On Monday we arrived in the garden city of Da Lat, located in the mountains of central Vietnam. As we walked the Da Lat flower garden by the lake, we enjoyed the beautiful flowers. We visited the Cao Dai Temple which was built in 2005-2010 and were welcomed by several of the leaders who shared that 500 worshippers gather here 4 times per day for worship.
We toured the Summer Palace of the last Emperor, King Bao Dai, who transferred power in September 1945. The transfer of power was without bloodshed and was negotiated by five persons from Saigon. The transfer included the official stamp from the King and the handing over of his sword.
Tuesday was our drive from Da Lat to Ho Chi Minh City. What a spectacular drive! We saw tea and coffee farms. Vietnam is the #2 coffee producer in the world. We stopped at a local roadside restaurant for a break. We were pleased to see her family’s coffee to sell roasted and ground.
As we drove we observed pepper plants, cashew trees, jackfruit, citrus and bananas growing. It became obvious that this is a very productive agricultural area. We enjoy watching how they use their motor bikes to transport their produce to market.
As we approached Ho Chi Minh City it became obvious it has more wealth and has a stronger Western presence. It is the largest city in Vietnam with a population of over 11 million. It is the economic capital of Vietnam.
Wednesday, November 30 was our day to visit the Mekong Delta. We saw many rice fields on our drive to the Delta. Sang, our guide, told us that Vietnam annually exports more than 5 million tons of rice. China and South Africa are the main customers for the rice. The Mekong River flows from China through Thailand and Cambodia to Vietnam, a total of 4,440 km.
We enjoyed our tour of the floating market. We are told that 2.5 million people live on boats on the river. Our guide told us every boat has eyes. If the eyes are wide it is welcoming and friendly. However, they can be stern or non-welcoming. You need to look at the eyes.
This morning we participated in the quadrennial conference of the Vietnam Mennonite Church. The theme of the Conference was Ephesians 4:3, “Making every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”
We particularly enjoyed the choirs from the different regions of the country. This conference is of the registered Mennonite church, 93 congregations, with a membership of approximately 10,000 members. Luke informed us that there is equally as large a group of non-registered Mennonites. There is a desire for the non-registered Mennonites to join the registered body.
This afternoon we stopped at a rubber plantation. Workers cut the tree and collect the white sap every day between 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Michelin has a tire manufacturing plant in Vietnam.
We also visited a workshop for handicapped persons, many of whom are victims of Agent Orange. We were impressed with their work. There was wonderful art made with egg shells. ( PHOTO- 7 Handicap workshop).
In the Cu Chi area we visited the park commemorating the nationalist Viet Cong forces and their dedication to rid the country of the US Military forces. Lynford Miller was impressed that Bertha Klassen and Ruth Martin joined the group that toured a section of the tunnels. He bruised his head because of the low height. Bertha said, “you should have crawled as I did.”
We have learned so much in Vietnam.
– Wilmer Martin