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In November of 2015 I had the pleasure of travelling around Vietnam. It was an amazing journey that left me full of creativity. I wrote a lot of music and took a lot of pictures. Below are the most meaningful and memorable. I wrote this story for you, it’s one of a thousand stories I could tell from my trip, however this one stuck out in my mind. This track was written wrote post-travel and designed to keep you company as you explore the beautiful bits of light that I witnessed on my journey.
Ft. Simon McCormack on vocals.
The Vietnamese people are beautiful and full of cheek and smiles. But there was one encounter that left its mark on me… not in a bad way, but I don’t think it’s something I will forget.
I woke up at our home stay in Hội An on a rainy day to breakfast being dropped off by our lovely host that cooked for us every morning. I sat undercover outside and had a black coffee in hopes of killing whatever had made me spend time on the toilet the night before. My travel partners had left for the day to do a cooking class that I wasn’t too interested in, leaving me to my own devices for the day).
I had remembered seeing a mountain with a temple at the top during our drive in from Da Nang. I hire a moped for the day at $6 AUS and started to head in the direction I thought it was. I was very confused as to whether I was going the right way or how much fuel to put in the almost empty tank. I decided that $5 should do it. It more than filled the tank.
After taking rain to the face at speed for forty minutes I found the mountain I was looking for. As I rode into the town below the mountain, I passed a wedding playing psy-trance at explosive volume. Dazed from the psy-trance I was ushered under a shopfront to park my bike out of the rain. A small Vietnamese lady took me to the stairs that lead up the mountain, telling me to come back and look in her shop after I had finished. (Fair deal for the parking).
Obviously I had planned “super” well for the ascent, wearing thongs from the home stay and not having a rain cover for my camera. I MacGyvered myself one out of a plastic bag I found under the seat of the moped, and ripped a hole for the lens. It worked pretty well regardless of the fact I was 100% representing Australia and now possibly looked homeless.
I began my ascent up the sketchy rock steps carefully timing each foot with the beat of the Psy Trance, trying not to pop a thong or make weird faces and hand movements that I usually would on the D-floor.
After I reached the stillness of the temple, I took my time just to enjoy the general lack of psy-trance and how the temple stood on the hill in the torrential rain, like it had for years before.
I slowly approached and was greeted by a very old Vietnamese woman with a positive energy and warmth about her. She pointed to some incense sticks that I purchased and made some hand gestures to explain what to do with them. I thanked her and made my way into the temple. I was inside about ten seconds (taking a photo) when I felt her tap me on the shoulder after sneaking up behind me with her ninja like stealth. I turned around to find her smiling behind me and pointing at my thongs. I immediately apologised for my ignorance and took them off. She giggled at me, gently picked them up and took them outside. She then came back to show me how to bow, how many sticks to light and in what parts of the temple, then left me alone.
After exploring Caves on the mountain, with shrines in their depths and climbing out of holes I probably shouldn’t have, I ended up on top of the mountain, surprised that psy-trance travelled up so well. I made my way to the bottom and back to my bike.
I bought a small Buddha statue, made from the marble in the mountain, and some beers from the shop owner’s son. I had a broken conversation with him and a bit of a laugh for half an hour. The whole time we talked I could not help but notice and elderly Vietnamese women sitting just inside the shop watching me very intensely. After finishing my conversation I was running through my phrase book for something nice to say to this old women. I could somewhat sense the hatred she had for westerners having lived through the Vietnam War… and that I could totally understand.
I picked my word and put my beer cans in the bin. I grabbed the left over incense I had from the temple out of my bag and approached the old women as she kept her stare. I handed her the incense and said “Hoa Binh” in English “peace” and smiled at her. She looked at me blankly for five seconds, unsure what to make of this as her grandson watched on. She took the incense and threw it on the ground in front of me saying no or “khong”. I apologised to her, said goodbye to her grandson and jumped on the moped. As I rode off confused by the situation I looked back at the shop to catch a final glimpse. The boy had picked up the incense and was wildly explaining something to his grandmother. I can only imagine what he was saying, but I like to think I had the right intention toward the old woman and her grandson, even if no other “westerner” had. I wonder if she remembers me as I remember her every time I glance up from my computer at the small Buddha statue.