Day 3 - Tra Vinh

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Where I stayed
Cuu Long hotel

Flag of Vietnam  , Trà Vinh,
Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 3 - Tra Vinh

Our group is awakened quite early to the sound of a funeral band escorting the coffin and funeral mourners from a local home. Some of our group are quick enough to get downstairs to view and photograph the procession, albeit in the early morning of low light.

Today we head towards the Mekong.

After visiting the Mekong Resting place, a popular tourist spot along the way, for a rest stop, we progress onto My Tho and take in awe, the statue of the large Buddha. This huge statue stands approximately two-three storeys tall and over-looks the temple and surrounding area.
Our group is welcomed and invited to photograph the monks as they celebrate their daily meal and prayers. An invitation which is not lost of its importance to our group. We are advised that the monks do not eat for the rest of the day after this midday meal.

On thanking the monks we move onto the wharf at My Tho where our group board our small motor vessel to be transported to the island of Binh Hoa Phuoc. This is the group's first real contact with the mighty Mekong. Travelling through six countries on its journey to the open sea, the Mekong is the sixth longest river in the world. It is the lifeblood to so many in this region.

Our group witnesses the making of coconut candy, where the flesh of the coconut is ground into pulp and then pressed to extract the coconut milk. The milk is heated and with different additives is continually stirred and then spread out to solidify before being cut into small squares

These small pieces are individually hand wrapped before being packaged by members of the family.

For those more adventurous in the group, a small glass of snake wine is consumed.

What a kick this has – is certainly clears the sinus!

Snake wine is made from the addition of alcohol, herbs and at least four snakes. This is then left to ferment in a jar for a minimum of six months before being consumed. Those of the group that did throw fate to the wind and partake all liked the potent brew.

After being entertained by a local music group whilst sipping on honey tea, ginger and fresh fruits, the group in twos, boarded small canoes paddled by mostly ladies. Through the narrow winding canals, over hung by palms, each craft threaded its way to finally link up with our slightly larger motor boat which then transported us onto our next stop.

Here we were treated to the delicacy of "Elephant Ear Fish’ which is deep fried and presented, together with its scales, upright between wooden pegs. 

The fish derives its name because of the large double tail fins and is famous within the region.

The fish flesh along with glass noodles, green herbs and cucumber is then rolled in rice paper, dipped in fish sauce and presented for eating. The cameras were quickly clicking away at this presentation.

From our lunch we travelled back to the wharf to board our vehicle for the next leg of our journey – our road trip to Tra Vinh for our overnight stop.

But Oh! What a chance meeting.

On the car/bike/passenger ferry crossing one section of the Mekong, I recognised a monk from the Chau Co Temple or “Temple of the Birds" that I had photographed back in February 2009. On speaking with him, our group was quickly invited to visit his home and temple at 6:00 am the following morning, even though it meant us departing our overnight hotel at 5:00am to travel to the temple.

After the ferry ride and approaching Tra Vinh, the late afternoon light became so beautiful for photography.

Long, our guide and I decided to stop at the Ao Ba Om Temple for the group to photograph within the grounds of the temple and to make use of this beautiful late afternoon light.

Here I met and photographed another monk (Phuong) who had been at the temple for 18 years after first entering monkhood at the age of 19 years. He intended to remain at the temple and study for the rest of his life. With my interpreter Long, we were able to establish quite a conversation, albeit that the conversation was partly in Khmer language.

My new monk friend invited our group into the innermost sanctum of the temple where the group was allowed to practice their low light photography skills. The result, with some tuition, resulted in some amazing images for the group.

So another full day was drawing to a close and with an extremely early morning start tomorrow, the group were happy to download images, review their photos for the day and retire after dinner at the hotel.
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