Wham–Bam—Thank you “Cham”

ImageOne place that we found especially interesting along the way was the Temple of Po Nagar.   First a bit of history…….. Cham people are remnants of the Kingdom of Champa (7th to 18th centuries)   It’s kingdoms prosperity came from maritime trade in sandalwood and slaves and probably included piracy. The Cham ruled Vietnam for 10 centuries, their unmistakable architecture and art style had spread widely across places in the country. They are said to have their root in the India’s Buddhism. Thus, there are a great deal of similarity between Angkor Wat and the Po Nagar Towers found in Nha Trang.

The Cham were matrilineal and inheritance passed through the mother..  which I thought was Super!  Due to this, the Vietnamese in 1499 enacted a law banning marriage between Cham women and all Vietnamese males, regardless of class. The Vietnamese also issued instructions in the capital to kill all Chams within the vicinity. (not so super!)    

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The Cham shielded and always observed their girls attentively, placing great importance on their virginity. A Cham saying said

“As well leave a man alone with a girl, as an elephant in a field of sugarcane.”   (Well that says it all! Lol!) 

What was really interesting was what the guide then shared…….that one of the main purposes the temple served was for people to pray for fertility.     The very structure of the temple itself represented the (and I quote ;)   “the back part symbolizes the stout, strong way of the peanuts…….and the front is the entrance of the pu–zee!”    (as you can clearly see from the photo—-!?!) 

Image   But oh no!!…….the symbolism did not stop there…..once you entered this beautiful relic it was but a joy and a slight shock to discover that inside the purpose became all the more clear.

Image  Our dear guide went on to explain that one must vigorously rub the corresponding part of the altar (either the “peanuts or the pu-zee” =which was said with the straightest of faces and sincerest of intent) …….. and then do the same to oneself to pass the fertility energy directly from the gods to you!!!  

 Suffice to say I probably offended every God there with my peals of barely muffled laughter!!! (oops!)

Thank goodness I have already been blessed with my perfect son!  I’d be in trouble otherwise!!      Luckily……..there were a few different choices of “altars” for all preferences!Image

 

 

 

By moniquepetit2013

Boats—-Beach—and Bay, Baby!! Oh yea….And Kissing Chickens!

Image They always say parents have eyes in the back of their heads….but these fishermen in Viet Nam think its more important to have eyes on the front of their boats……..painted on each one of them intentionally to watch out for any evil or nasty spirits that just might want to wreck their day….or their life.   The “eye’s” have it here!

With all the be-bopping and shopping, it’s also always good to throw in a bit of history…….especially when it comes in the form of a gorgeous long stretch of beautiful beach……..”China Beach” to be precise.  Actual name being My Khe beach in the city of Đà Nẵng, Vietnam, it was nicknamed “China Beach” in English by American and Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War and became a 

famous place for much needed R & R for many soldiers.  Image

Image And some R & R for us too! 

WIth sand in our toes and the next adventure waiting………on we sailed to the last in our string of fabulous ports…..Halong Bay.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994– it includes some 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars.  “Halong”  translates as ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’, ….and legend claims the islands of Halong Bay were created by a great dragon from the mountains. As it charged towards the coast, its flailing tail gouged out valleys and crevasses. When it finally plunged into the sea, the area filled with water, leaving only the pinnacles visible.     Kind of a cool story for a gorgeous place!!  

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One of the most famous of all these amazing limestone natural creations is that of the “Kissing Chickens”…….. (now use the same expanse of imagination that you might have used when envisioning how these were created by a dragon’s tail…….. )

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A bit of a stretch……but Kelton says he’s much rather see chicken’s kiss than have to eat their feet!!!  

Kind hard to argue with logic like that!!

 

 

 

By moniquepetit2013

A tisket-a tasket—Swastikas–Silk Worms–and Baskets!

One of the really rewarding things about being in new places is the things you get to discover!!  Take, for instance, the Swaskita.

I, being not especially knowledgable on this symbol, have always associated it with Nazi Germany. (Thank you,Hollywood!)

Wasn’t I intrigued to learn that the swastika’s Indian name comes the Sanskrit word svasti, meaning

Good Fortune, Luck and Well Being. And that it is found in several temples, on Buddha’s (tickle, tickle), in murals, etc….etc….

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The swastika is an ancient symbol found worldwide and can be seen in the art of the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Celts, Native Americans, and Persians as well Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. In Hinduism, the right-hand (clockwise) swastika is a symbol of the sun and the god Vishnu, while the left-hand (counterclockwise) swastika represents Kali and magic. The Buddhist swastika is almost always clockwise, while the swastika adopted by the Nazis (many of whom had occult interests) is counterclockwise.

(Who Knew?!?)

I am also continually awed by the daily use of the good ol’ Wicker Basket! Forget it as a place for dirty laundry or odd & ends.  Let’s throw some silk worms in (whose cocoon is made from a single thread—some reaching 915 meters long!!!!)  The cocoons are boiled   (to loosen the thread and Oh yea, to kill the silk worm larvae— like lobsters in a pot—they bounce and wiggle as the hot water boils them –UG!!!)  First they grow the little wormies…….then line up all the cocoons in little grids like you see below.  When the cocoon is ready …they pluck it off the grid and toss it into the boil pot.  Then someone with very good eyes finds the single starting thread…..hooks it to the loom and out comes the silk.   Ta-Dah—-and that’s how silk is made.   Thank you little wormies!!

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It’s then dyed and woven by HAND into these AMAZING pieces of art…..they can replicate any photo or scene.   Truly incredible!!ImageLook close….the tiny one is the photo…the bigger one is the silk woven replica!!! Yep…..that is all silk threads creating that bigger scene.  Wowzers!!

Or…..if silk worms in your basket doesn’t thrill you……try schlepping 20 or 30 lbs of fruits and veggies around—shoulder-yoke style!!

Everywhere you go….county-side to deep in the city of 15 million (where I am)…..people are schlepping baskets like these!!

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Still don’t want to put all your eggs in one of these baskets?????  Then how about relaxing on the water with a little fishing…..

Heck….who needs a boat?? Seriously…..just bring your woven BASKET!!! Plaster a little tar on the bottom like our friend in the pink is doing and you are all set for your fishing expedition!!! These are all lined up and ready to go…..Here Little Fishy’s!

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Image  Not quite sure where the cooler would go though????  Hmmmmm…

 

 

 

By moniquepetit2013

Vietnam -“Kelton-ized”

   ImageAs incredible and “oh so interesting” temple after temple –buddha after buddha can be—a kid’s gotta have a little “Kid-Kind” of FUN!  And joyfully Nha Trang was the perfect solution!!   Enter a super awesome cable car ride that ended right in the middle of a waterslide/amusement park!!! YAHOO!!!

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My little Pied Piper lead me right to the roller coasters………………..then to the highest frickin’ waterslides I’ve ever seen …….

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We found some fabulous and intriguing sea-life at their Aquarium…..

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and some not so fabulous but equally intriguing Human Life by the pools…….

Image (The Russian version of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum !)

Kelty learned a few tricks from his Mimi……and a bit more about anatomy from the Mermaids!!

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It was a fantastic place……with all the cool stuff we’d expect to find at anywhere is the good ol’ USA (shows/arcades/lazy river/a bunch of rides/beach access with jet ski’s/rockin waterslides/aquarium)—and then some!! And the best part–including the cable car each way–for about $20!  gotta love it!! And we sure did!Image

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By moniquepetit2013

A warm welcome in Siagon!

Both modern and not….. what used to be “Siagon” surprised us with its warm welcome and friendly hospitality!Now Ho Chi Minh City –a clean, bustling city –bursting with energy and throngs of people.     

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We took in the War Museum, the Rex Hotel and Reunification Palace with profound awe and gratitude for each who gave so much……from all sides and countries. 

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Then experienced a different kind of awe as we marveled at the “family outings” as part of the daily motorcycle madness that is common in so many cities in Asia. (note the little princess in pink perched precariously on the back of the second bike-first photo—no baby seat…no straps…no helmet…..just Dad holding her leg!! And me holding my breath!!)

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With its friendly locals, cleaner than expected streets and areas, and modern meccas…….our first stop in Viet Nam was truly a pleasant surprise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snooky-Ville, Cambodia

Catching up with the rest of the journey……..Sihanoukville (aka Snooky-ville by the foreigners) Cambodia was a treat!   Anchor-Wat it wasn’t……but this little sea-side town had plenty of local charm!  Local Tuk-Tuk rides that showed off the beautiful beaches……and the local beer!!

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And in a town where most couldn’t rub two dimes together……still a stunning temple is created for worship!

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By moniquepetit2013

Sam, I Am…I Am in Siam!

Well….we didn’t get to see Yul Brenner…..but what a place to live it would have been!!!

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The Grand Palace,  at the heart of Bankok, has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (AKA: Thailand) since 1782…..and up until 1925. Besides all the historical fluff…..to see the magical Thai architecture with its pointy roofs, carvings and sculptures of inestimable value was like being in a storybook.   Each piece of glass mosaic was individually placed and mounted.  That alone is mind-boggling when youImage see what a colossal task that would have been !!!

(here’s an “up-close” to really appreciate the “big pictures”)

Every tiny square,triangle, dots and paint fleck….set one by one……Amazing!!!

They say the most famous pilgrimage of all Thailand is to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew)–who is housed inside the Palace grounds, where the faithful come from all corners of Thailand to pray before the Buddha.  But he’s not emerald at all….he’s made of solid jade! And is seated on a throne made entirely of gold!  (nope, they didn’t allow pictures of this famous little guy)  He (little greenie) has a robe that is changed only 3 times a year—and ONLY by the King himself.)

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There was also these lovely fellows :TheThotsakhirithon–or the guardian demons……. and their little dancing cousins–guarding the gold Image and guarding the gates!!!

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We were lucky to be there on a day we could here the monks chanting as well.   (trying to figure out how to add a video…….was cool to hear them!)

 

Anyway…enough “monk”eying around…..next stop: Cambodia!!Image

By moniquepetit2013

One Night In “Bangkok……”

Phil: Wait a second Chow. We’re in Bangkok?   Mr. Chow: Holla! City of Squala!

“a city of extremes with action on every corner: ..  “neon-clad and always congested”……”bustling, hustling, loud, traffic, madness, sa-nuk, dirty, friendly, and smiles.  “Same same, but different…..where the tastes of many places are mixed into an often-spicy dish.”

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 Ah yes……Welcome to BANGKOK!–

the Capital City of Thailand!  “The Venice of the East”   “the City of Angels”

….In Thai, often called Krung Thep Maka Nakhon, or just Krung Thep.But its’ full name (ready for this)  is   ..“Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.”  (I kid you not!!–look up the mean of that for some rainy day fun)

and she was all that and more!!

From gorgeous flower markets with block after block of blooming buds to floating markets….

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To fancy phone booths and modern monks

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From streets signs for everything……and Massage Parlors for the same (though this one was “outstanding” as the faded part you can barely see was unique in advertising “No Sex” as the speciality ) P1120941P1120954

You could find taste treats that covered the spectrum…….and photo Ops that did the same!!P1120950IMG_0478

 

Ah yes…….as the movie so famously said….

“If you haven’t found him by now, I’m afraid Bangkok has him.
Stu: Why do people keep saying that?”

There are Definitely reasons why…………

By moniquepetit2013

Monkeys–Buddhas–and Spirit Houses–Welcome to Thailand!

First stop–Nathon (aka Koh Samui), Thailand—and who doesn’t want to see a monkey pick coconuts?    

ImageNothing like a quick machete swipe and a straw to make drinking coconut milk easy–and YUM!  And the “worker” seemed to take a liking to Kelton.

 

Then to the local fishing village…..where daily life is a 2 or 3 room stilt house….. Image

a couple of big buckets…. and A LOT of fish to clean. 

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The majority of the people in this area are Buddhist …..and as such have these beautiful little “houses” sitting outside their homes.  I, naively, thought them to be birdhouses… but Nope!!  They are “Spirit Houses” …which are there to provide a shelter for spirits which could cause problems for the people if not appeased.  And appease they do!!  Offerings are left at the house to propitiate the spirits–fruits,food,oil, and flowers by the bucket loads.  And, our guide said…sometimes its a house for the spirit of dear departed Granny or Uncle Joe….in case they want to hang around awhile longer. They were just beautiful and outside nearly every home and some businesses.

 

 

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As you can see,

Kelton was less than

thrilled with the “local smell” of the fishing village. 

 

 

Then on to “the Big Buddha” (the first of MANY we got to see along the way) –but she/he was just beautiful.(apparently once enlightened–one doesn’t cling to “male or female gender worries….therefore some Buddha’s can be either or neither…) 

The Buddha statue depicts Buddha in a state of calm and purity and resolve, having overcome temptation and fear sent at him by Mara, Lord of Illusion. Known as the Mara posture, the left hand rests palm open and up in the statue’s lap, the right hand facing down over the right knee, almost to the ground–which means that Buddha is defying Mara and achieving enlightenment. (so I learned…… ) 

 Anyhoo……it was gorgeous to see and Kelton not only rang all the gongs/bells–but was blessed twice by the monk….who thought he was just adorable.   (we had to agree….)     

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So…….after praying and kneeling and offering and banana-coconut pancaking (hey, when in Rome–er–Thailand….) 

it’s off to Bangkok!  Image

 

 

By moniquepetit2013

The “Fine City” of Singapore

Sitting 85 miles north of the equator, the little island of Singapore is one of the smallest countries in the world.  With the lowest temperature on record only being a balmy 68 degrees…..we were thrilled to get off the plane and soak up the tropics.  Lush greenery blends with high rises in this bustling city.  Although the population is a surprising 75% Chinese….there is a noticeable different in the “cleanliness” of everything!!  In fact, Singapore is often referred to as a “fine city” because of the number of big-dollar fines that one can receive for infractions. For example, you can be fined for not flushing a public toilet or for chewing gum!  (TOTALLY different than China!! )

We got to see the infamous Merlion -

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a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish.The fish body represents Singapore’s origin as a fishing village when it was called Temasek, which means “sea town”. The lion head represents Singapore’s original name — Singapura — meaning “lion city” or “kota singa”.   And the Singapore Flyer (which at the time is the world’s tallest operational ferris wheel).Image

We be-bopped through the markets in Little India…..and rubbed the belly of the Happy Buddha for New Years Luck (in Asia, ones belly is believed to be ones spiritual center and source of power.  Guess that means back at home some of us are REALLY powerful!!).  (it’s quite strange to watch –as many people will rub a select part of a Buddha–then rub the corresponding parts of their own bodies–believing that the luck or energy transfers directly by doing so.)

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And of course, no visit to Singapore is complete without a stop at the Raffles Hotel……the spot where the original Singapore Sling started!!

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So….with the MerLion tamed…the big belly rubbed….and the “Sling” slung…..it was time to get onboard and sail towards Thailand.

By moniquepetit2013