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Vietnam

Hello Saigon!

large_938978_14286951709029.jpgOr Ho Chi Minh city as it is now called. Both names are still used, so it doesn't really matter. It was a long drive from Dalat, so i was glad to be there. We walked around, went to the Ben Thahn Market and on towards the opera building. We picked out a nice restaurant for dinner, and did some window shopping afterwards. We would be here for another day so plenty of time.

The next day, while a lot went to the Mekong Delta, we decided to stay in Saigon. We visited the Jade Emperor Pagoda to start with. There was not tourst in sight (which i liked). It is a small square with 2 ponds, one for turtles and one for fish. Then there is the main temple hall, which is beautifully decorated. It was very busy when we were there.

Next we went to the Zoo & Botanical gardens.large_938978_14286951821246.jpg The zoo is nice, and because of the shade it was nice walking around there. It's not the worst zoo i've seen, the hippo cages were small and that was a bit sad but most of the animals had decent looking cages. And they're still constructing and improving, which is good. The zoo is pretty big, and there are a few places where you can sit down and get a drink. You don't see much tourists there, a lot of local people and kids on schooltrips. You can get food there but it is mostly Vietnamese and it didn't look very well to our opiion so we skipped that. The botanical gardens were smaller then expected, but very nice. There is also a part where they grow orchids and bonsaitrees. We spent most of the morning in the zoo and the gardens. There was also a butterfly garden but it was unfortunately closed when we were there.large_938978_14286952129305.jpg

After the zoo we wwent looking for a place to eat. In the end we ended up in Vincom Centre, the big Shopping mall.It was a good place to eat, plenty of choice and there was airconditioning. After that we went back to Ben Thahn Market to see if we could find anything nice. It is a very big market and you can spend some time there. After that we took a walk back to the hotel. We went back to the mall for dinner, because there was a good hotpot restaurant. It was very funny to do, and of course delicious as well. We walked passed the opera building and the big community building, and decided to get a drink at Highlands coffee. The coffeetastes really good there, but i guess that's obviuos if you see how busy it is in there. There was some sort of night market near the (now closed) ben than market so we dwindled there for a bit, before we went back.large_938978_14286956046668.jpg

The next, and last day, we went to the War remnants Museum. It leaves quite an impression to see how many wars this country has seen. There is an entire floor dedicated to the effect of agent orange, seriously i think my stomach twisted a couple of times seeing the pictures that were hanging there. But also a lot of pictures about the war itself, the soldiers, and of course weaponry, bombs and stuff like that. There are also pictures of My Lai and other places. Outside were big tanks, and several planes.

Next was a short photostop at the Reunification Palace, which was first named the Governours Palace and used by the French Governor before WW II. It was the home of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.large_938978_14286952256326.jpg When peace was negotiated between North and South Vietnam it happened in this building, that's when it got the name of Reunification Palace.

After that we went to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the post office which is right across the street from the cathedral. It's nice to see, the cathedral has bueatiful glass in lead windows, other that that it has a simple interieur. The post office is nice to see as well.

After that it was time to go pack our suitcases. We would be leaving to the airport soon after.

All together i had a wonderful vacation in Vietnam, but it reminded me a bit of Thailand. And a bit of China when i went to the Mausoleum (it has a bit of the same layout as Mao's Mausoleum) and Halong Bay. The traffic is horrific, as it is everywhere in Asia, but they don't even stop for traffic lights (Saigon excluded). So it's scarier then most places. It was a great experience, but i don't think i'm ever going back.

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Posted by Astreia 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

White Buddha and Mosaics


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large_938978_14286903574343.jpgEarly morning, and on to Long Son Pagoda. Long Son Pagoda is famous for the 24m high white Buddha, which you can see as soon as you enter the city, and the 14m long reclining Buddha. It was nice being here so early, there weren't many other people around.

First you can go to the temple to take a look and make some pictures. It is wonderfully decorated with statues and paintings and mosaic. After that, go to the right and you will find the stairs up. It is a total of 152 steps. Halfway there is the statue of the reclining Buddha, madeof white stone. Impressive to see, the statue is also 5m high, so it's quite big. When we walked further up the stairs we also passed a tower with a big iron bell in it.

So on and on it went, passed some old ladies trying to sell fans and other trinkets in the early morning.large_938978_14286903886782.jpg We finally reached the top to see the big Buddha sitting on a lotus flower.It is just so incredibly huge! But very pretty. The stone tiled floor is also a work of art.On the lotusflower are the portrets of 7 monks, these are the ones who set themselves on fire in or around 1963. They did this because at that time the South Vietnamese regime, which was Catholic, started to persecute Buddhist monks. So in their way they protested against the fact that they couldn't practice their beliefs anymore, while catholics could. On the backside of the lotusflower is a door which leads to a small inner temple.Again because we were so early we had plenty of time to look around and make pictures.large_938978_14286904278676.jpg

Our next stop was Dalat. First we went to take a look at one of the summerhouses of the countries 10th emperor, Bao Dai. It also had a garden. The garden was wonderful! Te house itself was a big French colonial style house with furniture. Sorry to say but in my opinion we could've skipped this. I understand it's different for the Vietnamese people due to the history and everything, but just for the house, no it wasn't that interesting. So we had an icecream in the garden :)

Next we stopped at the Dalat train station. We would take the 2 pm train. The train ride itself was about half an hour. It was nice not sitting in the bus for a while, and it was pretty comfortable. It was fun and the view was nice as well, riding between the greenhouses.

After that we walked to Chua Linh Phuoc Pagoda.large_938978_14286904318237.jpg Really a highlight in Dalat you should not walk past! It is enitrely made of mosaic. It was a feast to look at. A lot of colors and decorations all over. I don't think there is one spot that is not colored.

Chua Lih Pagoda has one old temple, and one more recent built tower/temple. Outside there are quite a few statues to see as well. We decided to climb the towe for the first part, up until the big bell we could see. When we arrived the the bell appeared just huge! And there was much more to see on that floor as well. One side had a room with goldpainted Buddha statues, the other side had a temple room with one very big, Buddha in the middle, and a lot of other Buddha statues around the room. In between every bit of the tower was decoratd with flowers, dragons and other colorful things, all in mosaics.large_938978_14286910217333.jpg I don't even want to think about the time it cost to build it.

After that we went to Then Vien Truc Lam Monastery, better known as Trúc Lâm Temple. We got dropped of on top of the hill, so we only had to go 61 steps up that stairs. Apparently there is another entrance along the lake, which is 222 steps... This was another big temple complex, the public area was open for tourists, the private area where the monks and nuns live were not. It has a big bell and drum tower, and a beautiful ceremonial hall. Next to it is a really nice garden with lots of diferent flowers. You can walk past that towards the lake. From the temple grounds there's a beautiful view over the lake, very nice and worth the walk.

After that we went on to our hotel, we were pretty knackered so after dinner (and knowing we had to get up at 5.30am again, we didn't stay up late.

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Posted by Astreia 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

To Nha Trang


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large_938978_14286855444727.jpgWhen we arrived in Nha Trang it was again warmer then the day before. Which was good. We arrived a bit late in the afternoon mainly due to a lot of road works. Bus couldn't go any faster than about 40 km/h and over more then 200km..so that takes a while. We also stopped for a few nice photostops and a road restaurant with sea view. So that was quite nice as well.

And now we are in Nha Trang, so on to the next Cham Temple complex! This one is called Po Nagar. Which is theactually the name of the biggest tower, but the name is used for the entire complex. It is built on a hill.

It was a small one (compared to My Son), one big temple, and three smaller ones.It was nice to see, but there were a lot more tourists as well, and locals because people are still coming here to pray and burn incense.large_938978_14286855117215.jpg It was however in better state then My Son, all buildings were completed and the roofs were decorated. The decorations on the temple's outsides were gone because the can't replicate those. There also was a little museum where you could see traditional clothing and a few statues that were found there. And there was a small garden, really pretty.

We didn't do much else in Nha Trang. We had dinner at the hotel which took about an hour before anyone had their dinner, and sat in the hotel bar with a few others before going to sleep.

It is normal that ordering a la carte takes so long, they really aren't used to groups of more then 3 people it seems. So you get the food when it is done. Someone got his after 20 minutes, the last one got theirs 30 minutes later. It did taste good, but it's a bit of a pity if someone has to start dinner when others are already done.

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Posted by Astreia 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

My Lai


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large_938978_14286809104294.jpgToday was another beautiful day. The weather was improving a lot, so that was nice. We had enough clouds and rain. Today we would visit the museum of My Lai and remains of what happened there.

Very short, the US couldn't beat the Vietcong. One day there was intel that said some of them were hiding in My Lai. So the military went there. There were no Vietcong, just women, children, and old men too old to fight. They got the order to shoot, and they killed everyone. The put people in a ditch, and shot them. They killed everything that moved, and did a lot of other horrible things. Between 300 and 500 innocent unarmed people were killed that day with the excuse that every dead Vietnamese person was a dead Vietcong member.

We visited a museum with pictures, weaponry and other things that have been found at My Lai.large_938978_14286809191555.jpg We also saw a documentary about My Lai. Vietnamese people who survived the massacre told what happened from their point of view, and a helicopter pilot (mr. Thompson) who was flying above at the time, told his story, what he saw. He also was the one who saved aa much survivors as he could. Years later he returned to the place where it all happened to meet the people he saved. Unfortunately he never met them.

Outside there were a few statues and a big mosaic piece. The remains of a few burnt down houses and one house which was rebuild to show what it looked like. And quite a few trees and flowers.

At the Neurenberg-trial (WW II) it was decided that the following of orders wasn't an excuse for massmurder and people were found guilty and sentenced.large_938978_14286809262569.jpg This time however the americans did use it as an excuse.So the result was nobody was punished, they were all found not guilty. One officer got a few years of house-arrest, but was set free after that. What happened there is one of the saddest moments ever. Luckily the public opinion changed a bit about this, but still the way they reacted back then was just so incredibly wrong, judging others by using an argument, and using it the opposite way to defend yourself...To hear that was pretty unbelievable. It was impressive to see, a bit depressing to hear. Actually i was glad we left.

The rest of the day was spent with the occasional photo and toiletstops on our way to Quy Nhon. We had a great hotel there near the beach, so we could go for a walk after dinner. Tomorrow we would continue to Nha Trang.

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Posted by Astreia 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Champa Ruins and Hoi An by Night


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large_938978_1428677432675.jpgToday we had one more day in Hoi An, and we decided to pay a visit to the Champa Ruins of My Son (pronounced Me Sun), another UNESCO World Heritage Site and to be honest one of the more rememorable experiences of this trip.

Before arriving at My Son, which was an hour by car from our hotel, you have to walk up a path that goes through the jungle for about 5-10 minutes. It is nice walking there, shade, nature, the river flowing between the rocks, it's peaceful. We arrived after it had rained (for a change we kept it dry the entire day and saw sunshine!). Bcause of that we saw a lot of butterflies. Beautiful! Hard to get a good picture, but beautiful to see how so many butterfles were in one place.

The buildings and temples of My Son Sanctuary are Hindu, dedicated to Shiva, not Buddhist like most other temples in Vietnam.large_938978_14286774473187.jpg3 windows, 9 barsThey were build between the 4th and 12th century AD bij kings of the Cham people, which are now a minority in Vietnam, and live mostly around the Mekong Delta.The My Son temple complex is regarded one of the foremost Hindu temple complexes in Southeast Asia and is the foremost heritage site of this nature in Vietnam. It is compared to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, even though that is build by the Khmer, and Ayutthaya in Thailand. It has much of the same building style, but it also is different beacause My Son is older then the two previously named sites.

Originally, the site had around 70 temples. The french started with the restoration of the old buildings , however due to an American bomb carpet during the Vietnam war, the numbers decreased to about 20 temples that are still (semi) standing, the rest is completely destroyed.large_938978_14286776677218.jpg They are now trying to rebuild and searching around what is still left, but even that is impossible at some places because there are too many unexploded bombs lying around.

Lucky for us we were early (around 9am) a bit before the big tourist busses came around. We had a really nice guide that could tell us much about My Son and the histroy behind it. We visited the temples in group C, D, E and F. The temples are old, and most of it is still original. Some parts are reconstructed. They copied the bricks nearly perfect, but you could see the difference between the building styles. In the original style the bricks are lying on top of each other without space between them, in the restorated parts you could see the joints and mortar that keeps it all together.large_938978_14286774417251.jpg

The Cham people used to heat the building when they were done building it. As the guide told us, they set it on fire. It is aslo believed that because of this fire, besides the sticking together of the bricks, it is also the cause you see no moss at all on the old original stones, and the reason they're so well preserved. The new ones do have moss growing on it. Interesting that people who lived so long ago were so incredibly smart when it came to building these huge temples, and that scientists in this age don't have a clue how they did it exactly.

Besides temples (dedicated to Shiva) there were also styles of limestone, where you could still see the text that was once written upon it. It is old Sanskriet and apperantly there are not many people, or none anymore, who can read/decipher it.large_938978_14286774767459.jpg Unfortunately.

The temples and some buildings have the symbolic number 9, for luck, subtely built in it for example 3 windows with 3 bars each, making it 9 bars total. There are statues without heads, but the archeologists still don't know why that happened. Some say it is because the Cham people did it themselves, as in you will not take our knowledge without our consent, others say it is because a more barbaric people came aorund and destroyed everything, but they never found any evidence of that. And some say it were the French that destroyed the statues. Plenty of possibilities ;)

In the end we saw a Cham dance performance. really nice to see, and the way they gracefully moved their hands was amazing, like they bend their fingers a bit more then normal.large_938978_14286777064184.jpg After that there was a klarinet player with a really good longcapacitiy. It was nice to hear at first but in the end he made one really loud very long melody and i was glad when he stopped making that sound. But if you decide to go there (and if you're there you really really should!!) see the dances as well. :-)

After about the entire morning spend there we rode back to Hoi An. We decided to see a few temples after lunch, and so we did. Beautiful temples! Open for public from 6am to 6pm. We saw two but the have quite a few of them. We also went to see the local market. Open from 6am-6pm, so we couldn't see it yesterday. We bought a cinnamon box, you could only get that around Hoi An. After that it was back to the hotel to freshen up and rest a bit. It was quite hot that day. We went out a couple of hours later for dinner. And to just walk around again. I loved that town at night with all the busy streets and the lanterns and the shops and stalls and everything.

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Posted by Astreia 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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