First Day of the New Year

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Flag of Vietnam  , Ðồng Tháp,
Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cao Lanh
Our group commences the day by wandering the local lanes. I find a larger canal nearby, along which large fully laden rice grain boats navigate, so I advise the group.
Soon, most of them are positioned on bridges photographing the beautiful golden grain in the early morning light as the boats pass under the bridges.
We bid farewell to our hosts of the home-stay and walk to our own motor boat. During our return to the mainland we cruise through a small local floating market where each boat has attached a sample of its produce it is selling to its masthead stake.
These boats usually load up river and travel down to the market to stay until they have sold all produce. We learn that this may not be the case for all, that some return with produce unsold as they have commitments back home – so therefore they stay only a few days and then travel home for fresh supplies.
The Mekong is flowing fast here, but our boatman is skilled and we navigate in between the moored market boats for a better camera angle.
The group then visits a rice candy factory, where husband and wife plus four daughters produce beautiful candy. I have previously delivered portraits to each of the family, so it is good to return.
We are given displays of how the rice is ‘popped’ in hot sand with an oil additive to prevent the sand from sticking to the rice. This sand, retrieved from the Mekong is black due to the many times in which it has been heated. The popped rice and sand is then sifted to separate sand from rice.
We observe the next part of the process where the toffee-like liquid is heated and mixed, then placed on a flat rack, rolled and cut for packaging. Our group is also shown the making of rice paper and several members are invited to try their hand at spreading the rice liquid onto a hot surface and then gently lifting the wafer thin round rice paper off to then be placed on slats for drying in the sun.
Back on land we are re-united with our main luggage and set off, only to stop within a short distance to visit the Co Dai Temple. This temple is of a religion that embraces Confucism, Buddhism, Christianity and Taoism. Here at the temple four services are held every day – 6:00am, Noon, 6:00pm and Midnight. In this religion women can also be priests.
It is near mid-day and we are invited to witness and photograph the service from the balcony which surrounds three walls of the temple. Obviously the invitation was accepted and cameras clicked away during the service.
 Back on the bus and we set off for Cao Lanh, a city of some size and approximately just over an hour drive from Vin Long. It is a city infrequently visited by tourists for an overnight stay. We check in at our hotel and members of the group head towards the large markets for some photography.
Although there being very few Europeans (we counted five others apart from our group) in the town all are met warmly and the camera shutters work overtime to capture this unique friendly community. Great fun was had by all and certainly some quality images were produced.
A quiet evening followed to complete our first day of 2011.    
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