Vinh Long - New Years Eve
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Our group climb aboard our bus, with sleep still in our eyes. It is dark outside the bus for it is 5:00am in the morning. As we travel the road towards the Chau Co Temple the sky lightens and with a tinge of red glow the dawn breaks. It is to be a fine warm day here in the Mekong.
Traffic begins to grow in numbers as we see many women on motor cycles heading in our same direction. The number of people increases and the road becomes packed with motor cycles and people. We come across small stalls on the side of the road selling breakfast and thick black coffee in small plastic bags with a straw from the top of the bag. We start to see a mass of cycles approaching from the other direction. This mass of cycles and people are heading for the same location
We are at a clothing manufacturing factory and the locals are starting work and it is still not 6:00am.
The crowds thin and after an hour travel from our hotel, we arrive at the temple.
We are greeted by my friend from the ferry the day before and he directs us to the lagoons where Stork, Ibis and a mass of Cormorants are stirring for their morning search of food.
Our group attempts to capture the flight of these birds, practising their photographic skills in low light whilst still requiring fast shutter speeds to ensure sharp focus.
My friend invites us to another area and after meeting with the leading monk of the temple we start to wander around the complex searching for the illusive photo composition and subject. We witness workers moulding concrete motifs to be attached to the walls of the new temple under construction. We meet a lady at the front of her house located just outside the temple grounds. She invites some of our group into her home to share with her 'tea'.
Other members of the group spot workers in the nearby fields harvesting rice and the men carrying huge bundles of cut rice and stalks on their shoulders to a central point in the fields.
We approach and with some quick sign language and gesture we are in amongst them photographing them at their work
Well as close as possible, because both men and women are working in water up to at least their calves. With the low angle of the sun and with positioning ourselves well, the group are getting some great photos of both the men and the women harvesting the rice. We all spend quite a time here trying different angles, settings etc.
Returning back to the temple grounds, my monk friend (who is a teacher in the complex) invites the group into his class room to photograph his student monks at their learning. We share tea and bananas with the head monk before departing to return to our hotel at Vinh Long, for quick shower in readiness for the next stage of our tour – by road to Vinh Long.
It is the 31st December and tonight we are at a Vietnamese home-stay, so we stop at a supermarket to purchase wine for New Years Eve – Jacobs Creek Chardonnay, bubbly and Bin444 Cab Sav for a grand total of 1,840,000 dong - six bottles of wine for the group.
Then we move onto the famous Vinh Long riverside markets. Once again I note the upgrading of the market buildings. However the same fresh produce including livestock, seafood (alive and dried), frogs, vegetables, flowers, spices and a wide variety of snakes etc remain for sale.
From the markets we move to a small motor boat, now only carrying our photography equipment, our wine and a few clothes for the night placed into plastic bags
We travel to the island of Binh Hoa Phuoc for our night of home-stay. I have visited this home before for lunches during previous tours, so when I once again meet the owner and make mention of this and that I had listened to one of the local Vietnamese folk bands play at his premises.
I am quickly informed that he will arrange this once again to help celebrate the coming of our new year.
An enjoyable lunch is had by the group and each is then left to relax or wander the island’s narrow walkways and roads looking for more photo opportunities.
In the evening, we listen to the local folk band perform and then dinner appears. It is consumed and we discuss photography with a lesson to the group on Depth of Field and talk on the correlation of lens, aperture, shutter and ISO.
Just before our Australian mid night (9:00pm Vietnam time) the owner produces a bottle of home-brew fruit Whiskey and insists that we shall finish the bottle with him and our guide before retiring.
Our group bids farewell to the year 2010 and celebrates the commencement of 2011.