Our trip, which began in Hong Kong and ended in Little India, has been covered in these last few blog posts. This was a huge adventure and as wonderful as it all was, I find I just cannot write of the one thousand and one things I experienced during that time.
It has been said that writing becomes your darling. You write a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter and although you love that piece of work, it will, at some stage, need to be cut. In my case, I may feel I want to write about every moment of this journey but I can’t, otherwise I will be here for the next ten years!
So although I haven’t suddenly developed murderous intent, I will be putting my darlings to the sword by culling some moments and condensing others and therein, I will begin to kill my darlings.
Again the days saw us immersed in street food and the Vietnamese culture. I was still head over heels for this country and I don’t think that will ever change.
Bussing it to the foothills of the Trai Thuy Mountain, we discovered the lovely Taoist architecture of the Long Son Pagoda.
Behind the Pagoda, and after a climb of the steep stone 152 step stair case, there is a large and very perfect white lotus blossom.
And seated in the centre of that very perfect blossom, is a huge and very perfect white Buddha.
I am never one to ask of travel to give me a life changing moment but seeing that majestic and very beautiful Buddha made my heart leap.
There is peace to be found among the temple gardens and small grave sites located on the lower level and the beautiful mosaics constructed of glass and ceramics which adorn the roofs, entrances and halls are just lovely.
This really is an enchanting place to spend a little down time but just watch for the traffic (and the power-lines) as you cross the road………
The bus we caught in south-central Vietnam weaved along to pull up in the coastal city of Nha Trang. Sometimes when on a bus, I would press my face to the glass not wanting to miss a moment or I would just sit and write small notations while watching the landscape of the country run by.
Off the bus this day, I walked across to the ocean which seemed to pound with furious monotony onto the sand. It wasn’t the postcard I had expected and nor had the beach before it been, nor the one before that. Rubbish and plastic bottles had been left among the sand and more were about to wash up from the cresting waves. Dispirited, I didn’t even bother to photograph it. There are I know, some incredibly beautiful pockets of ocean in Vietnam but I just hadn’t found them on this trip.
I caught up with my husband and walked from the ocean across the ever busy highway clogged with traffic. Hundreds of step-throughs, push bikes, tour buses and the odd car choked the four lanes in both directions. I watched as a medical emergency worker, in the centre of one lane, tended an elderly man who had been knocked from his bicycle. As the mans blood seeped out onto the hot bitumen, the traffic swerved around them and continued to surge on. Later in the day I saw the lifeless body of a motor-bike rider. The small twisted figure lay by the road side and only days later again I saw another body.
Finally across the road we rounded a corner passing a small fishing village and its River Cai harbour which smelt so heavily of shit and of the sea. The sky was once again heavy as we followed the curve of the road. I was worried about the injuries to the man who lay on the hot tar, I was missing our little cat and I missed my beautiful New South Wales beaches. I was snippy and I was tired. Drained by the heat and lack of sleep and exhausted by the disappointment in the true realisation of how little respect we humans have for our fellow man, our planet and especially our oceans which we seem hell bent on destroying.
In a very brief and somewhat demoralising moment, I thought that if I never saw this part of Vietnam again I would be sad but somehow relieved. Perhaps my gloom had been fed by the heat, by the tiny insects I was only now allowing to bother me and by that very distinct and very unmistakable smell of shit.
The tourists, irritatingly slow and in plagued proportions, bothered me the most! Their exasperating boorishness, condescending stupidity and gracelessness seemed no better than a horses arse at times. The careless and misplaced arrogance they cast over the respectfully gentle Vietnamese grated. These are the same people who probably fart while in the confines of an aircraft! It really matters little how ‘educated’ , elite or superior you believe yourself to be. How you ultimately treat others will always show your integrity and it will always speak the truth of who you really are!
Yet just around the corner, perhaps only thirty more steps away, would lay my reprieve as the Po Nagar Cham Temples awaited…….
Beautifully charming and deeply complex in structure, these temples are the largest collection of Cham ruins. They are thought to have been constructed between the 8th and 11th centuries and they are located on a small hill 50 metres above sea level.
These incredible temples, erected to honour the Hindu Goddess Po Nagar, have survived war, vandalism, lootings and neglect to hold fast their history. Built on two levels, the first being a large meditation hall of which only the pillars remain, and the second part accessibly only by steep stairs hold the east-facing temples, of which only four survive today.
Suddenly, I was enjoying it all again. My brief moment of pessimism banished as I again began to treasure these moments and of where I was in our wonderful world. The assertive and every present hawkers peddling their wares, the noise, the crowds, the disagreeable attitudes of some, the heat, the smell of shit and even the swarms of tourists no longer bothered me.
The day began to fold in on itself and the sky, that big Vietnamese sky remained the same which to me, seemed pretty perfect again. In those few of days I saw the beautiful and the not so beautiful. I saw life and the harsh reality of death. I realised that patience truly is a virtue and that all things, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable, will come to pass.
I understood too when travelling there will be times where I will miss much which is so dear to my heart and that shit, no matter where you are in the world, will always smell like shit but that’s okay. It really is all very okay.
And in the midst of it all, I even managed to kill off a few of my darlings……x
Foot Note: Nothing of literary note was harmed during the writing of this blog post.