I woke early the next day (Sunday) and did 45 minutes of silent meditation with no music just my breathing to relax me
. I then rode to the meeting place to follow Jin, Jond’Marie and Hang to meet another group of people. Unbeknownst to me when I agreed to go that a rather large group of people were part of this trip, or I might not have gone. But after meeting them and then getting separated from them I was pleased to see that is was just the 4 of us. I have nothing against the other people that were going its just I don’t like to travel in large groups of expats when I go exploring the countryside. To me it takes away the simplicity and quiet of these small villages when a large group of usually loud westerners converge on their living spaces. Smaller groups can sometimes move about with relative little notice. Oh we get the occasional looks from locals but not the stop and stare thing as if we are on exhibition.
The downside was that Jin wasn’t sure where to go to get there and Hang my travel agent friend had never been there either, then there’s Jond’Marie and myself, which are along for the ride mostly. So after being on the road for roughly 2+hours one way for a trip that should’ve taken 1 hour tops, we finally arrived in the “Artist’s Village”. My butt was almost numb from sitting for so long and yes we stopped and got off a few times to ask directions or just to make sure the bottom half of our bodies still worked. But all in all it was a somewhat agonizing trip getting there
. It’s always great to leave the noisy confines of Hanoi but when you think about roaming around the countryside asking directions, not totally lost just a tad confused it makes for longer day than planned. And to think I was thinking I’d enjoy a nice leisurely drive, experience some country living and clean air and still be home in time to take an evening yoga class. Whew, was I wrong. Yes I got plenty of clean air and quiet countryside but it was just a longer day than I wanted and that was the reason I wasn’t totally pleased with the day. The artists “village” was nothing more than 2 family’s doing traditional printing similar to the rubber stamping I used to do in the U.S. but much more highly skilled. And they make and use the stamps a limited number of times and then make new ones. Then they frame the stamps and sell them. I got a good price on two print pieces (a four seasons piece and one with 4 musicians at play) both have Vietnamese script characters written at the top. They’re done on traditional paper made with a variety of materials and one unique piece, finely crushed seashells. The artist put his characters stamp on it before boxing and wrapping it for me.
From there we made our way down the rode a few kilometers to a small village for lunch of Pho for Hang and I, and Com (fried rice) for Jin and Jond’Marie. We topped off our gas tanks and headed home with two stops to two nontraditional temple/pagoda areas
. The first one was built in the 16th century and the pagoda was a somewhat unusual design as you will see from my photos and the second one was boxy looking, something I had not see before anywhere in my travels. Hang, our travel industry friend said they are quite famous for their unusual designs. The second one also had what resembled a Buddhist version of 'stations of the cross’. Obviously it wasn’t the same but there were about 10 stages of Buddha in his search for enlightenment being portrayed in statue form. People were stopping at each one saying short prayers and sometimes leaving gifts of small note money or lighting incense.
Dusk was beginning to show itself to us so we decided we’d seen enough and it was time to be on our way back. Fortunately it was a somewhat straight and easy shot back. We drove the bumpy pock filled small village dirt roads to get to the highway and then it was a quick and straight drive back to Hanoi. Once across the motorbike crowded Long Bien bridge we knew we were back home again. Hang lives fairly close to me and so Jin took Jond’Marie home, and Hang and I stopped for a much needed, on my part caphe sua dar, and fresh squeezed juice for her before completing our drive home.
I was exhausted and mentally spent and was laying out my new purchases to admire when dumb luck stepped in uninvited. I banged my toes on the corner of the bed leg, winced sharply and fell on the bed. I had a bad feeling about this “toe stubbing”. I immediately iced the last two toes on my left foot and hoped it was just that, a toe stub. When I woke up this morning and I saw the swelling and purpling in my two small toes I thought the worst and once I stood up I knew I was right. Later that morning, x-rays proved me right - I’d fractured my toe. The Dr said all he could do was wrap it to the toe next to it and told me to stay off it for 2 days. So here I lay in bed foot raised and writing this entry.
I’m going to Ho Chi Minh City on the weekend so all the walking I had planned will be scaled back considerably this trip.
Hope your week starts better than mine.
After a highly enlightening day communing with the artistic spirits inhabiting Thanh Chuong's house and landscape. Followed by my twice monthly temple visit to various homes to the Buddhists gods I stopped for dinner at a Japanese restaurant where there was no sushi, say it isn’t so. Yep the specialty here was pancakes. Japanese pancakes are more like an omelette and interestingly enough they call them pizza. It was all too odd for me so after I’d eaten my pancake/pizza I was tired and went home. But not before agreeing to visit an artist’s village the next day. There was very little information about this place from the people that were going other than "artists reside there and do art". One of the Aussie girls had told Jin that and under my breath I said “duh”. Anyway I agreed and came home to sleep soundly.