Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Heading Toward Cambodia

Last Vietnamese Stop: Hong Ngu
Green grocer?
Our fifth day of cruising took us across the border from Vietnam into Cambodia. We had one more village to visit before leaving Vietnam. The island village of Hong Ngu is not accustomed to tourists so our visit is special for them and us.
In fact, prior to the arrival of the Mekong Princess six months ago, the village had only seen one western visitor! You can imagine the looks I get in many places being so tall and blonde. People –especially the children – like to touch our white skin or hold hands.
She is the leader of this temple.

Our first stop was at the local temple, which is dedicated to another religion founded in Vietnam, Hoa Hao (pronounced wah how). It was founded in 1939 as a reform of Theravada Buddhism. It simplifies Buddhist doctrine and rituals and focusses on peasant farmers practicing in their homes with aid to the poor replacing the funding of elaborate pagodas. 

Thinh is explaining the religion to us.

We were not allowed in the temple.
The Hoa Hao sect is a faith that started in 1939 in the village of Hoa Hao. This is a Buddhist breakaway sect emphasizing simplicity and discourages the building of temples and ritual worship. There are about 1.5 million followers today. We did not see anything that would stand out as Hoa Hao like the Cao Dai temple we visited the day before.

From here, we walked through the village of Hong Ngu which is a lovely community. It looks much more prosperous than the villages near the water. The homes are larger and very neat and tidy. Most of them are on stilts fto protect them from the wet season floods.
The people seemed very healthy and happy. With it being the Tet holiday, people were visiting different homes. I felt a little strange coming into their homes on a holiday, but they seemed happy to have us and wanted to be in the pictures. Here are some random shots from around the village:


Preparing for the event of the day: The Cock Fight.
It is illegal, but everyone does it!

Checking lottery tickets!
We were invited into several of the homes, which are up on stilts. This is due to flood waters and it is cooler up there in the breeze. Plus they have the open-air first floor for shade and storage.
Since we were visiting the village on the official holiday, we were also treated to Tet holiday treats and tea. Our guides were very careful where they allowed us to indulge in local foods and drinks. Our host family had prepared a number of traditional treats and tea for us to try.

Take a break and cool off!

I was especially interested in the one home we visited as they weave the traditional checkered Khmer scarves that are exported to Cambodia. This area is home to a large number of weavers and embroiderers. I purchased a couple of their scarves.
And the family had prepared holiday treats for us to try. It was so nice to experience some of their traditions first hand. I guess the crowd at the airport was worth being here during the holiday.

The typical Khmer scarf worn by the Cambodians, but
woven here in Vietnam. Fine threads in traditional colors.

A demonstration on how to wear one.

And the family invited us to share their holiday treats!

These were good  - like sponge cake, but crispy outside.
Of course, protocol is that you remove your shoes before
entering a home or temple or any private space.

Back on the Mekong Princess, we had a relaxing afternoon as we continued to cruise toward Phenom Pehn, Cambodia. We will have to say goodbye to our wonderful Vietnamese guide, Thinh, before we cross the border into Cambodia where we will pick up a new guide.  Executive Chef Duk Da gave a fruit carving demonstration while we were cruising toward Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Later we watched a moving movie, “The Killing Fields”, in preparation for a visit to the Killing Fields in Cambodia.

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