In late January to mid February 2008, 34 APS members and non-members toured Viet Nam and Cambodia as part of the International Professional Development Program.
The tour started in Ha Noi in northern Viet Nam. The weather was very cold, getting down to 5°C. Primary school children are exempt from school when the temperature is 10ºC and below, secondary school students when the temperature is 8ºC and below, as there is no heating in schools.
We visited the Institute of Psychology and met with their staff and students. They were very keen to discuss psychology with our group, and fortunately many of them were able to converse with us in English. The Director, Professor Vu Dung, had visited the APS a couple of years ago and at the time had presented the APS with a stunning mosaic landscape of Viet Nam made up of coloured egg shells.
Our tour started with a visit by Cyclo tour across the city (see photo). We visited the One Pillar Pagoda, the Temple of Literature – Quoc Tu Giam, Hoan Kiem Lake, then paid an afternoon visit to the Ethnological Museum. The evening was reserved for the world famous Water Puppet Show.
Many of Viet Nam’s buildings were slowly being restored, some with donations from foreign organisations.
From Ha Noi, we travelled to Ha Long Bay where we had a seven-hour boat trip visiting various caves and grottoes. We had seafood for lunch while viewing this spectacular bay. That night we slept on the junk.
Back to Ha Noi, then to Hoa Lu, considered the Bay of “Halong Bay in land”. Again, we were treated to spectacular scenery. We then flew to Hue and on the following day took a bus trip to visit Khai Dinh royal tomb.
We saw skilled craftspeople making conical hats and carving wood sculptures. We visited the Garden House, the garden of which has been styled using feng shui, and had the privilege of meeting Mr An who was married to the last Emperor’s sister. This was followed by another boat trip to visit Thien Mu Pagoda and Tu Duc tomb.
In Da Nang on Monday 4 February, we visited a marble, onyx and alabaster factory, specialising in sculpture. Off to Hoi An to see the Japanese Covered Bridge, Tan Ky Old house, Chinese Assembly Hall. Phuc Kien Pagoda, Hoi An Museum and Market.
Next off to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). We visited the Catholic Cathedral, Notre Dame noted for the statue of Mary, reputed to have shed tears in 2005. Later we visited the Reunification Palace, Post Office, Thien Hau Temple, and China Town. Wednesday 6 February was Lunar New Year’s Eve (TET) with many celebrations in the city. Huge crowds gathered, there was music, fireworks, food - a wonderful celebration. Next day we drove southward to the Mekong delta and took a boat trip to MyTho through tiny canals and quiet villages, finally visiting the Vinh Tang Pagoda. We then visited the Cu Chi tunnel complex used by the North Vietnamese soldiers. Many of us went through the tunnels.
Tay Ninh Temple at right. Caodaism (Dai Dao Tam Ky Pho Do, or Third Great Universal Religious Amnesty) is a syncretic religion that had its beginnings in Vietnam, then part of French Indo-China, in the 1920s. Its founder, Ngo Minh Chieu (or Ngo Van Chieu), was a French civil servant and was also a mystic who was well-versed in western and eastern religions. In 1919 he began receiving revelations about the truth of religions from God (Caodai) that told him to combine the teachings of Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam and other religions into one religion to promote peace. In 1926 he revealed his seances to the public as a new belief system. It soon became quite popular.
There are a number of important figures in the Cao Dai pantheon. The major saints are Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen, the 19c French writer Victor Hugo and the 16c Vietnamese poet Nguyen Binh Khiem. Lesser dignitaries who have manifested themselves in seances include notables such as Joan of Arc, Descartes, V. I. Lenin, William Shakespeare, and Winston Churchill. The organizational structure roughly follows that of the Roman Catholic Church with a pope, cardinals, bishops and priests. There are several million practicioners in (mostly southern) Vietnam and perhaps over a thousand temples, mostly in the Mekong delta. There are also practicioners in the west, though these are primarily in the expatriate Vietnamese communities. Saturday 9 February Many of us took the opportunity to explore Ho Chi Minh city. The War Remnants Museum was particularly poignant if not grisly. Sunday 10 February A small number of the group flew home to Australia, the rest went on to Cambodia for the next week.
Professional Development activities included:
We took home souvenirs, friendships, networking invitations and a host of wonderful memories.