St. Jacob’s Market, St. Jacob, Ontario


It was a most beautiful day for my first trip to St. Jacob’s Market. It made for a nice break from our Belly Monster rampage, in which we hit up 9 different food destinations in 12 hours.


St. Jacob’s Market is Canada’s largest year round Farmer’s Market. In reality, it’s like a farmer’s market, food market, and flea market, all rolled into one beautiful package. interior

There was an outdoor farmer’s market AND an indoor one, where all of the butchers were.fritters

We came to walk around, and many were telling us that we MUST try the apple fritters, and try we did. We purchased half a dozen fritters, as well as this fritter special — two apple fritters, vanilla ice cream, and caramel sauce. Soft, sweet, creamy, hot, and cold, all rolled into one most magnificent package.

popcornSt. Jacob’s, Ontario is probably the cutest quaint little town you’ve ever seen. Its countrysides are farmed by a population of Old Order Mennonites, and on the way out of the market, we even saw a horse running full-speed on the side of the road, pulling a carriage. It was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen, straight out of a Lurlene McDaniel novel.



A-T-L baby!

Yes! We took a trip down to Atlanta, Georgia and it was ah~mazing. I was going to put everything into one huge long post, but that looked like it was going to become a post way too long for anyone’s attention span, so if you’re looking for food pictures, that will be up in a couple days. So make sure to refresh my page every hour on the hour.

In this post, I recap every tourist-y think we did. We bought a 69$ CityPass that allowed us entrance to 5 of 7 of Atlanta’s tourist attractions.

Numba 1! The entire reason I started planning a trip down to Georgia since last year. The world’s biggest aquarium (though Toronto is saying they are currently building the new world’s biggest aquarium) located downtown Atlanta. I love aquariums. For my 19th birthday, we roadtripped to Quebec City and l’Aquarium du Quebec and I fell in love with the tanks and the fish and the jelly fish and the entire atmosphere of aquarium life. As an aside, I also love zoos, safaris, biodomes, and pet stores. After my first aquarium experience, I just knew that I had to go big or go home, and thus was born this trip to the Georgia Aquarium. Our citypass even allowed us free tickets to the 30-minute dolphin show that showcased dolphin flips, skips, and divers surfing on dolphin noses.

This water tunnel was amazing. The tank itself is a 6.3 million gallon habitat exhibit, wholly earning the title of world’s biggest. This tunnel is 100 feet long and allows you to walk underneath the tank while the fish swim above you. There is this huge whale shark that passes by every so often and reminds me to not get lost in the ocean ever because, damn nature is scary SON. On the left side of the tunnel, there’s a moving sidewalk that moves quite slowly. We did want to go through the tunnel at our own pace so we stayed on the right. However, the place was fully crowded, we were there on a Saturday after all. As much as I would like to say that it was calm and peaceful, it was not the case. It was loud with lots of excited children (myself included) and lots of oohs and aahs, which I fully enjoyed! I could stay in this place forever. I’m going to turn my house into a giant fish tank save for one small tunnel in the basement where I’ll spend all my time eating, sleeping, and watching fish.

The quiet area for watching the same fish is at the picture above where you see all the people standing in front of the rectangular viewing area. There, it was calm and quiet, with places to sit and just watch the aquarium life swim by.

Here’s a video I took while walking through the tunnel, there’s the huge whale shark seen briefly at the beginning, and then a giant fish, and then a super cool sawface shark (which the internet tells me is called a Sawshark. Should have seen that coming.)!

The aquarium building itself was gigantic, with so many different tunnels and areas with different exhibits. We were there for probably about 3 hours (not including the dolphin show) and we didn’t even get to see all the exhibits, missing two of them. Piranhas are damn creepy. They don’t swim. They just kind of stay floating, very stationary in the water, kind of like how a hummingbird hovers in one place. The piranha tank looked like a bunch of plastic fish tied in place. Too eerie!

Sea dragons (top right) are an animal that I didn’t even know existed. They are like mutant sea horses. Or sea horses that made babies with fairies. They swam very majestically.

At the bottom left, there are some giant deep sea crabs (Japanese Spider Crabs) who’s leg span can reach up to 12 ft! That’s almost two Shaquille O’Neals. They’re the largest living anthropod, and can live to 100 years. I LOVE ANIMALS.

And on the bottom right is a penguin. There were a few that were very intent on trying to capture a girl’s shiny necklace and kept chasing her around. They were very difficult to capture with the camera. It is very fitting that they are boyfriend’s favourite animal because they’re both quite awkward on land and easily amused.

Continuing with the animal theme, we also trekked out to the Atlanta Zoo! It is like any other zoo I’ve been too, but I always love seeing the animals. This was the first time I’d ever seen a panda though and they were beyond adorable, just like how the media makes them out to be. Two of them were snoozing awkwardly in the tree branches, and then there was the one that was just sitting on the ground with a bunch of leaves in his face and was just munch-munch-munching away.

Another funny sight were the two bush dogs in their exhibit. There was this pit in the middle of it with some large logs and branches at the bottom, so these two take it upon themselves to open their jaws terrifyingly wide and using very impressive teamwork to get those longs out of the pit! And then throw them back in. And then dragging them back out again. They were too adorable.

The zoo has a train that takes you around the kid’s animals area that had a petting zoo AND kangaroos. What else could you ask for. There’s even a rock-climbing wall, but I didn’t do it because, girl, I had just gotten ma nails did.

The World of Coca Cola was so much fun! Although the whole thing felt a little propaganda-y, I had fun anyway, because I grew up preferring Coke over Pepsi and I fully accept our Coke overlords when they rise to power. They have a lot of Coke memorabilia a really fun 4D movie. They then played this really cool video that made me enjoy being brainwashed.

We even found our lovers from Coca Cola’s past!

In addition to these three places we also went to the “Inside CNN” tour which was pretty boring and I would have much preferred to go to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, but perhaps that can happen next time we get down there because I would love to go back. I loved the city (aside from walking up and down the hills between our hotel and the main downtown area), I love the southern hospitality, everyone’s accents, hell, even the beggars were really nice. And the food. Oh my, stay tuned for the food.

Also, all the pictures above get bigger if you click on them. So click on them if you want a face full of POW WOAH WOAH WOAH.

New York Made Me Famous

So, this is going to be a pretty image-laden post, but bear with me, I only had a partial real day in New York City. By the time we arrived in the city the morning before, we stood in line all day, and immediately after the event, at around 11/12 at night, we went to check into our hotel, because driving all night and standing in the heat all day, and just the excitement of it all, it gets to be pretty tiring.

We stayed at the Belnord Hotel at 209 W 87th, which is really just a few blocks from Central Park. It’s a rather nice area, and it was perfect for what we needed it for. It was just me and my brother, and since it’s illegal to park and sleep in your car, we tried to find a hotel that was reasonably priced as well as being on the island so that we wouldn’t have to travel too far for our tourist day.

The place was gorgeous inside, very posh and swanky. When you walk into the lobby, it’s hard to imagine that it was only 89$ a night. It came up to 101$ after tax, and split between the two of us, it was really only 50$ each, as I’m sure you can do that math. Although, the more expensive part was parking. We parked at an underground place on the next street for about 16 hours and it ran us about 43$ in all, with a few dollars here and there for tips. Now, there’s a reason that this place is so cheap, for its location and whatnot.

This place was tiny and borderline claustrophobic. The pictures don’t really do it much justice. The hallway was wide enough to probably fit two of me in shoulder-to-shoulder, and the two of me’s would be touching the walls at both sides. An obese person would not be able to walk through here without grazing both sides of the wall. The bed was literally a foot away from each wall.

That being said, it was still very very nice inside. For the price, I was expecting motel-standards, but I felt so posh in here. It was exactly what we were looking for, I mean, we were just passing out there for 10 hours, and then off to see the city anyway. We weren’t going to spend copious amounts of time lounging in there. That, and free wi-fi, which is nice. I racked up quite a hefty phone bill due to my addiction to technology, social networking, and staying connected. Always had to tweet, me, and I paid for it. But I digress, it was nice to bunker down for a night and not have to pay with my first born. I was expecting having to pull our 2-300$ to stay a night. Thank goodness for the internet.

We checked out of the hotel at around 10AM to go about doing tourist-y things. For breakfast, we stopped off at Hot and Crusty, a bagel-y cafe-y place on Broadway and W 88th, and we had this chicken fajita panini. It was deliciously crispy and the fries, oh my, the fries. I’m not a fan of fries, but these ones were so golden and crispy on the outside, yet potato-y on the inside. Hot, warm, delicious. I think this ran us about 4$, which was amazing. I had always assumed New York to be so supremely expensive but this was not the case at all.

So, the only reason my brother came to New York City with me was to go shopping. We cabbed down from our hotel to go to Times Square and do some shopping. I wouldn’t say it was overwhelming, or crazy, or anything, but it was exactly what I expected it would be from what I see in pictures and movies and all that world-wide media stuff. It was loud, garish, and crowded.

We also walked over to do a little shopping on 5th Ave, I know, typical tourist stuff. I had the unfortunate displeasure of allowing myself to be dragged into the Abercrombie & Fitch store, which I can tell you is like that episode of the Magic School Bus, where Mrs. Frizzle shrinks everyone to go into one of the boys’ bodies while he’s sick to help fight the infection. Except instead of going into a sick boy’s body, we walked into the embodiment of the world’s biggest douchebag. Unss-unss-unss-unss. The music was loud and aggravating, and the moderately good-looking people working there, dressed top to bottom in A&F stomped around the floor in an attempt to stay in beat with the music. No, really, there was this tall blonde girl standing in the corner, saying hi to people coming in, and awkwardly moving herself to the beat. Worst job ever. On top of that, I already had a sore coughy throat, and the heavy scent in the air only aggravated it. Honestly, why would your store need that much douche-musk in the air? It doesn’t drive the girlies wild, boys. That, coupled with the fact that there was absolutely no ventilation in the store probably makes for a huge safety and security risk. I mean, imagine if there was just one spark of a flame, it would catch on all the gasses in the air and BOOM. The whole place would go up in flames, not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. There’s still the online store for all your A&F shopping needs.


It was rainy, which brought the whole thing down to a less surrealistic level.

Im soo good-looking that the New Yorkers simply HAD to have my face on a billboard. I brought my brother along in my fame lest he feel excluded.

A teeny tiny cop car.

These are simply the best nuts that Ive ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth.

A deliciously spicy chicken gyro that my brother got. Had a slight hint of curry powder in it. Very yummy. Me, on the other hand, made the disastrous decision of getting a knish, trying to be all adventurous and ordering something that I didnt recognize. Grosss. It was like a giant perogie, that should have been delicious, but it tasted all stale and rotten. Blargh. Maybe someone will someday change my mind on them by making a good one, but that was a misadventure that cost me 3$.

Whats this? An indoor ferris wheel???

And of course, the Canadian thing to do was to visit Tim Hortons while in the States. No one makes green tea quite like Timmy hos.

Not in Times Square, but still a cool storefront.

Walked past people of all shapes and sizes. ALL shapes and sizes.

I was surprised by the architecture in New York, especially in the residential districts. So fancy fancy. It had a Victorian-Neogothic feel to it, with the intricate moldings and large windows. So I went creep-mode and took pictures of peoples’ homes. If you saw me through your window, I apologize.

Like a scene straight outta Friends or Seinfeld.

So, after touring around New York City, shopping, till about 3 o’clock, we cabbed our way back to the hotel and drove our asses home. Farewell NYC, I will miss your White Castle, however crappy it was, I’ll still crave it. :(


I Had An Appointment with the Doctor

Oh yes, this is what I did this past Tuesday. It was a hell of a drive. We left around 11:30 from Toronto, and arrived at roughly 9:30 the next morning in New York. My brother drove for a few hours, but I drove the rest, up until the wee hours of the morning. It was intense, I don’t know how I managed to do it. At probably around 5 in the morning, there was a crumpled up deer carcass in the road and I only saw it at the last second. I ran over that shit like there was no tomorrow, and the bones crunched beneath my tires. I squealed a small, “Omgomgomgomg” but none of my passengers woke up. When my tiredness threatened to make me fall asleep at the wheel, I thought about what I would do during the summer that would keep me up all night. TV shows. So, I popped in some Scrubs and watched some episodes to pass a few hours.

Anyway, we arrive at East Village Cinemas on 2nd and 10th, and promptly stood in line. However, right when we got there, we’d heard that Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill were there a mere 10 minutes earlier, handing out donuts to people in line. If my brother hadn’t missed our exit, we’d have been there right on time. Waahhh.

However, we met a lot of interesting people in line and had a big bunch of fun. Obvious Doctor Who talk, shootin’ the shit, lots of Starbucks runs, some exploration of the surrounding areas. Most of it, though, was standing/sitting/sleeping in line, sweating in the sun (it was 20+ degrees!) , and watching all the Amy Ponds walk  by. I have lots of pictures, but I’ll save them for the end.

So, we stood in the line for about 7 hours before finding out if we were actually going to be able to get into the theatre at all. There were originally going to be two theatres. The first one with the live Q&A session, and the second theatre would see it via a live feed. I heard some strange rumours, some saying that there were 250 people in the first theatre and 250 in the second theatre and others saying there was 400 in the first theatre and 150 in the second.

Well, when it came around to it, there were 3 theaters and we ranged anywhere from 350th to 450th in line. Lots of people were coming around and counting the line. The line that stretched all the way around the block, mind you. 3 hours later, at 7pm, we were let into the theatres and received a free Doctor Who hat. A Doctor Who hat that I will treasure forever. I’m going to pretend that Matt Smith breathed onto all of them personally. I’m not creepy, no.

We get into the theatre and the air was electric with anticipation. We watch the first two episodes of series 6 of Doctor Who and I think it was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. Luckily, everyone was respectful and the cheering was kept short, stopping abruptly whenever a character began to speak. Now, I’m not going to give you any spoilers, but these first two episodes are the biggest mindfucks I’ve ever seen. So many new questions are raised, instead of answering any old ones, which is great. This is also the scariest Doctor Who episode I’ve ever seen. Scarier than both Blink and Midnight. The cast is amazing, and Steven Moffat is an absolute God. There were gasps abound, lots of shockers, lots of anticipation. The whole thing kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I can’t even express in words how far the premiere rocked my socks off, but I’m sure they’ve probably ended up in the UK by now.

Now, not only were the episodes great, but we watched the season trailer, showing flashes of what’s to come. I’m not sure if that’s available yet, but I’m pretty sure I gasped all of the air in that room and then my lungs exploded and then my heart exploded, and then I died, and then regenerated. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I cannot wait for the new season. Y’all are going to get blown out of your seats. We’re all going to scream. It’s going to be great fun. Honestly speaking, it looks like it’s going to be the best season yet!! I can’t wait to watch those episodes again, they were so good. It’s so difficult to write without saying anything, but that’s what it’s got to be like.

Some general notes that I’m sure you all know. They’re splitting Series 6 into 2 parts. The first 6 episodes airing starting April 23, and then stopping for the summer, to return in the fall. Steven Moffat loves to make us cringe and cry and have our jaws drop to the floor. During the Q&A, he was so ridiculously gleeful as he talked about the huge, incredible cliffhanger that he’s going to leave us dangling on come the end of the 6th episode. This is going to be insane.


Amazing scarf that she knit herself!

Trying to shield ourselves from the sun.

As I was taking photos of New York architecture, in true Doctor fashion, this man comes running through my frame. I swear, this shot was not set up. As Chameleon Circuit put it quite beautifully, "Weve got galaxies and planets and moons and an awful lot of running to do."

Oh yeah, and I guess I forgot to mention. After the screening and the Q&A, we were ushered out of the theatre to the street. A few minutes later, two black cars pulled up in front of the theatre, and well, this was the best I could do.

Doctor Who forever.


Now, I always hear about these crazy things happening in Toronto, and I decided to say, “Fuck it.” I don’t need a partner to go to these things with me. I always found it more liberating to do the things I want to do without dragging an unwilling victim with me. Not to say I’m glad that I didn’t, but it’s nice not to have to worry about whether the other person will resenting me for being gay.

I digress. Giant. Pillow. Fight. It was a public event that I found out on Facebook, where anyone and everyone is invited to go come to Yonge-Dundas Square at 8pm on April 2, 2011, bring your own pillow, and unleash your fury at the next bystander unawares.

Not only is it a lot of fun, it was for a good cause, kind of. The event said that there were going to be trucks coming around and collecting the pillows from the fight to give to the homeless and needy. I didn’t see any, but I did see piles of pillows on the side with volunteers collecting from the other people.

Guy in a red spandex suit. Blonde pig-tailed girl in pink pyjamas. Asian dude with a big camera and striking a weird pose. Aahh, Toronto.

There were all sorts of people there. Mostly teenagers and young adults ready to get their freak on. At one point, I heard the unmistakeable fury of a battle cry. I look over to my left and there was this lanky boy, being carried on the back of his friend, with his fist thrusted into the air, clamped around a pillow.


The whole thing was quite a sight to see. Yes, that's a giant fish.


As many people that were there to fight, there were many people, or just passers-by, who stopped to watch the spectacle. There were also photographers, with their external flashes, and ring flashes, and fancy rigs. Observing the observers. I’m so meta. Hahahha.

Here follows some footage of the fight. It’s as if you were actually there!!!

As well as the throngs of people lashing out at each other with padded sleeping aids, there was a percussive group called the Samba Elégua. They were loud, they were energetic, they were foot-stompingly amazing. They’re music permeated the entire square, and you can hear the beats from blocks away. The crowd that formed around them pumped with the music and you couldn’t help but smile. It felt like you were just part of one organism, throbbing, and moving, and living.

I’m not even high.

It’s amazing feeling like you’re one part of something greater. Living life in the midst of others. Everything you see, has been seen, is being seen, by someone else, in a different perspective and in a different context.

Either we’re alone in the universe, or there’s life out there, somewhere. Either way, it’s the biggest thing for our heads to be wrapped around. Alone in the universe. Think about it. In this gigantic universe, further than our technologies allow us to see. We are not a speck in the universe, our planet is not a speck in the universe, our GALAXY is a tiny speck of sand in the universe. We are so insignificant, but can we really be the only ones here?

And then if you look at the other end of the spectrum. What if there’s life somewhere out there? Either they’re out there, way more advanced than we are. What kind of technology would they have? Are they yet exploring space? How do they do it? What do they look like? Or maybe they’re as primitive as we are. Another level 5 planet on the other side of the universe, with a species just starting out and looking up at the stars, wondering if life exists outside of their planet. ALIENS. They are as alien to us as we are to them. We are aliens.

Anyway, that’s just something I’ve been thinking about lately. Doctor Who helps stave off some of that curiosity, even if it is just fiction. Speaking of Doctor Who, the season premiere for the Series 6 is on April 23rd. However, next Monday, April 11, they’re doing a prescreening for the series in New York City, followed by a Q&A session with the cast and writer. Aka Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, and Steven Moffat are going to be in the same building.

So, excuse me while I take a short road trip to New York.


That’s right folks, yours truly will be in the same room as the Doctor. AHHHH!!!!

I will touch him. (Let’s hope they don’t read this before I get a chance to do it or else I’ll come off as reaaaally creepy. HA!)

It’s going to be great. I’ve never been to New York before so this will be an adventure and a half!!! I will of course blog about it. And hopefully have a picture with the cast. As well as have them sign my copy of Series 5, that my loving SO bought for me. BAHAHAHHAHAHAHHA. I am so excited.

Ching Chong Ling Long Ting Tong

Only fitting as I did one on the way to Vietnam that I do the same back. It was not supremely interesting, but there were a few highlights as we flew halfway around the world. The itinerary was basically the same, except this time our layover was in this guy‘s homeland, Shanghai. Spent my last night with Fa Nah Nah, doing God knows what, and didn’t really finish packing until very late that night. Hooray for procrastination. We left Hai Phong at 5 in the morning, first stopping for delicious Banh Mi Tam, deliciously crispy Vietnamese baguettes with pâté inside, which was fitting because this was our first food when we landed too.

At the airport, we found some guys that were able to get BBM on their phones abroad, a task that Fa Nah Nah and I spent our entire vacation trying to figure out. I don’t recall how many times I tried to text “3GON” to “119” to try and make it work. Turns out, however, Vietnam doesn’t carry Blackberry service. Figures. Those guys had a roaming plan from Canada that allowed them to use their Blackberry for about $50 a month.

And then I ran into some trouble with the carry ons. Fucking Vietnamese airlines. I was flying Vietnam Airlines to Shanghai, and then Air Canada home. I had packed 2 carry ons, because Air Canada allows you to have 2, but unfortunately, Vietnam Airlines only allows you to have 1. So I had this extra one that I couldn’t bring. FFFUUUU. I’m glad that, at least, I had Canadians coming back to bring my extra stuff for me.

In Shanghai, there was a weird thing where the luggage doesn’t automatically get transferred to the next airplane? So, we almost forgot to pick up our luggage while trying to get to our plane. By some stroke of luck, we saw them at the baggage claim track. Dannie, always the good Samaritan, saw some people that we met at the Vietnam airport about to go through Customs without their luggage and went to warn them. They offered him a beer, but he’s like, “Lol underage.” Hahahhahaha.

So, we pick up our luggage and go through customs, and find ourselves up at the bag check-in again, on the main floor. Uhh.. this seems inefficient, but we checked our bags in, realised that we had some time, and saw some large conspicuous doors. Feeling adventurous and a little rebellious, we stepped out and breathed Chinese air. Stepped on Chinese soil. Took pictures of Chinese cars.

We decided it was time for food. My brother, ever-so-white, went to get some Burger King. Meanwhile, I decided to get myself some delicious Kimchi Ramen. Oh yes, it was gooooood.

A small scale model of what I can only assume is Shanghai.

On the plane, I felt ever so worldly as I pulled out the mish mash of bills that I had in my wallet. From left to right: American, Canadian, Chinese, Vietnamese. I guess that’s alphabetical too. My (not-so-) secret nerd habit is my foreign money collection. That shit is cool! Maybe I’ll take pictures of it one day. I’ve just recently organised them into a little display book. :D

Anyway, landing back in Canada was a rush. We touched down at 6:30pm on New Years Eve, got through Customs pretty quickly and just had to wait a long time for our luggage. It was 7:30 by the time we got out, and about 8-ish when we got home. I immediately jumped into the shower to wash 3 weeks worth of Vietnam off of me, and went into super speed mode to get ready to go New Years clubbing. Ffffuuuu, stressful, but the night was fun.

And thus concludes my trip to Vietnam. For real this time.


Visiting Vietnam, the place where my entire family, before my generation, is from. Where all my grandparents, their parents, and their parents’ parents were born and buried. Because I’m unable to visit their grave sites very often, we do visit them at least twice when we are in the country.

My mother came from a Catholic family, and my father a Buddhist family, although now he’s since converted. With these two different religions, the kinds of cemeteries that we visit are rather different, in both ritual and aesthetic. Yes, the cemeteries are segregated depending on the religion. Actually, I don’t know if that’s how it is in North America or not because I don’t visit cemeteries here.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the idea of the Christian/Catholic afterlife. Be good and you go to Heaven. Be bad and you go to Hell. The Catholic side of my family all resided in the rural areas outside of the main city of Hai Phong, so it is only natural that this is where their plots lay, in the primarily catholic village’s cemetery. The road to get there is rocky and really difficult to get to in a large group or with a car. The path is narrow and broken up, with large rocks and deep “pot holes.” It’s hard to deftly maneuver a bicycle there even, as you just hit the rocks and keel over.

The graves themselves are angular, efficient, and have a powerful presence to them. They’re mostly made of ceramic tiles, though some can be brick or marble even. Each has a small vase packed with dirt that you stick incense in. When you arrive at the plot, we say a prayer, individually light incense, and greet the deceased. Depending on the occasion (anniversary of death, etc), songs can be sung and/or the rosary is recited.

Life is a journey.
Death is a return to earth.
The universe is like an inn.
The passing years are like dust.

Regard this phantom world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp – a phantom – and a dream.

In Buddhist beliefs of the afterlife, after you die, you are either reborn as a different being, be it another human or a creature. This is the belief of reincarnation. However, you can also enter Nirvana, which is the Buddhist equivalent of Heaven. Depending on the sect of Buddhism, Nirvana can mean different things, mostly a synonym of ‘reaching Enlightenment,’ such as achieving a ‘purified, superior mind,’ or ridding oneself of craving, pleasure, or ignorance and therefore ridding oneself of suffering. Anyone who achieves Enlightenment becomes a Buddha and is no longer reincarnated, but instead enters Nirvana.

As you can see, Vietnamese Buddhist cemeteries are quite different from Catholic ones, even though they do have some similarities. Part of my family has a mausoleum-like area where much of my paternal family members are buried. The architectural details of both the graves and larger structures call back to an ancient Oriental aesthetic. They remind me of pictures I’d seen of the Forbidden City of Beijing, except a bit more morbid.

At a Buddhist cemetery, we also burn incense as a way of honouring and communicating with the dead. Instead of praying, however, we sort of have a very surreal, one-sided conversation with our ancestors. I always feel weird doing anything besides greeting them. My grandfather died about 4 months before I was born, so I never met him, and the only other relative that I know of buried there is my uncle, whom I’d never met. I think my father once said that he wanted to be buried here too.

At the entrance of the cemetery, there’s a little shop/shack that you can buy incense and other things. One of these other things are stacks of fake American bills as well as yellow paper with Chinese-like characters on them. We buy these leafs of very thin paper and burn them in the designated pits by the grave site (see above). The idea behind this is that the money must also ‘die,’ aka be burned, and pass onto the dead, so that they can spend it, wherever they are. I’m now realizing that this doesn’t quite fit in with the Buddhist afterlife theory, so maybe we’re not Buddhist? But I think we are. My parents’ English is not perfect. Maybe my father’s side was Taoist, which is also prevalent in that area of the world.

In one sense: afterlife doesn’t exist in terms of a Taoist belief system

It’s in life that we are eternal in Taoism. The afterlife is within life itself. We are of the Tao when living and upon death are the Tao again. Death is the point where your essence is not you, non being… Yet it’s always you as we are always of the Tao, But your expression of your life is within life.

There are also some variations where it’s a belief of Buddhist-Taoist hybrid. I remember when I was younger, I watched a Chinese movie where this woman died, but being unable to move on to the next life, her body got trapped inside an umbrella which was left in the attic of an old house. A very long time later, a man found the umbrella, opened it, and freed her ghost, but she was still unable to move on. Through the story, the man fell in love with her and would buy her beautiful garments, but of course, since she was a ghost, she was unable to wear them. So, he burned them, and then they would appear in her ‘realm,’ for lack of a better word, and then she would be able to wear them. I think this is kind of what happens to the money.

I also visited another (let’s just stick with) Buddhist cemetery on the way to Hue, in the village that my grandparents came from. It was my first time there, and I saw my great-grandparents’ graves. They were finishing up a tomb encasing there, moving an urn to its proper place in my family’s plot. There were groups of grave-tomb-things, each with an urn placed on top. They were mostly in pairs but some with three or four in a row.

It was easier to draw a picture. At the top was the shrine and grave of my ancestors, which were probably 4 or more greats above my grandparents, so it went a long way back. Each row represents a generation, their children, their spouses, etc. I don’t exactly know how it works, but that’s the gist of it. It’s like a macabre family tree. This is closest I’ve ever been to my actual roots. I’ve always been so jealous of the people that can say, “I can trace my family back to this century, or this person.” It gives you a sense of history, that I think, maybe, I might be missing.

At the back of the plot, there was a tiny bump about 2 feet by 1 feet, and maybe a foot high, with a bunch of snack wrappers on it, as well as incense sticking out. I thought that was terribly rude, until I overheard that it was a family member’s child’s grave. That gave me intense chills as I was standing right beside it. It was a two year old boy, playing by the river or a hill, one second looking away, and he fell and hit his head on a rock. He wasn’t old enough to get his own large urn-holder thing, so they buried him at the back of the plot, marked only by the offerings of sweets on a pile of dirt, overgrown with grass.

There are so many unmarked graves here, either unidentified bodies, those from the war, or families were just too poor to be able to afford to build anything–they could only pay for the plot of land. The hour that we spent here was unnerving, and I felt my breathe caught in my chest the entire time; like I was afraid to breathe, much less speak.

Walking to and from the car as especially nerve-wracking because in addition to being an incredibly bumpy and hilly path (as with in the Catholic cemetery), there were unmarked graves everywhere. I was on the edge of tears trying not to step on someone’s final resting place. Aside from being extremely haunting, however, it was elegiacally beautiful. It was a foggy day, fresh from the rain, and the mist hung in the air. The cemetery was in the middle of nowhere and haze stretched far across the fields.

And that is the story of cemeteries I visited in Vietnam. I think this is the last post on Vietnam. The posts following this will return to normal, Canadian life, what I’ve been up to, and of course, food. Hope you enjoyed my tour of Vietnam.