TRAVEL PURSUITS – Vietnam, hmmm?

I (Gary Schoepfel) am afflicted with an advanced case of wanderlust. So, when Ann Kirkland mentioned Vietnam, I found myself accepting before she completed her invitation to accompany another Classical Pursuit’s trip. “Of course, of course” was my immediate and enthusiastic response.

After accepting, I took pause. “Vietnam.” Hmmm? The word had a Rorschach-like effect on me. The images, memories, and emotions that sprung up were not unique. You could easily guess what they were. Not a moment of regret but, rather, the discovery that I really knew and understood little about the country itself.

My preparation for this trip has made me realize my good fortune. Vietnam is a rich and complex mix of wonders and oppositions. This journey to Southeast
Asia holds out much promise for a stimulating, informative, and delicious adventure.

• Geography: Vietnam has a beautiful and diverse landscape—extensive eastern coastline, northern mountains, rivers and deltas, fertile plateaus—that has played a vital role in shaping the world view, religions, arts, and politics of its people.

• Culture: The country’s core cultural values rest on the Confucian model of family and filial duty. Foreign influences, especially Chinese and French, are everywhere, especially in the architecture, language, and cuisine.

• Religion: Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism are the prominent religious traditions, but Islam, Hinduism, and Catholicism all have a following in Vietnam. Cao Dai or Caodaism is a Vietnamese religion that was founded in the early 1920s by Ngo Van Chieu. It brings together aspects of Confucianism, Taoism, theories of karma and rebirth from Buddhism, and a hierarchy much like the Roman Catholic Church.

 Peoples: Vietnam is home to a diverse mix of more than 54 ethnic groups. The traditional structure of Vietnamese society has always been hierarchical and patriarchal.

• Worldview:  The traditional Vietnamese worldview is based on a balance of two opposite primordial forces, yin and yang. Everything from the body to the family through the state is influenced by the balance of these forces.

When I travel to a country I am most interested in learning about the soul of the nation and the heart of its people.

I hope you will join Ann and me and other fellow sufferers for VIETNAM VOICES: A BALANCED OPPOSITION, October 29 – November 12, 2012 (14 nights). I have found wonderfully rich readings. We believe in truth in advertising. Your wanderlust is incurable, but we do guarantee a thoroughly pleasant remission.

Vietnam: A Traveler’s Literary Companion, 17 stories, from contemporary Vietnamese writers living in Vietnam and abroad.
Spring Essence by Xo Ho Xuan Huong, whose name translates as “Spring Essence. She is one of the most important and popular poets in Vietnam. A concubine, she became renowned for her poetic skills, writing subtly risqué poems which used double entendre and sexual innuendo as a vehicle for social, religious, and political commentary.

Understanding Vietnam by Neil I. Jamieson – this book is highly recommended background reading but will not be discussed.


PS  Did I forget to mention our Mekong River cruise to Angkor Wat, Cambodia? The Mekong is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful rivers. Discovering the cities, towns and temples along its shores aboard a small and deluxe, newly built replica of a colonial river steamer will be an unforgettable experience. As we travel through the delta and head north, the river becomes quieter, the night the sky is wonderfully dark, and the smell of incense from temples is apt to waft over the upper deck. The magnificent temples of Angkor Wat await. Read more about Pandaw River Expeditions.



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