After my homey tasting Frosties I met up with David and Amanda on the corner of their street and we strolled down to the meeting point to catch up with Danny and our tour guide.
|These excellent shots were taken by David|
The last stretch of the road was a bit nerve racking; the road surface went to hell. You couldn't really call them potholes, they were more like craters...and the road wasn't that level anymore. In fact it undulated like the ocean. Thanks to our four wheel drive we got through and pretty soon we came to the river. After a visit to an Asian loo (scary when it's hard to squat!) we found our boat and it's tiny female 'driver'. I felt a bit guilty sitting back while this petite woman powered us up the river. All the boats we encountered that were being rowed were operated by women, the men only drove the one's with the outboards.
|Our engine room...what a powerhouse...she moved the five of us without even raising a sweat.|
|These guys were roosting on the steps of a mausoleum|
|The cows seemed to enjoy a paddle|
|Gorgeous waterlillies studded the banks|
|Me, David, Zhung, Amanda and Danny - hand held shot!|
And then the climb proper began! It was actually a lot harder than I expected. I thought we were going to be climbing the slope but it was steps and they were a real challenge...but we slogged on. Ignoring the invitations of the many stall holders on the way we were intrigued to see small animals in cages as we climbed. I was more upset than intrigued. Especially when Zhung tapped one of the cages and scared the hell out of an already terrified squirrel. These animals are available to worshipers to buy, then release at the temple in order to accrue karma. It seemed problematic to me that Buddhists could torture animals when they won't kill or eat them.
|This little guy tugged at my heartstrings but I refuse on principal to contribute to animal cruelty...paying to release them will only encourage them being re-caught and resold.|
|This little guy actually came up for a scratch before collapsing on the ground.|
|After the scrawny chooks you see in Hanoi these little gems looked positively bursting with health.|
One of the women selling drinks made us all laugh out loud...she asked us to buy, we said no...she said 'Later, you come back to see me...my name is Minh. What is my name?'... 'Minh!' we chorused cracking up! What a saleswoman...if we were going to spend any money ever it would be with Minh!
Chuckling quietly we continued up the seemingly endless mountain till we finally arrived at the top. They are building another pathway to accommodate the huge crowds that flock to worship at the pagoda during peak season.
|Danny, Amanda and Zhung|
|The best of things...|
|The worst of things...|
|In the middle of nowhere but notice the satellite dish.|
To get to the top was a real achievement as far as I was concerned. It was also worth it. The Perfume Pagoda is inside a huge cave. It's a well used temple where people come to offer alms and pray for what they need. As prayers go on continually there is no photography inside but here's a view from the top of the steps.
|After all the ups there comes the down...|
|The cave of the Perfume Pagoda|
Coming back down the mountain was not much easier than going up, but of course there was the chance to see Minh again. As we neared her stall we started calling out...'Minh, Minh.' like a bunch of demented schoolkids. But our Minh had a great sense of humour as well as good sales skills and she laughed with us. She sold us icy cold drinks...which I really needed by then and we went on our way content that we had supported the best candidate on the hill. I got some good shots of pretty stuff on the way and fairly quickly we got back to the base of the mountain where lunch would be served.
|Zhung and Danny on a rather nice stairway||.|
|We're not sure what Zhung was doing under here, we think sleeping...|
The trip had been a fascinating one as far as I'm concerned encompassing all of the very best about this complex country. The wonderful appreciation of history, spiritual life and human achievement alongside the woeful disregard for wildlife and the environment. Seeing the construction of intricate and thoughtful ways to convey the pilgrims to the Pagoda alongside the lack of forethought with the rubbish confounds me. But that's the conundrum that is Vietnam ...and for all that I still love it. Coming here could prove to be addictive.