Sunday, January 6, 2013

Journey highlights - Worship


Fascinating to me everywhere I go are the places and practices of worship.  I'll detour almost anywhere to see a spectacular temple, to find a quiet mosque, visit a quirky church, or burn incense at a far-flung altar or shrine or cemetery. I don't understand at all the fervor of faith... but I revel in the reverent awe of untamed landscapes, full-throated expressions of culture and social identity, unfiltered fresh air, and naturally clean water. I'm in that growing category of folks who aren't quite atheist, somewhat animist, and a tad bit pagan - yet adamantly spiritual by experience, but a-religious in practice.  And so it's often to the places and celebrations of worship & reverence - where the bulk of humanity seeks internal peace, happiness & community - that I find myself drawn to wherever I go.

Here are some snapshots of a few side-treks and some too-quickly-passed-by places of faithful expression during this visit.  I include details (names, locations, etc.) where I recall or was aware, but some spots were simply surprise discoveries.

 Fun and bright, this Buddhist temple is right down the block from our hosts' house in the Binh Thanh District and the first I visited in the city.  I'm still impressed by the ornate dragon statues above the entryway and the typically immaculate care of the grounds by the resident monks. Saigon, Vietnam.

Tombs of south Vietnamese general Marshall Le Van Duyet and his wife.  A national folk and cultural hero, pilgrims during the new year Tet celebrations came here to assert oaths of good faiths and avow committments.  He's rather controversial in the political context of the modern Communist regime for his role in putting down the Tay Son rebellion and facilitating expansion of French colonial influence.  The temple grounds are relatively newly renovated (c.1937), and were very awesomely decorated for Tet.  Le Van Duyet Temple, Saigon, Vietnam.

While the light balance was off in the photo here, the arrangement of incense burner and alter is very typical. And I thought it looked cool. Saigon, Vietnam.

Super-sized young Buddha statue.  Saigon, Vietnam.

View from the roadside of a very pagoda in the seaside town of Mui Ne, Vietnam.  Despite the electrical lines, I still can't get over how awesome the roof is.

Spectacular statuary of a multi-eyed Buddha (look closely at the hands!) at the Linh An Pagoda.  Near Elephant Falls around Nam Ban, Vietnam.

Giant golden Buddha at a monastery atop a tall hill outside the city center.  Dalat, Vietnam.

Past, present, & future Buddha's.  Clandestine photo from outside during morning service. Linh An Pagoda.

Another variation on the eternal Buddha.  The wild variety of this image throughout China and Vietnam (and far beyond, I'm sure) inspires awe and a grand appreciation for the diversity of the culture here. Linh An Pagoda.

A stellar larger-than-life Buddha at Linh An Pagoda, flanked by a small army of Bodhisattva statues. 

An esoteric Buddha statue, at the Lamasery in Beijing.  Covered for a reason, this and the series of similar statues were at one time used to teach the young emporer the wonders and mystery of divine copulation.

Way old school.  Centuries-old statues that are still revered for their luck-imbuing reputation.  

Giant wooden Buddha statue inside the Lamasery, Beijing.

 Another esoteric Buddha statue, heralded by the 8 sacred symbols. Lamasery, Beijing, China. 

A proliferation of these colorful and festive cemetaries dotted the countryside all throughout Vietnam. Perhaps it was the time of year - just before Tet - but the buzz of activity, sounds, and smells makes me think the Vietnamese take on death is more a celebration of life. From the train, enroute to Saigon.

Rear-side view of Notre Dame Cathedral, downtown Saigon.

 And here, Notre Dame Cathedral from the front.  Another favorite shot. 

 Simple (when compared to many Buddhist temples) yet stunning entrance and central spire of the Saigon Central Mosque - c.1935.  Stopping in here for a few quiet moments amidst the hive of activity that is the downtown Dong Khoi district was like a cool breath of fresh air. 

Marvelous entrance to the Mariamman Hindu Temple, the only one still in active use in Saigon by the 60 or so Hindu's still here.  The interior was bedecked in similarly spectacular colors and images.

Chris, lighting some joss sticks just inside Mariamman Temple.  It is revered by many Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese and reputed to have strong healing energies.  The whole temple had a lively, healthy vibe - definitely worth a trek to check it out.

 Statue of the Hindu god Mahavishnu inside the temple, one of many continually and meticulously maintained by the Tamil Hindu's who run the temple.

 Cho Quan Church, in downtown Saigon.  I liked the angles & lines in one, with streamers and flags laid out for the Tet holiday...

 ..but one of the coolest things at Cho Quan Church is the liberal use of neon lighting around the iconography sprinkled all over the church grounds.  Here, a grotto dedicated to the Virgin. 

The photos laid out heretofore are taken with an Olympus Stylus 1050 SW 
 Creative Commons License
These works by Tim Paez are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License


Journey highlights - Transit!

Clearly this post comes well after that spectacular trip - almost two years to the day.  However, I need to keep the blog going.  I'm heading out again soon for another trek (European return!) and as I'm looking back to be inspired, I'm finding some great shots from my last overseas jaunt.

Here, in a raw and unorganized form, are some photo highlights from the Asian 2011 adventure.


Everywhere around the world people will find the most convenient, cost-efficient, and accessible ways to move themselves and their things.  But not everything translates across borders - and to see things done differently than what I see in my normal, everyday default world is what Travel is all about. 

By road!

Everywhere in Asia and worldwide, bus  is most often the cheapest way to travel.  Horror stories abound of bus travel misadventures, and if you're reading this chances are you have your own tales.  But whatever ones own experience, bus travel will remain with us as long as petrol flows and distances are long.

  Fantastic bus experience in southern Vietnam.  These bus seats recline to near horizontal, and still something like 30 people fit on this bus with TONS of luggage.  While relatively expensive for regular long-distance commutes for locals, plenty of foreign and holiday travelers (Lunar New Year!) enjoyed the comfort of these buses from Saigon.  En route to Mui Ne, Vietnam from Saigon.

 This was a very different kind of bus experience.  Clearly, this is the more typical bus travel situation - and, yes, even this is quite comfortable as far as global bus travel goes.  Enroute to Dalat, Vietnam from Mui Ne.

 The perils of being in 3D.. and in an overburdened truck on windy mountain roads.  A poignant lesson in taking initiative, even as an independent budget travels, to make sure you inspect and feel confident about your travel choices.  Even if it costs a bit more or may take you longer to arrive - it pays to make sure you arrive in one piece.

Another exceedingly popular and efficient way to move around, all over the world, is motor bikes, smaller utility trucks, and human-powered vehicles of innumerable variety.  In these parts of Asia motor bikes and little trucks, tuk tuks, and bike-carts were literally everywhere, and particularly moreso along the southern sweep of the journey (weather is warmer) where the shape and variety of vehicles exploded in diversity.

Maximum utility & ingenuity, borne out of daily necessity.  Another of my favorite shots - local living in gorgeous southern Vietnam. 

Downtown Saigon - world-famous pushcart drivers, yet another remnant from the French Indochina era of Vietnam.  The city is working to phase these guys out entirely, eliminating a whole segment of the transit infrastructure.  And a great tourist trap. 

Sharing the road has a wider application beyond the US.  A fun respite from the high-speed bumpiness of the road outside Mui Ne, Vietnam.

 Creative, effective, & totally illegal if this were the US.  Clearly its not an issue here.  Vietnam.

By rail!

Train is by far one of my favorite ways to move around when trekking anywhere.  Handing the hassle of the journey to the pro's, I almost always enjoy a great time-saving trip from one point to the other.  Some snapshots here reflect the diversity of global train experience, with an Asian twist this time. 

Freight & people, all over the world both share the same tracks on the older, established lines.  Train delays in most places are caused by the competing priorities of commerce and human transit.  Here, waiting enroute.. to somewhere, China.

Relatively clean, comfortable, and extremely timely - the awesome train system in China. 

 Where pop-a-squat takes on a whole new meaning, particularly when passing through the hillsides!  Train in China. 

Freight and passengers, all standing by.  A short train delay in Vietnam.

Its never hard to make friends on the train anywhere in the world.  Here, a fellow traveler was heading home with her mother for the New Years holiday.  Zaijian, pengyou!

Smudgy view along the riverside tracks, somewhere in central China.

The photos laid out heretofore are taken with an Olympus Stylus 1050 SW 
 Creative Commons License
These works by Tim Paez are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License