i had written this on the night of arriving at Kieu Dam temple. we were to stay another night but our plans had to be changed. i hope to return there and spend a couple of days with the children there as well as the wonderful people who run the temple before i leave the country during this trip.
So I have wondering for a long time what it would be like to be at a monastery and here I am. Chua (temple) Kieu Dam is a temple/monastery about 70km to the east of Saigon on the way to Vung Tau. We arrived here about an hour ago. It is dark. The air is pungent and sweet in parts from the rain. The night is alive with life. Sounds of insects, birds and toads are a symphony beneath the unspoiled sky. The rain has lifted and there are bits of inky sky dotted with glittering stars upon the earth's ceiling. One of the benefits of being in a third world country, especially out of the city is the lack of light pollution.
Coming through the temple gates, the first thing I saw was a glimpse of the altar hall. It was lit inside and what I saw was very beautiful. The setting of the foliage grounds was a little like being on a forest path and serendipitously finding a thing of wonder behind a wall of trees. I have yet to go inside that building. That is to be saved for the early morning chant. I understand that begins at four AM. When I asked what time I ought to get up for that, I was told that I would hear the summoning bells and drums. Quyen tells me it is not something to be missed if you have never experienced it before. Surely I will not miss it.
The quarters I've been given are spartan and serene. It is a cottage about four meters wide and 10 meters long divided into two rooms. At the front room there is an altar for prayer and meditation, in the back room there is a sleeping platform (no mattress here, a wooden deck topped with a straw mat and a blanket) and cubicle where the toilet is and also a back door. There is no glazing here. In this humidity the doors are shuttered and the windows have scroll ironwork with outside storm shutters. The only thing between you and the mosquitoes is a gossamer veil dropped down and tucked under at the edges of the straw mat. The floor is tile and swept incredibly clean. This is one thing one notices in the details of daily life here. Even in the poorest of houses, the floors are always kept as clean as possible and shoes stay outside. If you don't walk barefoot inside then you have a strictly indoors pair of slippers. It is an important detail, especially on hot days there is nothing quite so pleasant as a cool tile floor to relax on - forget the chair or the couch.
I joked with Ivy and Quyen earlier that if you didn't know you were at a temple, the grounds, the buildings and layout of this place has the feel of a tropical resort. I will leave it to the pictures to tell that part of the story. It has settled down here and I think most are asleep. The only sounds outside are the crickets and the occasional toad. If I close my eyes, I could be in a tent in the middle of the tropical forest. 10.82 latitude north and 106.2 longitude. This is the place where sunlight rests.