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dangoestolaos: part 2: vientiane

April 9, 2012

Vientiane is the modern capital and the largest city in Laos. It doesn’t look or feel like a capital city, compared to Saigon, it’s much less crowded and much more relaxed. Life tends to move at a slower pace here in Laos, and the differences between Laos and Vietnam are pretty apparent even at a glance. Take a look at the picture below: there are more cars on the streets here than anywhere in Vietnam. There’s a lot more space here then in Vietnam.

Album here, and more after the break! Read more…


dangoestolaos: part 1: saigon

March 14, 2012

I’ve had these pictures for months, and aside from putting them online, I haven’t really shared them with anyone, so this is long overdue. In January, a month after our classes actually ended, Theo and I gave our finals and were finished for the semester. We had a large vacation ahead of us, and what better way to spend a vacation then by traveling? We chose Laos as our destination and loosely planned our trip.

Album is here, and there’s more after the break:

Read more…

Chi’s Wedding

March 13, 2012

Have you ever been to a Vietnamese wedding? No? Well follow after the break and you can find out what one is like!

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Dalat Flower Festival

January 4, 2012

The Dalat flower festival is the largest event that the city sees. It happens around New Years every other year, and draws thousands from around Vietnam. There are flowers everywhere, many different markets set up for vendors to show their products, lavish opening ceremonies and shows, and dance demonstrations and flash mobs in the center of the city each night. While I avoided most of the crowds (we were out driving on New Years and the traffic was ridiculous), getting to see the scenery was a must. After the break are select pictures from Theo and my trek around the city on Monday afternoon. The full album is here.

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Nighttime Temple

December 20, 2011

There’s a Buddhist temple across the street from our dormitory complex, and the giant Buddha that sits there dominates part of our skyline. It’s a very visible landmark here, and I see it every day. However, until recently, I haven’t actually been to the temple. This evening, as the Buddha was lit up, Theo and I figured it would be a good time to visit.

The big Buddha himself. You can see the outline of his lotus flower in his hand. Buddha is often depicted with a halo in many forms of Buddhist art. Most of these aren’t 15 feet in diameter, however.

Big Buddha sits on top of his own small garden shrine. The pot in the center is for burning incense.

Inside the main body of the temple, monks and others pray. You can see the intricate architectural details of the temple from here, as well as the collection of bonsai trees outside the temple. Also Theo!

Vietnamese monks, in their traditional orange robes, lead the chant. You can see regular people inside the temple. I’m not sure whether the females in the blue robes are associated with the temple or not.

Lanterns hang at the entrance of the temple.

Vietnamese folklore, like Chinese folklore, places much importance on the Four Saintly Beasts: the Long (Dragon) and Phượng (Phoenix) are the two most prominent at this temple and sit on the rooftops as well as in major places inside the temple.

Inside, we see the dragon’s glowing eyes and more religious iconography.

A glowing-eyed Phoenix also looks over the proceedings.

In the main shine, Buddha chills with his seven dragon buddies. Of the four saintly beasts, dragons are the most important in Vietnamese mythology. The creation myth of the Vietnamese people has them being the descendents of a dragon and a fairy.

A more pulled-back view of the main part of the temple.

Another glowing-eyed dragon. There are a lot of dragons here.

A large Buddha here is emblazoned with a swastika. Sadly, the swastika was used as a symbol by Nazi Germany and today is viewed by most as a symbol of fascism, racial hatred, and genocide. The swastika was used for thousands of years for many groups as a symbol of good luck and fortune, and is associated with Buddhism in many east Asian countries. The swastika used by the Nazis is a geometric flip of the ones used by Buddhists.

This saintly beast Lân (Qilin) (at least I’m pretty sure its one, he’s got limbs unlike the dragon) isn’t present in the main temple like dragons or phoenixes, but there are plenty of statues of him and the Quy (tortise) around the temple grounds. He also sits on in front of the windows, which you can see here are structured with a swastika pattern.

A look at the tiles on the floor. Tiled floors are really common here in Da Lat: it’s either tiled floor or bare concrete. I can’t remember the last time I saw carpeting.

Well, that’s all for tonight! See you later Buddha! (Full album is here.)


December 14, 2011

We interrupt this lack of updates to bring you this important news:


This horse was wandering about the street this afternoon, with apparently no owner looking after it.


November 18, 2011

One of the things that I haven’t gotten to do a lot of, especially since I’ve gotten busy teaching, is touristy stuff. Sometimes I think that it’s a bit weird that I’ve been living in a foreign city for over two months (!) now and I still haven’t been able to see all of the sites. But that’s the difference between being a tourist and a foreigner living in another country: the tourist has time to travel.

I got my chance to travel around the city a bit when John, the head of our program, and Tom, another board member, visited Da Lat. They were only in town for two days because they had to travel to the other universities our program has teachers at, but while they were here, Theo and I were able to visit some of the local landmarks with them. On Sunday night, we ate at a restaurant downtown that catered to foreigners: I saw more non-Vietnamese people in one place then I had for the last two months. Today we went out into the city to try and see the artwork of the “Crazy Monk”, a monk who lives at a local monastery and produces a prolific amount of artwork. Sadly, the monastery was closed, so we went  to the Crazy House instead.

If I knew more about Vietnamese culture, I’d make a comment about artists being referred to as crazy. The Crazy House, officially named the Hang Nga guesthouse, is a personal art project by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga. Nga wanted to explore the use of more natural forms of architecture and to combine nature and architecture together. Her work on the house has drawn comparisons to Dali and Gaudi, who she cited as an influence.

It’s telling that two bodies of art here in Da Lat, both the Monk’s work and the House, are called “crazy”. There was major opposition to Nga building the Crazy House, and even now it feels like the house is grudgingly accepted against the much more traditional backdrop of Da Lat because of the tourism it brings in. It’s definitely not what you think of when you think of Vietnamese. What the Crazy House reminded me most of was the City Museum in Saint Louis, which worked on making architecture out of the forms that you find in a city (especially out of the trash). Both the City Museum and the Crazy House feature ornate detailing, nontraditional forms, multiple passages, breathtaking views and the simple sense of zest that you get from the idea that a building can be an ongoing art project. There’s little more to say, so I’ll let the pictures (the full album is here) say thousands of more words.

Sometimes, it’s okay to just be a tourist.