It was a peaceful night of sleeping after all the walking from the day before. Sleeping with the air conditioner was bliss, making the stifling humidity that much more bearable. Bach ran intothe room where me and my uncle were sleepong ,yelling and screaming to turn on the T.V. He had a big smile on his face, as always. The time was about seven in the morning, about the time for him to shower and change. We had a big day of travel ahead of us. Today's first destination, a visit to Chua Linh Ung, a sanctuary to a large statue of the Buddha, and many other temples. This particular Buddha statue could be seen from the beach that I swam at the other day, towering above the wilderness. Later that night, I traveled to Hoi An, one of the many World Heritage Sites in Vietnam. Hoi An is called the "Old Town," once an imperial port hub for the country.
Oh, my feet were a little bit sore that morning, causing me to stretch. Today was a day of fasting, which for us meant we had to eat vegetarian for the day. My family back in the states abides by th same idea, but I never seem to know what particular days we have to eat vegetarian, just following along my family. After heading downstairs with my stuff for the day, my camera, sunglasses, and an optimistic spirit, I plopped onto the sofa, flipping on the fan, and watching some T.V. with Bach. His fatehr and my uncle went out to go get the two motorcycles to take us to the Buddhist sanctuary I mentioned above. Mrs. Giao (not sure how you spell it), my uncle Tien's wife, got in her own motorbike, headed to her parents' home/cafe. After eating a filling meal at a nearby vegetarian restaurant run by local monks, me and my uncle Duyet, joined up with the Giao family at their place.
In the cafe, Bach ran around singing and danceing as he usually does when he visits new places. The Giao family greeted me, asking me where I was from, and why I decided to come to Vietnam on my own. My uncle's wife decided to stay with her family, while me, my uncles, Bach, and my cousin, Nho, headed off as a group towards the sanctuary.
We rode past the beach that I swam at the night before, the time being around noon. It was sunny and hot outside, the humidity making matters even more unbearable. Riding against the wind on the ride over was nice, but once we got off, we were met with an intense heat wave. As we neared the colossal pearl statue of the Buddha, the landscape grew more and more natural, the stain of tourism subsiding. We rode for a long time, forty five minutes to be exact,. traveling far away from the center of the city. Upon arriving, we were greeted by plenty of other Vietnamese tourists, all eager to celebrate this religious holiday with the Buddha. We bought some hats, as well as some drinks, having not drank enough water during the morning. The entrance into the sanctuary was long flight of polished, marble stairs, leading through an arch bearing the name of the sanctuary.
There were almost no foreign tourists, only Vietnamese visiting the sanctuary this day. No signs were written in any languages other than Vietnamese, my uncle telling that they had recently renovated the site over the last six years. The architecture of the temples were similar to what I had seen before, ornate, colorful, beautiful, and serene statues of different guardians, animals, and Buddhas. Bach ran around, happy as ever, screaming out the names of all the animal statues, tourists staring over and taking pictures of him. We took a walk around the central temple, admiring the architecture the beautiful coast of Da Nang in the distance. It remembered the curvature of Vietnam, except covered with resorts, hotels, and buildings. The cool wind from the stretch of sea found its way to the sanctuary, easing the feeling of being drowned by heat. At last we set foot in the central temple, joining the hundreds of people who came to pay tribute to Buddhism.
Bach was quite the devoted little monk, praying nearly forty times to all the ornately decorated statues all around the central hall. "Nam mô a di đà phật" Bach said, running around the temple, causing many of the visitors to laugh and gossip amongst themselves. Me and my uncles made our round around the temple as well, bowing three times to each stature and saying our prayers. I was never formally taught Buddhism, just experiencing it from my home. Over eighty percent of the Vietnamese people are Buddhist in Vietnam, my uncle says, also noting the current state of religious freedom that exists in Vietnam. Bach kept roaming, some people telling us to keep hold of him. I recorded video of him and snapped photos, my uncles and cousin laughing along. I made a donation in the drop box, and proceeded to walk out, being greeted by a beautiful backdrop of the coast, , a towering marble sculpture of the Buddha facing away from us.
We decided to visit it, joined by hundreds of people praying outside, filming, taking photos, and captivated by the presence of the Buddha. We then ascended the colossus, its twelve or so levels within. At every level lie a statue of the Buddha, where people stopped and prayed, continuously ascending until the dead end near the top. Bach lead the way, though eventually tired out and made us hold his hand on the way up. It was mesmerizing, the colorful lights behind each statue, as if staring into infinity itself, while in deep prayer. We at last hit the dead end and ran right back out. I ran fast as if racing them out. At the bottom near the entrance of the inner chamber of the statue I relaxed with the other tourists, sitting and taking in the cooling winds from the coasts. We decided to take more pictures and making one last prayer. We then made our way off back home, hungry, tired, and blessed.
From about two in the afternoon, to about five thirty, we relaxed at my uncles house. We first ate a hearty and healthy lunch, watched a bit of T.V., and went off to nap. I was restless, sleeping only twenty minutes, and waking up at three or so to work on my blog. When the time came, we got back on the motorbikes, riding off to eat dinner, and riding through the night to Hoi An, seeing a gigantic night concert along the way (we were tempted to go there instead for the night!).
The ride over was long, me holding Bach in my arms. It was around fifty minutes long to ride over there, Bach eventually falling asleep along the way, his father driving. My uncle Duyet rode by himself, my cousin Nho going off to work earlier that day. So many hotels... So many resorts... The lights were mesmerizing, long stretches of darkness followed by light shows. We had to ask for directions along the way, my uncles not having gone for a while. When we at last were greeted by ancient, yet well preserved houses, and souvenir shops, we at last knew we were there. There were thousands of tourists there, pouring through the streets, buying items from stores and admiring the beauty of the old town. We hopped off our rides, walking around the town. Attractions were the souvenirs, silk, shoes, suits, and plenty of places to eat. I bought a few items for the children back at the center, following Bach as he ran ahead of us the whole time. It started to rain a little, causing us to hasten our pace through the town. We saw many attractions, many lights, plenty of happy faces. We saw a music/game show going on in the center of the town, participating in it ourselves. When at last it got too dark and too rainy, we decided to ride back.
It rained, a lot, causing my uncle Tien to buy a raincoat to cover me and Bach as we rode with him back. My uncle Duyet went ahead of us, getting some directions from one of the people on the street. My uncle Tien also got some advice, but unfortunately, it was ill advice, causing us to get lost and spend forty more minutes than we would have needed to. It was surreal, hiding under the raincoat, hearing the rain slam against the coat, seeing Bach hide his face into his father's back. I look behind us, seeing nothing but darkness and lights in the distance. At last the rain faded and we rode into Da Nang, more than ready to relax and head off to bed. This weekend in Da Nang was refreshing, reminding me of the beauty and potential of Vietnam, as its economy takes off and its youth improve its infrastructure year after year. Who knows? Maybe I will be apart of this as well in the future...