My last day in Vietnam was Lunar New Year’s Eve. This means that most things were closed or at least closing down a lot earlier than usual and I would have to go to the airport earlier than planned as well. Still, with my flight being only at 1am, it meant I still had the whole morning to explore a little more and a tiny bit of the afternoon. At this point, I was trying really hard to fight off the blues. My two weeks in Vietnam had come to an end and I was about to go back to normal life. And at that point, I didn’t even know what was awaiting in my return to work, and let me just leave with it – it was ugly. But that’s a story for another time.
This time I want to tell you about my last day in Vietnam. Tet’s Eve. I woke up at the same hour as usual (early) even though there wasn’t much for me to do there and I had hours in front of me until my return to the airport. I had a shower, packed and look around my modest room. Nothing left behind, all good. Went out and checked out. Paid. And then my backpack was put into some lockers. And then I sat for breakfast. I had the pancakes with pineapple. I had coffee.
And then I set out on a half-hour walk towards the last thing I needed to visit in Tam Coc, the Bich Dong Pagoda. I was pacing myself. Again, I had the time. The streets were mostly deserted, such an eerie experience. The Vietnamese start their day early, something I had learned in my first days in Hanoi. But that weekend was the most sacred event of the year. Tet. Preparations were taking place in people’s homes. It was a time to be with family, to pray for good fortune, and to see friends. Time to hopefully rip the rewards of so many hard-working days. Time to rest. Time to hope for the best.
The walk there was everything to me that morning. I was struggling with the end-of-vacation blues. I could not believe it was my last day in Vietnam when I was just getting used to the culture, the country, and everything. If I could, I would have stayed at least another week. And then I would have prolonged my stay in South East Asia to explore other countries, as a lot of the travellers I encountered along the day were doing. I envied them.
There is something about big national celebrations that reverberates through the air, and I found that the whole Lunar New Year thing was affecting me too, even though my New Year blues had just happened almost 3 weeks back. And on that walk, looking over the rice fields and the beautiful limestone mountains I had this sudden desire to just scream. Scream to the empty landscape. Of course, I didn’t. I would feel disrespectful, especially at a time when the locals were finding peace and joy in their own homes. Having a foreigner screaming at the mountains like a mad person is something else. So I didn’t scream. Instead, I gave ten deep breaths. And then I looked around me and I simply stood there, taking it all in, way too aware of that being the last time I was in Vietnam at least for a while. The last time I’d be in front of something so naturally beautiful, so majestic. The last time in a while I was feeling so small, and so insignificant. The last time I was feeling free, in a while.
I mean just look at this place. Isn’t it something else?
The pagoda is nestled between the mountains, and surrounded by dense greenery. when I visited, there was no one else around. As I was going in, some tourists were leaving, which intensified that sense of eeriness I had already been feeling. In fact, Bich Dong means Emerald Green Grotto, named this way precisely of its surroundings. The pagoda was built in 1428 under the reign of Ly Thai To. It was rediscovered in 1705 by two Buddhist monks. They found the place covered in vines and vegetation. So they started the rebuild.
It was partially closed when I visited, likely because of the celebrations or perhaps due to renovation work. There was literally no one around I could ask. But it was so peaceful in there that I was almost grateful this was officially the last attraction I got to see and spend time on in Vietnam.
One thought on “Last Day in Vietnam – a peaceful walk in Tam Coc & magical Bich Cong Pagoda”
Looks fantastic. I’m going there with my son (15) in a few weeks. We’re looking forward to it.