Our ninth day in Ho Chi Minh began with an introduction to the Buddhist religion. Our presenter kept the audience very engaged while detailing the life of Buddha, the 4 Noble Truths, and Path to Enlightenment. I found it interesting to learn about the philosophies of such a different religion. As someone of a different faith, the pessimistic outlook on life greatly surprised me. The Path to Enlightenment requires an intense amount of commitment that makes reaching Nirvana seem almost impossible — I’m not sure that I could handle being a monk.
Afterward, we stopped at the Xa Loi Pagoda. Having never been in a Buddhist temple, I was unaware that your shoes had to be left at the door. Inside, a massive statue of Buddha sat in the center, surrounded by gifts and beautiful decorations. My favorite part of the tour was the single, female Buddha sitting outside the temple. The uniqueness of Buddhism stems from the ability to “worship” a variety of Buddhas, all of which have different appearances. It was refreshing to see a female individual in a religion that is mostly represented by male statues.
Lunch was a delicious bowl of chicken and beef pho. After getting changed, we walked over to the famous Vietnamese War Remnants Museum. As an American myself, I was eager to understand the war from another point of view. Biases can be difficult to avoid, as we learned, but I firmly believe in the value of both sides.
I found the museum to be one of those things that you always expect yourself to be ready for, but when the time comes, you aren’t. The photos, especially of those impacted by Agent Orange, were heartbreaking to look at. I couldn’t believe that my high school had never bothered to teach us about these things. However, I couldn’t help but notice some of the museum’s funny-wording regarding American soldiers. I know our troops did some horrible things, but a few of the plaques appeared extremely biased. It certainly raised some questions, but nonetheless, the fatalities and consequences of war are extremely sad. As Hilary quoted earlier on, those who fight in war know that it produces no winners.
The museum required a few moments of deep reflection. However, we couldn’t let such a heavy subject taint the rest of our day. We had to mentally prepare ourselves for our next stop…the chaotic Ben Thanh Market. Due to my poor Vietnamese skills, I stuck to bargaining in English. We quickly developed a reputation throughout the market (people wouldn’t even do business with us) as we attempted to purchase chopsticks for the lowest amount possible. As Ben Thanh became more and more crowded, we were finally able to settle for twenty dong each. However, a fair share of merchants became outraged at our low-ball prices, understandably so. As a customer, I typically only view the transaction from one point of view. Watching the seller display such emotion allowed for a better understanding in terms of their perspective & how they choose to perform day-to-day business.
I’m looking forward to experiencing the Cat Lai Terminal tomorrow morning!