Do you speak English?
"Do you speak English?", he asked as we walked through the monastery, "Yes we do", we replied. I am trying to find the right words for my story, he told us. And we sat with him for a while, or rather man-lief did helping him with finding the right word. I walked around the impressive colourful garden taking photos, orchids of every colour, bonsai trees in many forms and sizes. Everything in the monastery was so harmonious, even the monk I noticed when a return blenden in with his spartan home.
Slowing down in Cat..
Cat Tien NP along the backbone of Vietnam is a wonderful place to slow-down. The park comprises an amazingly biodiverse area of lowland tropical rainforest. The 72,000-hectare park is one of the outstanding natural treasures in Vietnam, a true jungle, and the hiking, mountain biking and birdwatching here are the best in the south of the country so they say.
More than just Bird..
Cat Tien National Park, a 3 hour journey from Saigon and well worth the stop. We stayed for three days in the Bird Song Lodge pictured here on the rivers edge, Early morning river trips and treks through the forest. Spotting gibbons high in the trees, black macaques in the lower trees as hundreds of kingfishers dart over the river. A water monitor lizard almost 2 meters long just strolled across our path, butterflies colour the forest, some trees that defied agent orange have grown into enormous jungle trees. Listening to the sounds of the gibbons in the morning and the songs of the insects at night. A good stop.
For my fiance
It is quite normal for young Vietnamese city girls to build a photo reportage of themselves to be distributed to prospective fiancé's. Often dressed in white carrying flowers and looking very innocent. We followed a couple around in Saigon.
A young girl in search of a husband makes an offering of flowers in the Ngoc Hoang Pagoda, a living and working shrine in use by the locals who frequently come here to say prayers or make votive offerings of candles, joss sticks and flowers She wears the traditional "ao dai" which looks so feminine as opposed to the western clothes that most of the young girls wear, and certainly more feminine and flattering to some of the clothes that I saw western tourists wearing. The rule; be sure to dress conservatively and dress for the occasion, seems to have been lost of some travellers. OMG.
An oasis of quietness
No prizes for guessing where I have been. It has been almost 15 years since I last visited Vietnam and I saw the changes. More traffic in the cities, and in certain areas many more tourists. Vietnam seems to be on everyone's list. We stuck mostly to the central backbone of Vietnam, visiting the quieter National Parks, - small villages, neat towns, many waterfalls, paddy fields, pagodas, karst mountains, amazing caves, some good and interesting food, sunny weather and mist. But we begin here in Saigon in the Thien Hau Temple, an oasis a quietness in the chaotic old city.
There we go
As our young boatmen punts us off over the large expanse of water in Northern Bangladesh, I say goodbye to you here. This afternoon we leave for Vietnam. Travelling from south to north through the middle, all new places for us and then onto Burma. Be back mid February with I hope a few photos to share. Bye...............................
Blue and green
The last time we were in Bangladesh we got caught in the midst of a political unrest that swept the country. A hartal, a total shutdown. Farmers could not get their crops and produce the market, schools and universities were disrupted. The garment trade, the lifeline of Bangladesh severely damaged. For what, for power! The prime minister and the opposition leader (two women) fighting for power and refuse to back down meanwhile the Bangladeshi people, like this rickshaw driver with no customers venturign on the unsafe roads, suffer.
Almost all Hindu temples have a sacred tank. Conventional beliefs hold that the water of a temple tank is holy and has cleansing properties. Hindus believe that water from the tank washes away their sins. So, it is an unwritten rule to take a dip in the temple tank before offering prayers to the presiding deity, thus purifying oneself. Further, water in India is largely dependant on the monsoons. In case the rains fail, or to preserve the fresh water that they have for drinking the people can look to these temple tanks to fulfil their basic needs, as the lone man seen here does.
Lost in thought
You leave your shoes and the hectic city of Kanchipuram at the door of the Kailasanatha (Shiva) temple and enter an oasis of calm, the silence broken by chanting and singing, the air filled with incense and jasmine the inner sanctum an ideal place to be alone with your own thoughts. Kanchipuram was once the capital of the Pallava dynasty during the 6th to 8th centuries. Today a typically hectic 'modern' Indian town, famous for not only its high quality silk saris but more appealing to us its numerous important and vibrant temples.
While dressed in my badpak and Unox muts, I may not have looked so elegant as these young girls taking to the water in Chennai during the Pongal festival, I made the duik yesterday together with my 7 year old granddaughter. Was I cold? nee hoor the enthusiasm of Zoe and the smile on her face kept me warm. Volgende jaar weer oma?
In all the years that I have lived in the Netherlands I can count on one hand the number of New Years Eve's that we have spent here. Yesterday was one, two years ago was two. This was taken from our son's apartment on the 22nd floor in the center of Rotterdam two years ago. The bridge you can see is the Willemsbrug spanning the Maas the boulevard is the Boompjes. Today I begin the New Year with something I have never done before a Nieuw Jaar Duik, in one of the lakes of Rotterdam along with my 7 year old granddaughter (her idea) and 5000 others. Wish me luck, and for all my RR friends - wishing you a very happy, healthy and photogenic 2018 wherever your travels may bring you!
For all its pomp and colour, I can imagine that it is quite scary for the young boys to leave their families and enter into the monastery. These two boys were good friends, and they were entering the monastery together, going through the rituals together, a feeling of comfort, I thought.
Shinbyu, the journey from boyhood to becoming a novice monk is the religious ceremony symbolizing Gautama Buddha’s life as a Prince, which he renounced in his search for enlightenment. It is such an important part of the Burmese devotion to Buddhism for local people that each Novication ceremony is considered an extremely auspicious event. It is also an anxious time for the boys as they leave their villages and family to enter the monastery. On the day the boy will be dressed in glittering clothes and make up applied to look like a Prince.
A view worth waiting.
After 36 hours of rain, and walking through the streets of Zurich thinking this is so much like many other European cities - the rain stopped, the skies cleared and we realized how not like many other European cities Zurich is. Taken from a passenger ferry on Zurich Lake early on a Sunday morning before the pleasure boats and sail boats had taken to the waters.
You could be mistaken in thinking that dressed in her fine silver bangles, nose-ring and earrings that she was going to a feest, but nothing is further from the truth. She is a construction worker, working on the road together with her husband. On her head she balances a bak of stones. I thought the b/w emphasized the silver details.
The youngest boy in this family group (whom you met earlier) had made the journey from his village to Kanchipuram with his father, two elder brothers, uncle and grandfather. The journey and pilgrimage was forming part of his rite of passage. He would soon be accepted as a young man in the village. They really wanted me to take their photo together and were excited to see it back on the screen, I tried to explain that I would send it to them if they gave me an address. They kept smiling and nodding, but it was clear that did not understand a word of what I was trying to say or do.
Peace to all Men
Both Rene and Ina have paid attention to Rakhine state today. To Mrauk U and the Chin women. Mrauk U a plekje where we spent three weeks, learning about the area and its surrounding villages, not only the Chin villages, which we visited but the Rohingya villages. The plight of the Rohingyas have been in the news this past six months and I have followed it intently. This women with the soft face is one of the 700,000 that have fled and is my tribute today. Peace to all men
You walk through the main gopuram that I showed you last and arrive at the first inner sanctum. Offering of bananas and coconut milk are given to Hanuman (the monkey god) and of course several times a day this spilt milk has to be cleaned. What struck me here was not only the sudden stillness but the colour, - green bananas hanging and her green sari.
Washing, fishing, and
The Mahamaham Tank is a huge temple tank located in Kumbakonam, it is the most important and one of the largest temple tanks in Tamil Nadu. The Masimaham festival held in the tank has every 12 years has close to 2 million visitors. Hard to imagine. Meanwhile, the tank is used daily to wash, fish and do the laundry,