So, At first I was too tired and wanted to relax and get back on track after a two week holiday... then I was too busy to sit down and type up this blog... Now, I have no excuses! I felt like starting up again and writing but it wouldn't be fair to you out there- if I just pushed forward and failed to recap a pretty stellar trip.
I'm going to have to just piece together journal entries so bear with me... I still think it'll be entertaining : )
(February 1st, 2011)
I'm writing from the back of a motorbike.
-early rise (7:30) met up to take picture on Nguyen Hue street until 11am (this street has a huge floral display for the holidays)
Changed and met up with Tam's brother and friend. Got in a small motorbike accident ( I was not driving :) ) and decided the boys should drive the rest of the way. I'm on the back of Tam's brother's bike and his friend is driving Tam's bike.
Turning Vietnamese- wearing a hoodie in the hot hot heat to avoid sunburn.
Saw three nasty accidents, which luckily we passed AFTER the victims were removed. We however made it safe and sound in one piece.. sore bums but alive!
Tam's house is awesome, can not wait to take tons of pictures- never realized how big Tam's family was- she has two sisters and two brother.
Did I mention she lives on the beach?
(February 2nd, 2011)
Another early rise.
brisk shower- hit the local street market, one of the shops had 6 women lavising me with compliments and pushing their very shy 15 year old daughter at me so she could practice her English.
Prepped some veggies for the big meal - used a cleaver... yikes!
Saw women doing that red chew (later I found out it is the areca nut and the betel leaf you can learn about it here ) and selling it.
Was an active participant in a 'bike of burden' with a giant potted sunflower.
Sitting under the mango tree/ relaxing on a hammock, tamarind in the tree to my right and coconuts in the the tree to my left...
Today is new years eve, in the lunar calendar. The father, or man of the house prays to ancestors for the whole house and then they 'party' by sitting at the house eating and drinking beer.
On the first day of the year the first person to enter the house brings you luck for that year.
It's beautiful how all of the men take shopping for flowers so seriously during this holiday. There were more men than women at the flower markets and they were examining each flower arrangement with great care before purchasing.
(February 3rd, 2011)
This is my favorite day so far.
Last night - everyone showered to cleanse before the new year- washing away the last year.
Then we went to view the fireworks. We were ridiculously close to the fireworks....
This morning we walked to all of the relatives houses- prayed and sat around relaxing and sharing each others company.
Each house has 5 alters, you light incense for each one, you share fruit and give lucky money.
Days 4 and 5:
(February 4th and 5th, 2011)
Day 4 was filled with visiting relatives, talking and playing both Black Jack and Bingo.... I was a huge winner- but we only bet with 2,000- 5,000 VND which is roughly 10- 25 cents.
I had been the first foreigner to visit them and they were SO happy that they invited me to return the following year.
Today we went to the biggest pagoda in the area. Tam's father happens to work there.
I lit my 11 incense sticks and went to the various alters to pray for my family, health and happiness. I was filled with such emotion I can't really express it in words.
I was then taken to the biggest alter- which was built for a husband and wife- the entire pagoda was built in their honor thanking them for their kindness and compassion.
I sat down in front of their alter, was given these two wooden blocks that when held together resembled a tamarind fruit/seed. I held these to my forehead and prayed. It's a prayer kind of like a wish. Then you drop the blocks and if they land in a certain way, your wish and prayer will come true.
I made my wish dropped the blocks and they came up with no luck.. however... you are given three chances to make this wish/prayer. On my second turn I did the entire routine again, placed them to my forehead- made my prayer, dropped the blocks and success! The landed the correct way and my wish was/will be granted.
This was followed by standing in line behind this main monk who gave me two bits of yellow paper. One was already folded and the other I folded around the first. This, he said, should be carried with me at all times for luck, happiness and safety.
(February 6th, 2011)
We took a trip to the mountain which has cable cars to take you up to the top where a pagoda and some epic buddhas are.
Because it was a holiday it was the most busy place in the world. Seriously, I've seen Vietnamese in crazy traffic- elbowing and clawing at each other in line at the supermarket and more but this was the most graphic, horrifying display of complete lack of regard for other human beings.
To begin the afternoon, we drove for about an hour and stood in line in the insane heat for another two hours.
Once we got off the cable car and started hiking further up in the mountain, I kept coming up to these beautiful massive buddha statues and was thinking how incredibly awesome a surprise it was because I was under the impression we were simply hiking up a mountain.
Then we started up the main pathway... and I could see white peeking through the trees. Then I realized that this was no ordinary Buddha statue. It's the biggest laying down Buddha in SE Asia. How they got the rock up there to build it is beyond me!
After seeing such a beautiful sight, it was time to head back. Now here's where the real chaos and drama occurred. Hundreds of Vietnamese trying to get down a mountain in the hot afternoon, by cable cars that hold about 8... is a recipe for disasters.
I saw my first ever 'stampede' complete with tasers, shouting, whistles and my friend Tam fainting. This is a view after we finally made it to the small controlled waiting area for the next cable car (and we only got there when we did because Tam passed out and we were rushed to the front)
I was honestly scared and had visions of this image turning up in the news....
BUT we made it out alive, and I was more than ready for the next leg of my journey.
This concludes my recap of my Tet holiday- part one. As I warned, it's not written very eloquently- but hey I'm tired, super busy and at least I'm getting my experience out there : )
Stay tuned for parts two and three: The Mekong Delta and Cambodia