Curator of the rice museum
Got up at 8am and had a not very nice breakfast of fruit, warm watermelon juice, and two tiny little cakes. At 9am met up with the group and paid for the day's motorbike tour up front: 290,000D. Our first stop after touring through the countryside for a while was an old village with the only other covered bridge in Vietnam besides the Japanese one in Hoi An
, and a rice museum. An old lady in her 70s, mouth blackened by betel nut, guided us through all the steps in the rice harvesting process, from scything it in the field right through to creating rice flour. I found it really interesting and the lady most entertaining. Under the covered bridge I had my fortune told for 20,000D by an old lady who used to have an American husband (he died).
Apparently I will get married at age 28-29 and have one daughter to that husband. Eventually things will sour with him due to him always getting drunk, and I will re-marry at age 34-35 and have 2 boys with that husband. I will make good money from my job at age 32 (argh, only 8 years to go...!!!). Our next stop was a pagoda; Tu Hieu Pagoda, built in 1843 and nestled in a pine forest. Eunuchs from the Citadel were buried there upon their death and the monks would worship and honour them. Our next stop was an incense shop (mainly so I could use the 'happy room') where we saw how incense was made: bamboo sticks coated with kapok sap at one end and rolled in wood shavings and cinnamon. We also saw the traditional conical hats being made there. Our final stop before lunch was the Tomb of Khai Dinh, a tomb of Vietnamese and European architectural elements.
He was the 12th emperor of Vietnam and ruled from 1916-1925, largely viewed as a puppet of the French. There were a LOT of steps to get to the top. In the Honour Courtyard were many Mandarins standing guard. The main building, Thien Dinh, houses his body 18m below a gilt bronze statue of him. It was beautiful inside but no photography was allowed. Lunch was at Duc Son Pagoda. We were served MANY different DELICIOUS courses, all vegetarian much to my delight, from eggplant, to soup, to fried zucchini, rice paper rolls, passionfruit juice etc etc. It was exquisite! Afterwards we had a chance to visit the youngest babies and children of the orphanage. Most were sleeping on an enormous metal bed or in metal cribs when we arrived - no blankets or mats to cushion their bodies.
Y told us no adoptions were allowed from here and that once you were left there, you became part of the big family - you could go away and seek work or study as you became older, but were always welcome back to lend a helping hand. We cuddled the babies. They smelled like slightly sour milk like all babies do. They all looked well cared for and the nuns walking around clearly cared for them a lot, picking up crying children, doling out hugs here and there as needed. We stayed there a while then headed off as another Intrepid group had arrived. We headed up the top of a hill for a scenic view of the Hue River, then headed down and boarded a huge dragonboat that took us to Thien Mu Pagoda. The 21m-high octagonal tour was constructed in 1844 and has 7 storeys. The pagoda was founded in 1601.
To the left of the tower is a 2052kg bell constructed in 1710 that is audible 10km away. In the main sanctuary behind an obese laughing Buddha were 3 Buddhas; those of the Past, History and Future. Behind the main part is the Austin motorcar that transported the monk Thich Quang Duc to the site of his 1963 self-immolation in Saigon, which he did to protest the policies of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. There is also a graphic photo of him burning to death. After the pagoda we headed back to the city by dragonboat. I was so tired I was practically comatose and nodded off a few times. Spent the next few hours washing my hair and lying under the covers on the bed. Very pleasant! At 6:30pm met up with everyone and headed to Lac Thien for dinner. The place was run by a deaf and mute man, super friendly with a wonderful smile, and his daughter who worked there had really good English.
I had a fresh orange juice, a Hue pancake with tofu, bean sprouts, tomato, lettuce, mint and satay sauce, and beef with veggies and crispy noodles, all for 60,000D inc tip! Mr Lac gave us all bottle openers as a souvenir and opened all 4 beer bottles at once! All the surfaces of the upper room, inc the roof, fridge, photo frames etc, had messages from around the world on them. I added my own in a few spots; a handprint over the staircase and a frog in one corner of the room. After tea we headed to the supermarket where we stocked up on assorted goodies for the 12 hour train trip to Ninh Binh