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Thursday, October 17: Day 178 – Water Puppets

Our food guide recommended going to the Temple of Literature. It was patterned after the temple in the hometown of Confucius.

There are five courtyards.

These funerary stellae are in one of the courtyards. Each one is placed on the tortoise. The tortoise is a symbol of permanence.

The names of successful candidates that underwent gruelling months of examinations are inscribed here. They are called mandarins.

Under the feudal social system the king relied on a set of imperial officials (mandarins) to govern
the country. This meant that not only had the king to be a man of virtue himself, but he also had to select virtuous men from all
quarters of his realm to assist him. This led to the establishment of a rigorous examination system to choose who would become mandarins. Ineligible candidates were criminals, musicians and singers, and those in mourning.

Here is the final courtyard with an altar of Confucius – the object of admiration, respect and incense.

I watched this man sweep the walk. He was very efficient even if his broom seemed inefficient.

The Temple of Literature once hosted the first university in Vietnam and is dedicated to Confucius, scholars, and sages.

Ironically, we saw Michael from our food tour here. I guess visitors flock to the same places!!

Later, we went to watch water puppets. This art was first established in the farm areas, and many of the themes are based on life in the country.

We met our National Geographic Journeys / G-Adventures CEO (Chief Experience Officer). His name roughly sounds like Law. His real name is hard for us to say. Vietnamese is a very difficult language to pronounce. It is easier to read, and the adjective comes after the noun.

We are a group of 16 travelers from Canada, England, USA, and Luxembourg. This unique trip is an affordable adventure and joins National Geographic and G-Adventures together.

Vietnam is pronounced with a short “a” sound and rhymes with jam. It is still developing as they have only been a country since 1975. They are behind the rest of the world about 30-40 years. So please embrace the bizarre such as crossing the street.

Transportation will be different depending on the area of the country and local operators.

Vietnam is a poor country, but every place has free WiFi. Local laundry is very cheap, and we are to ask Law for local laundries. This tour group supports local businesses.

We are traveling by private bus. It is the rainy season, but it does not rain every day. Law recommended that we carry an umbrella instead of a poncho. It is humid and hot.

Vietnam is the largest rice exporter in the world.

We have more flavors here than in the west. Food is complicated – many dishes in one meal. Western food is simple and quick. Different foods may upset your stomach due to different spices and vegetables. Street food is delicious but you need to know where to go. They have soy sauce and fish sauce. Fish sauce is a byproduct of preserving fish in salt. It is strong and they dilute it and they dilute it even more for Westerners.

We went out to eat together to get to know each other. Law took us to a restaurant that is run by students that received a loan from G-Adventures to start the restaurant. Isn’t that cool? Law made suggestions and all were delicious.

Things to Know

Use sunscreen.

Use bug spray especially in the country.

Always carry toilet paper.

Do not drink the tap water.

Beware of your phone and purse. They have secret police and tourist police to help protect visitors.

Tipping is not necessary but highly recommended. It is a way to show appreciation. This has become more common place and is a byproduct of Western tourists.

Since Vietnam is an agricultural society, they get up very early and take a nap between 11-1 after lunch. They go to bed early.

I went to bed early as well.

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