Big Buddha in Vĩnh Tràng at Mỹ Tho – 2

Continuing the series, it’s one of my favorite snaps, completely unretouched as are all of my photos: I do not post-processing whatever, so what you see is what I got! I like how the colors of the sky, the statue, and the leaves at his feet are all from the identical color palette.

But when I spotted this huge statue of Buddha in the Buddhist monastary in the South Vietnamese village of My Tho, right on the Mekong River, it also made me think:

I’ve seen huge “Big Buddhas” in many famous places, like Vietnam, Thailand, and probably one of the most famous, Hong Kong.  And I’ve seen huge Hindu statues all over India, arguably the largest being a stone monolith depicting Gommateshwara.

But when it comes to Christianity, sculptures of Jesus are usually limited to small crucifixion scenes – and I guess for obvious reasons (big assumption on my part!) – a huge 100-foot crucifix is not so aesthetically pleasing.  The big statue of Christ in Brazil may be an exception. But there are large statues of other Christian figures, as anyone who’s ever been to South San Franciso knows (Father Junipero Serra).

I wonder why?

 

The French connection

Vietnam is an Asian country, previously settled by the French: from the late 1800’s to around 1954, when they left, it was known as French Indochina.

In a recent blog post I talked about how you can still see the French influence in Vietnam today, even though it’s been an amazing 65 years since the French left:

Nomadic water lilies

Here’s something I’ve never really seen before.

Generally the waters of the Mekong River near the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam are quite sparse and peaceful, as this snap shows:

But what caught my eye was a long caravan of floating plants, like this:

Now, I’ve been to rivers all over the world, and this is the first time I’ve seen something like this. Floating down the river must be part of their natural lifestyle – the plants’ equivalent of spreading their wings and flying!

French influence – or just a good idea?

Saigon is a frustrating place for me in many ways. Knowing the French history, as I walk through Saigon my eyes are drawn towards French-looking things, and I ask myself whether they are coincidences – such as a coffee shop with a French name, named so only because it sounds posh, as this example shows with two such French-named coffee shops next to each other:

or truly part of the French legacy (such as the system of Arondissments used to district the city).

Here is a case in point:

As I’ve written about before, French traffic signals are some of the best design traffic signals in the world. Is this just coincidence, or a vestige of the French legacy? Here is a similarly looking traffic signal in France,

The amazing electric fishermen of Mỹ Tho at the Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta has a magical name. Say it to any American, and it invokes powerful images from erstwhile conflicts.  But the reality today is much different, as this snap shows:

Here we have an electric fisherman plying the waters with an electric fishing pole. He simply sweeps the electrically charged pole along the bottom and stuns any fish he might encounter. Unfortunately I was a tad late with my camera, but while I was there he pulled a huge one-meter-long eel from the Mekong River:

The amazing Arondissments of Paris and Quận of Saigon

Saigon and Paris are very similar in one regard: the cities themselves are organized into numbered districts.

In Paris a district is called an Arondissment, there are a total of 20 of them, and the districts appear clockwise starting at the center:

In Saigon a district is called a Quận, there are a total of 19 of them, and although the districts start at the center, they are not as neatly clockwise as in Paris:

Why is Saigon similar to Paris? Does this have to do with the history of the French in Saigon? I suppose it does, but I don’t know the details.

Super Moon Trifecta! Wolf, snow, and worm

Many people don’t know this, but each full moon in a year has a unique name.  The full moons in January, February, and March are known as the Wolf Full Moon, Snow Full Moon, and Worm Full Moon, respectively.

Well, for the last time in zillions of years the first three full moon’s of 2019 are also so-called super full moons, when the moon approaches so close to the earth that even the International Space Station is in danger of a collision!

I was privileged to have the accident of catching all three Super Full Moons on film for 2019. This is the January Super Wolf Full Moon,

This is the February Super Snow Full Moon, snapped from my apartment:

And this is the March Super Worm Full Moon, snapped from downtown Winterthur:

Fall of Saigon – Then and Now

On April 29, 1975 Hugh Van Es of United Press International at Gia Long Street took what became the iconic photograph of the U.S. evacuation of the Vietnamese city of Saigon,

Being in Saigon, and 44 years and one day later, I decided to hunt for this place. It’s not easy to find! First, the street has been re-named. Second, it’s not on any tour maps. Third, it’s almost entirely surrounded by modern shopping centers and high rise skyscrapers.  But after about two hours of exploring in the hot, humid, healthy Saigon sun I found it!

Here is the top of the building, right across the street from a modern indoor shopping mall:

And here is a blow-up so you can see the detail on the top.

Interestingly, I spotted a large number of American tourists walking in and out of the shopping mall, all of them unaware that they were standing underneath a true historical landmark. It’s a shame that the city of Saigon does not do more to recognize this location.

Great tip for tourists in Saigon!

In my last post I showed the Ben Thanh tourist market, which by the way has a floor layout that looks like this and raises all kinds of interesting questions in my mind about how you rent space here, how the rental agreements look, how much the vendors pay per square foot, and the like:

But be that as it may, a business partner of mine who lives here gave me a great tip: if you are looking for souvenirs, then the best place is the Post Office. In addition to it being an historical landmark itself, it has government operated shops where you can find all the souvenirs offered in Saigon, but at a tremendous cost savings.

I could be wrong, but as far as I know this Post Office was designed by the same architect that created the Eiffel Tower.

 

The mysterious street transformers of Saigon

If you’ve been to Saigon, then you know how it is. The city is filled with hundreds and hundreds – if not thousands – of above-the-ground transformers that look like this:

Now, I am not an electrician, so I could be wrong, but it looks as though these units are converting three phase electricity to two phase electricity, as this close up shows:

What are these transformers here for?  What do they do?  Are there indeed underground three-phase electrical cables – which in and of itself would be an amazing thing?

For me this is still just a mystery to be cleared up one day!

Just what were those Buddhists thinking?

There is a wonderful Buddhist template in Vietnam, in the city of My Tho just next to the Mekong Delta, and in the next few blog entries I’ll share some snaps.

But this one caught my attention, just as you walk into the temple you are greeted with this wonderful sign:

Now, not being a Buddhist myself I’m afraid I don’t understand the significance of this. I always thought Buddhists aspired to something more transcendental, rather than just birth-to-grave.