Solo travelling

7-13th of August – HCMC before being offline in Buddhist temple

Ho Chi Minh city

Right at the moment I separated from my aunt and her family I headed to Ho Chi Minh city by myself. I got one of the most ridiculous delay ever in my life. I flew with Jetstar and before my flight there was another one that left from the same gate, also Jetstar, also to Ho Chi Minh city. The difference was the flight number. The flight before mine was delayed to the time I supposed to board. I literally watched the airplane flying to HCMC, with the same airline and from the same gate at the time I supposed to fly, but no I had to stay and wait for another 1 hour before I could board.

So ridiculous. Whatever, I arrived to HCMC at 11pm. Waiting for my backpack to come out, it took me another 30 minutes. Luckily my aunt contacted his friend so he came out to take me to the hostel. It was lucky he came out for me because I would be lost at the airport not knowing how to call xe om (motorbike taxi) in the middle of the night. I arrived to the hostel at 1am. Luckily the host still opened the door for me. Took a quick shower then headed to the bed.

The next day I went nowhere. I didn’t even have an appetite to eat. For the last 10 days I did nothing but eat, eat and sleep. I really needed a diet not eating anything. I only went to the grocery store and got triangle kimbap (same that in Korea), plus drink water. I wanted to do laundry, but washing and drying would be 40.000 VND (~2 USD) and to me this amount sounded too much since I didn’t have too much clothes. Of course it wasn’t expensive but the number of 40.000 just sound too much for me. Psychological thing.

I stayed in the hostel for the whole day. One reason was because my aunt said nothing but scary stealing cases in HCMC so I was afraid of going out. The other reason was that I had to write. I was late for my writing.

Then in the evening my friend got off work so we met. We went to Bitexco, a skyscraper and had a drink up there and enjoyed the nightview of HCMC. As we talked it turned out HCMC wasn’t as dangerous as people said. My friend lived there for two years and she didn’t experience anything dangerous. Of course I’m not saying you can hang around anywhere, anytime. But with a caution like not staying outside at late night, not going to places where there is not a lot of people, then things will be alright. Similar to any other country’s big city.

Living in the moment in the Buddhist temple

I got home, then the next day I woke up early to go to the Buddhist temple. Over there one of the monk took me to a bigger temple in the village called Mong Tho. We went by a sleeping bus operated by Thien Thanh company which even had separate cabin. The price was 280.000 VND. The road was around 4-5 hours. I loved the scene of the village where the streets were full of green trees and river.

When we arrived I had to cross the river by boat. I was terrified as I was afraid my laptop might fell into the water. But nothing happened. The main temple were still in construction. It was the end of a 3-month temple stay course where more than 40 people participated. 2 days after my arrival everyone left.

I shared a room with two women. They helped me to integrate in the temple life. From here I decided not to use my phone, so I mainly left it in the room. To be honest I didn’t really need the phone either.

Routine in the temple

  • 3:30 am: the day started and everyone had to wake up.
  • 4 am: a praying session that followed by a meditation.
  • Until 7am: they cleaned the yard and their room.
  • 7 am: breakfast. Before eating we had to pray to express our gratitude for having food.
  • 8 am: teaching lecture.
  • 9:30 am: another praying session.
  • 11 am: lunch.
  • Until 1:30pm: taking a nap.
  • 2pm: another praying session.
  • 4:45pm: dinner.
  • 5:30 they gathered and at 6:30 another praying session came that followed by a meditation.
  • 9pm: sleeping time.

I couldn’t take this routine as I arrived pretty late. But I imagined this would be a healthy daily routine as they woke up early but also slept early. During the day they mainly prayed, listen to lecture and cleaned their room. There was also a staying silent day, when for the whole day they couldn’t speak. I think that would be amazing to participate in a temple stay like this.

The next day they were preparing for Vu Lan, respecting our parents day. I will write about this celebration in a later post.

2 days after my arrival was the Vu Lan and also the last day of the participants. Everyone left home. And it was so silent. There was nobody and I got the whole room to myself. But of course it was also more boring. After Vu Lan the monks couldn’t go anywhere. This is part of the ritual. So no one could take me anywhere. The master asked the sister of the monk, who took me to Mong Tho, to take me to Rach Gia, the city nearby. She came for me with 2 of her friends. They took me on a quick tour around the city and we even ate vegetarian hot pot. Of course in the temple you eat vegetarian food. To be honest it was so delicious that after I didn’t even want to eat meat.

We went on a tour around the city by motorbike. I only liked sitting on the motorbike as it was nice to feel the breeze. I had to arrive home early so I got back at 9pm. I was really surprised that many kids were sent to the temple to stay for few months or even few years. Whatever, you could feel who stayed there as there vibe is different.

I couldn’t ride a motorbike so I couldn’t go out either. That meant I stayed in the temple for the whole time. It was an easy life as I had food and only needed to help with easy task.

Living without phone

At the same time I was so bored that on the first day after Vu Lan, I picked up trash around the temple. I was frustrated because you expect people to be civil and not throwing trash around the temple. But no. People threw their trash like nothing. It took me almost 2 hours to pick up trash at the half of the territory of the temple. Filled 1,5 trash bag. Then when I felt bored I swept and mopped the floor.

The good thing was that even if there was nothing to do I didn’t feel the need of reaching my phone. I didn’t really care about what happened on social media. And if I didn’t care about it, I didn’t need it at all.

However, I was so bored that I decided to leave earlier than planned, so I had to text another Buddhist master to meet him. That meant a day I still needed to turn on mobile net like 3 times to check his messages. It lasted less than 1 minute each time.

On my last day before leaving I asked one of the monk to take me to the bookshop. I wanted to buy some books. That way he also took me around the city once again. We crossed a real, natural village where the road was full of only trees and the houses were very small. Some was even made of bamboo and leaves. It was wild and nature but I really liked it. However, I couldn’t imagine myself living there, it would be another story.

We crossed the rice field and a red flower field as well. All were very beautiful and you could feel the simplicity. As is this much was enough for our life. There was nothing complicated only the nature and people who did farming. I think if I want a real simple life in the nature I would live there.

Since I decided not to take photos, I enjoyed the scene in the present moment. The feeling was way different. It wasn’t about taking the best and hundreds of picture that resulted in not being able to bring up the feeling and what I exactly saw there. It was about living in the moment and feel the hot but breezy weather, with the nice smell of nature and capture the green rice field with blue sky and the simple houses. That was something I missed while running from places to places. The feel of the moment.

Many people would say it was impossible to live without the phone and the nice pictures taken in nice clothes. But many years ago there weren’t phones or camera. Still people could recall their moments precisely and could enjoy it wholeheartedly with their friends. But nowadays everything is about nice picture to post on social media. However they had no feeling about things around them. They only care about showing off.

I had the same feeling and it wore me out. I felt much easier and better during this 6 days as I didn’t have to check my phone and take it out everytime I saw something beautiful. My mind felt free as I didn’t have an urge to see what happened to whom. I didn’t have to prove myself where I was and what I saw and did. As a blogger this might not be the right attitude but it is a way not to stress myself. I learnt how to take things easily and enjoy what I could. After all that is what life about.

We, human forgot why telephone and social media were invented. It was invented for us to reach each other easier and quicker. It is for us to keep contact. But instead of keeping contact we drift apart from each other because of the phone. We think we keep in touch with each other because we like each others photos, and we text each other. But no. That is not keeping contact. Because the moment we meet in person, we do nothing but watch our phones.

We should think again where to put our phones when we meet our friends or gather together. Phone is for us to keep in touch not for us to drift apart. Know when and where to use it, so it will be on our side to help us.

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