Day 28-29: Ninh Binh

By Megan Kroeker.          Goodbye Hanoi! Yesterday we began with a 2.5 hour drive to the Phat Diem Cathedral. I was expecting the traditional European-style cathedral that somehow happens to look exactly the same no matter where you are in the world. This was not the case. The most impressive features of this cathedral included a large man-made lake with a Jesus-island in the middle, a 2-ton bell which was in the third story of a tower (keep in mind no machines were used to do this), and the huge iron-wood support beams used in each building. The most interesting part of this specific cathedral was the incorporation of local culture with traditional catholic symbols. Specifically, there was a picture etched in the stone of a series of lotus flowers. It was a cycle of life, death, and rebirth which is used in Christianity with earthly life, death, and rebirth in Christ. They also had the gospel writers sitting in lotus positions on top of the roof. The priest who instructed the building of this cathedral was Father Six. When the church started there were 2000 Catholics in the area. By the time he died there were 10,000!     Later in the afternoon, we went to the river to see the on-land version of HaLong Bay. We hopped on these little boats and were rowed down the EXTREMELY hot and sunny river to some gorgeous views and fascinating caves. One cave was 1,000 meters long! We all had fun seeing skull island from Kong Skull Island and feeling like a part of pirates of the Caribbean.        Today (June 29) we woke up a little earlier than usual (as an attempt beat the heat) and went to the largest Buddhist complex in Vietnam. The most interesting thing about this complex was that the architecture was extremely similar to the catholic cathedral that we saw yesterday. They had the same iron wood pillars, square shaped pond, large bells, and the same color scheme as each other. Another interesting feature was the sheer number of Buddha statues there were. Definitely well over 1000 (I heard something about 10,000 but that may have been Tony exaggerating).      The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. We ate some more goat (a staple of every meal in this region), went to a shopping mall (mom & dad, if you are still expecting a good souvenir please transfer money into my account :)), and finally got on our flight to Hue. Northern Vietnam has been fun but we are all hoping for a little less humidity. By this time we are all counting down the days til the end of the trip (both with excitement and sorrow). Keep praying for our stomachs!!!

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