(I've tried uploading a bunch of photos with this post & it's not working so ill need to do it some other way.. Until then, here's another big slab of writing about yesterday!)
This morning we travelled through beautiful rice fields on the way to visit the Perfume Pagoda. We passed a few small towns on the way and for the first time noticed lots of signs for dog (thịt chò) and cat meat (thịt mèo). Apparently it's much more common in the north. Vinh explained that during the many times of food shortage the Vietnamese people have learned to see meat as meat and not to discriminate as a matter of survival. He is going to order some "special treats" for us to try tonight including dog & insects.. Yummy!
We went by boat for an hour and were surrounded by beautiful mountains. It was raining quite heavily and some of our flimsy cheap ponchos were torn so we all got a bit soggy. I really didn't mind because it was still quite hot and sticky and the rain was cool and refreshing. I bought a new one when we got there.
Once at the Perfume Pagoda precinct we climbed many many slippery steps to ascend to the lower pagoda. Some of us decided not to climb all the way as our shoes weren't grippy enough and it felt too dangerous.
Vinh explained that there was once a young girl who forewent having a husband and family to look after her sick father. One day the father became sick and the monk told her that the only way to cure his illness was to bring a human arm and human eyes to the temple. She sacrificed her own body parts and cured her father. She later died and it was decided that her spirit was the god of mercy. People come to the perfume pagoda to pray for mercy still.
After very carefully climbing back down the steps (I took my shoes off because it was the only way I'd make it down!) we stopped for lunch at a restaurant at the foot of the pagoda. This meal was very basic but the nicest I have had so far. The ingredients were apparently sourced from around the mountains and very fresh.
With full tummies we climbed more steps to find the cable car and we went in groups of six up the mountain to visit the Hòn Đun Gạo- hưởng tích cave. This is a very special place of worship with a giant stalagmite in the centre. It was absolutely amazing!
We then boated back again to our bus before making the 2 hour trip back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. I'm a bit nervous about trying the "special treats" but I said I'd try anything once...
When in Vietnam...