blend of Catholicism and the local religions. One pillar was designed with reverse swastikas, which are a positive symbol in the far east.
This area has a lot of rice production, and we passed a lot of rice fields. They can get three crops per year from each field. Besides eating rice, there are other uses. We visited a home where they were brewing rice liquor. This kind of home brew is not uncommon (and not illegal). It is a pretty simple setup involving three metal kettles and a fire under the middle one. Our next stop was at a home where they were making rice paper. This is not an art paper, but an edible paper used to make spring rolls. The woman had a round grill (like a crepe pan). She dipped the liquid on the surface, spread it out, covered it with a lid for a short time, then used a round rolling pin-like device to take it off and put in on a screen. The screens were put out on racks to dry. They were good, and had a kick since there were bits of chili in the batter. Normally these are sold by the stack in the market.
Everywhere there were signs of people getting ready for the new year holiday. Kids get two weeks off from school, and adults get two weeks. Our guide indicated that created problems as good child care is not available, so kids often go to the office with their parents. We stopped at a local market that was almost all flowers due to the holiday. Red and yellow flowers are predominant. There were several booths selling orange trees, bonsai type trees with yellow flowers, lots of other flowers as well. Several guys were taking home pretty large trees on their scooters. Scooters are the predominant transportation, since they cost about $500. A car is hugely expensive, and has a very high tax (close to 100%). Kids under 18 can ride electric bicycles, so the roads are pretty full, and you can add this to the list of places I’m not planning to drive!
Back at the ship, there were a few booths of souvenirs set up, so I enjoyed a little shopping around. Then back on the ship to regroup, cool off, and have lunch. The ship is pretty empty, so I think most folks are off touring around.
The flyer from the spa tempted me, so I went for a leg/foot massage—lovely indulgence! Then out on deck to watch the local dragon dancers before dinner.
Tomorrow is Nha Trang. I’m going to take the shuttle into the city to explore a bit, and hopefully find Internet connections.