The ebb and flow of life

12/11/2018 17:37

The sight of monks sheltering beneath rain trees at dawn is touching. Palmyra palms shade solemn pagodas, the cultural and architectural legacy of Khmer and Cham people.

The tidal season brings both joy and sorrow to Vietnam's Southwest, which lacks the long mountain ranges that crisscross other regions. This landscape has nurtured generous and easy-going people, who have harnessed the tides' power to build their own culture. Crossing the tide-fed Southwestern delta, eye-catching scenes flashed past: houses floating on vast expanses of water and boats making ripples in the sunset.

 We waded through the waters of Thap Muoi to drench ourselves in the swirling fragrance of lotus flowers, then rushed to Tan Chau Wharf to reach An Giang – Dong Thap, the land of the headwaters. We rode back to Chau Doc in the lush, green season when the paddy's ears were growing and dropped by Tri Ton and Tinh Bien to stand silently under palmyra palms. We yelled ourselves hoarse applauding the bull races at Ro Pagoda, and admired how Khmer people weave their fabric and the haunting, deep eyes of Cham girls in Da Phuoc.

+ The Cham Village of Da Phuoc

In the recesses of the borderland of Chau Doc, the Muslim Cham community still preserves their quintessentially Islamic culture and beliefs. From Mubarak Mosque with its peculiar architecture to the men's sarongs, from tanned children to the smiling eyes of Cham girls weaving cloth... Everything was vivid and enchanting.

+ Pagodas and palmyra palms

Pagodas and palmyra palms are deeply engrained in Khmer life. Pagodas are tangible and spiritual places of salvation for their communities, present across the Mekong Delta. Pagodas are not just places to practice rituals, but venues where good values are taught and promoted. They are also museums of sculpture and fine arts made by Khmer artisans. Palmyra palms, meanwhile, are the primary source of unique specialties and a key element in any marvelous scene, whether viewed at dawn or at sunset against a backdrop of green fields in the tidal season.

+ Ro Pagoda bull races and the Rice Seedling Replanting Festival

Surrounded by ringing applause and toasts, Khmer men grip the reins tightly and encourage their bulls to race to the finishing line. Bull races at Ro Pagoda in particular and the Seven Mountains region in general are meant to pay tribute to the nature and cattle that sustain and enrich humans. These races are also an occasion for Khmer men to demonstrate their prowess. However, behind the scenes, nimble and adept Khmer women replant baby rice plants to celebrate the Dolta Festival (performing tributary sacrifices to their deceased ancestors) and brighten the whole area.

+ From Tra Su Melaleuca Forest to the Lake on Ta Pa Mountain

The chants sung by boat-rowers echo over the canals and rivers and swirl over the melaleuca forests, reaching the ears of wanderers and further beautifying the calm scenery of Tra Su in the tidal season. An agile rower guides our little boat through a canal clogged with green algae, as birds twitter and spots of sunlight filter through the greenery. Having left the bustle of ordinary life far behind, we feel lost in this green heaven. Later, along with our "companions", we climb Ta Pa Mountain to admire green paddy fields lined with palmyra palms and the surreal emerald green lake hidden in the Seven Mountains.

 Ford Everests and Rangers were the “companions” of Heritage's 2018 Journey of Heritages Photo Tour.

While we followed our souls around the Mekong Delta in the tidal season to discover the true native cultures of Cham and Khmer people, we must thank our "companions" - Ford Everests and Rangers - for carrying us so far, even fording streams to discover the welcoming heart of An Giang. 

Running from October 12 to 16, the photo tour visited Dong Thap Muoi - Chau Doc - Tra Su in the Southwest of Vietnam. A key activity was attending the Ro Pagoda Bull Races in the That Son area. This was the third photo tour organized in 2018,  co-hosted by Heritage and Ford Vietnam.

Story: Ovuong

Photos: From the 2018 Heritage – Ford Photo Tour to the Southwest of Vietnam

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