Wednesday , February 19, 5:20 p.m., Chau Doc
There won’t be too much to write about today, as most of the day was spent in the bus driving from Ho Chi Minh City to Chau Doc. The most noteworthy part of the day was simply seeing a few hours worth of the Vietnamese countryside and a bunch of smaller towns, many of them in the Mekong Delta.
We saw long green fields, towns that looked like the rustic areas heading to Cu Chi – shops lining the streets, beautiful mansions right alongside tiny, barely standing shacks – and many, many tributaries of the Mekong River.
Many of the buildings were up on stilts to protect them from the Mekong during the rainy season.
Even now, as I’m looking out the window of my hotel in Chau Doc, I’m seeing a few of those shack-like shops and roughly paved roads. I do hope, however, that the loud radio or television that I’m now hearing will subside later tonight.
During the several hour drive we made a few stops, including an impromptu one to see incense sticks being created.
The major stop of the day was at the Cao Dai temple, the home of the recently founded religion (early twentieth century) that embraces elements of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam, and others, while adding its own distinctive symbolism and mysticism.
Around two million of the eighty million people in Vietnam follow Cao Dai, and the number is growing. I can see the appeal of its open-minded syncretism, and am kind of curious about some of the symbolism – for instance, the ubiquity of the eye.
Chau Doc, where we now reside, is a city of around 150,000. We seem to be on the outskirts of the city, or at least away from the city center. I don’t have much of an impression yet, and I don’t know if we’ll be here long enough for me to form one. Our hotel, the Dong Nam, is fairly basic but fine, with readily accessible internet. Dinner is still ahead, which I hope will be relatively short and simple as I’m tired and the wake-up call is scheduled for 5:30 tomorrow morning!