Hello everyone! Today was another educational day full of admiration for this country, people and landscape. We woke at our usual 5am and went for a walk while it was still dark. We made our way the 3 blocks to the beach where the sun rose with pink clouds over the islands in the distance. My phone was in the hotel room so I don’t have photos but it was pretty magical. The trees are perfectly manicured along the beach and people were doing Tai Chi and walking along the shore. We placed our feet in the South China Sea and just watched. No Better way to begin our day. We had a private tour with a delightful and knowledgeable guide named Stephen. We started with the Ancient Cham Pagodas here in Nha Trang built in approximately the 15th century. The Cham People are an indigenous group of which there are about 160,000 left in Vietnam. These Pagodas in Nha Trang are a mystery mainly because the brick that was used to build is unlike any other in the region. In fact, the Vietnam government wanted to repair some parts of this temple that was destroyed and, to this day, can’t figure out the exact technique for laying the brick nor the brick itself. As with most Eastern sacred sites, exposed skin must be covered and shoes removed to enter the temple.
Today was overcast, cool and a light rain – a welcome break from the near 100F degrees of Saigon.
There were traditional Cham drummers and dancers that we were able to see and they are beautiful. Nearly a lost art. And I am able to upload a video here!!
We then visited traditional musicians – all women – that were phenomenal. The ancient instruments are in a class of their own. Most don’t have an English word to describe.. with music, though, words typically fall short anyway. I have some video here of the “stone piano” and a wind instrument that is marvelous.
We visited traditional mat makers- two sisters who never stopped smiling and they allowed me to try and help them. They do everything by hand including dying these parts of a tree and making these mats. Beautiful beautiful smiles.
We went to 3 Buddhist temples and very elaborate and exquisite statues that the country subsidizes- which meant Daddy climbed about 499 steps total ???.
The rice fields are the greenest green you can possibly imagine and what I learned there was something very special- there are mounds of soil which indicate a burial site in these rice paddies. The four goals of a Vietnamese person are: to be married, to have a first child, to have a grandchild and to die in the region or place where you were born. So people are buried in these places because of this reason- not necessarily because of income or lack, thereof.
Our guide took us to have coffee in town (you know how much I love this coffee) and invited his 58 year old uncle to join us. His uncle is familiar with Pleiku and that region as well as the military bases there. I watched this sincere and fantasticly friendly man ask Daddy exactly where he was stationed in Pleiku and what he remembers in an effort to help in making sure we found everything we are looking for there. The terrain and city of Pleiku has changed in 50 years and this man spent about and hour with us hand drawing a map we could hand to our driver there to ensure we find our way. He looked at Daddy and said, with smiling eyes, “It is very nice to meet you.” He drew the map after asking details of Daddy’s memory then called a relative in Pleiku to ask for more information in case we needed. This irony is not lost on us. A Vietnamese man helping and American find where he was stationed in the war. With the grace and generosity that I have rarely seen. He then found a video on his iPad with Camp Holloway (American military base in Pleiku) and allowed Daddy to watch it saying he just wanted to help if he could. His name is Mr Dong and I wanted to hug him on behalf of humanity. I didn’t, of course, as it’s considered pretty rude to touch another person here but he shook our hands and wished us luck on the journey. Compassion at its most beautiful. Expecting nothing in return and with no judgement. My wish is that we can all be this sincere.
Daddy remembered the San Miguel beer from the Philippines while he was here so we walked to the beach and had that while watching the waves crash.
Tomorrow we take a car to Pleiku – we had to change plans a little because of time and are not going to Quy Nhon (Sorry Johnny!) but are headed the 7 hours straight to Pleiku. More to come on that portion!! We love you and miss you all and thanks, as always, for the support. Xoxo- Jarry