Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 35 - Perfume Pagoda

Arrived back in rainy Hanoi at around 6am without a hotel. I was actually supposed to take a Halong Bay tour for 2 days and 1 night starting today, but the tour was cancelled due to the incoming storm in the area. This was a major bummer since most people recommended that I go see the caves in the area, and I wouldn't be able to reschedule since I already booked my flights to the Philippines by then..

I ended up booking a one-day tour to see the Perfume Pagoda 100km outside of Hanoi in the Ha Tay Province. It is a major religious site for the Buddhists in the area. It consists of many different Pagodas within the grottoes in the area. Like the annual trek to Mecca for Jews, many Vietnamese Buddhists pay a visit in large numbers to the Perfume Pagoda in the SpringTime. The rivers are flooded with metal boats taking them to the shrines.

Since it was (very) low season, we were able to take these boats to the Perfume Pagoda in peace, without having to fight for space in these low boats, that could easily tip over with the slightest shift in weight from one side to the other.

I met two Californians from Simi Valley on the tour. It was funny because I keep trying to guess where people are from when they speak English, and I couldn't tell if they were from the United States. I think I'm overthinking it now, since I still can't tell an Aussie accent from an English. Maybe I just need to hear it more...

Since it was rainy, we were able to take some pretty cool pictures of the waters overflowing throughout the Thien Tru Pagoda (Pagoda Leading to Heaven). Unfortunately, I was not wearing the proper clothing to enter the temples, so I was only able to take shots outside.

After that, we took a cable car up the mountains to the Huong Tich Cave, which was a huge cave that the Buddhists came to visit. The Pagoda in the area is called the Pagoda of the Perfume Vestige. Since I didn't get to see the caves of Halong Bay, I think this cave somewhat made up for what I missed. It was probably the biggest cave I'd ever been in, and hopefully I can top this sometime and somewhere else on my journey.

On the boat ride back, I talked with one of the tourmates from California who competes in a sport called “Adventure Racing.” You basically are racing to get from one location to the finish line, using only a compass and a topographical map, without the use of a phone or GPS. There aren't many other rules, and you can bring money to trade with the people you meet. Some of these races last for days, and the more professional players compete in some of the most exciting places around the world. Anything can happen, and some people have had to get evacuated because of injury or sickness. In fact, one of his friends ended up contracting a disease of some sort that the doctors don't know the origins of, and a tumor continuously grows on his body, which he has to drain every so often. I asked him how you can call for help in the event of an emergency, and he says that most people purchase some sort of a GPS signal that you can press to call for help.

His brother lives in HCMC and works for Nike, which naturally lead to my curiousity in the labor conditions of the workers there. He explained, at least from his brothers' accounts, that Nike has vastly improved their record on labor conditions for workers, and that currently, Toyota is being more closely criticized (or maybe Apple in China should be, given the number of suicides in the factories). In the past, it was hard to be accountable for the conditions of workers since Nike purchased different products and manufacturing supplies from different companies/factories and was less knowledgable about how these workers were being treated. Now, there is a lot more pressure from Nike to these suppliers to maintain proper working conditions for the workers. I asked what the wages for these workers were, and the tourmate said it was camparable to what the people living in the areas were making, and although it may seem like a “sweatshop” wage to Americans, it was a decent wage for the people living here. You wonder why everything is manufactured in countries all over Asia...

After we arrived back in Hanoi, I took the opportunity to head to Hanoi Cinematheque again to catch the latest movie. This time, it was Biutiful starring Javier Bardem and directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. It was a bleak view of the life of a man living in Spain and finding out he is dying from cancer. Probably the weakest of the 4 films by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu I'd seen (my favorite being 21 Grams)...

Boat Ride to the Grottoes and Pagodas

Boat Ride to the Grottoes and Pagodas

Thien Tru Pagoda

Thien Tru Pagoda

Cable Cars to Huong Tich Cave

Huong Tich Cave

Huong Tich Cave - It sort of felt like I was in line to ride Indiana Jones at Disneyland

Huong Tich Cave

Ha Tay Province

No comments:

Post a Comment