After sleeping pretty much the whole way to Vietnam, I got out of the airport with all of my gear intact in spite of the fact they made me jettison half of my pack and my tripod on two separate occasions. I then entered what can only be called a sea of humanity on motorcycles, and thus it has been for two days. I decided to get over any jet lag with a ten dollar massage, and another serious round of sleep. I had stayed up all night packing up my apartment, and run short on rest for a couple of days prior to leaving.
I took an easy going tour of the Mekong Delta on Sunday and enjoyed the boats that were essentially floating fruit and vegetable markets brought downriver by the farmers. The excessive amount of motorcycles in Vietnam can only be equaled by the sheer volume of fresh fruits and vegetable being sold on every city block and every nook and cranny throughout the country. That’s not even counting the markets. It’s clear my healthful intake is going to skyrocket during my time in Southeast Asia. With fresh coconut juice in the coconut for less than a dollar, who can resist?
Cao Dai Temple – Tay Ninh Province
Started Monday with a visit to the Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh Province. The temple is as colorful as the religion is bizarre, but then again aren’t they all really? The religion itself is a rather strange mixture of many of the world’s main religions blending Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Confucianism and more. Its saints include Buddha, Victor Hugo, William Shakespeare, Joan d’Arc and Winston Churchill. Founded here in 1926 it now has 3.2 million followers in Vietnam. The spiritually strange gave way to the spiritually challenging as we paid a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels.
This series of tunnels and many like them were built by the Viet Cong in order to counteract the overwhelming firepower of the United States and their South Vietnamese allies. Thousands lived in these underground cities, and as many as 45,000 perished defending the Cu Chi Tunnels. It was a little difficult taking it all in considering the suffering received and perpetrated by my countrymen. One consolation is that I got to shoot an M16 machine gun with confiscated ammunition. At least these bullets didn’t kill or maim, but just stimulated the local economy.