Goodbye Phan Rang…I will miss you!
Our last day in Phan Rang had finally come, but it wasn’t a time to be sad! Instead we had decided we would make the most of it, and after sleeping in and getting a little extra rest, it was time to do a little shopping. That is one of the great things about pretty much every country I have visited in southeast Asia. You don’t have to go far to do your shopping.
Right around the corner from Ha’s aunt Hien’s house was fresh local produce, fruits, and fish. And, as always, they all looked delicious! It had been decided that today we would enjoy a feast at Aunty Hien’s, and most of Ha’s local family would be coming over for some delicious seafood hot pot soup. After the feast, Ha’s uncle would take us to the largest Buddhist monastery in the Ninh Thuan province. I had seen it from the road on our way to Vinh Hy Bay, and I had marveled at it’s beauty from afar. Now I would get my opportunity to see the temple up close. But first we had shopping to do and lunch to eat!
The market around the corner was small, but still had all of the things we would need for our soup. Being so close to Phan Rang Bay, literally only a few blocks away, there was more than enough types of seafood available here. We grabbed some shrimp, different assorted types of fish, and octopus, something I had never tried before.
Next up were the veggies and fruit, as you can’t have a seafood soup without adding some cilantro, and fresh lime juice to it! For dessert, to go with the soup, we had fresh mangos, bananas, and pineapples that were readily available, along with many other fruits I wouldn’t even know how to pronounce, to choose from.
Ha and her aunt worked so hard in preparing the food, washing and rinsing all the different ingredients at least two or three times before they would be used for our soup. I had no worries in eating anything prepared from Aunty Hien’s kitchen! And what a soup it turned out to be, if Aunty’s kitchen were a restaurant I would give her five stars! I was also surprised at how similar octopus tasted to calamari, so tender and succulent. I was in heaven, or nirvana, pick your religion…while eating this moist, juicy, lucious, bowl of bouillon with an abundant mix of seafoods, vegetables and seasonings. Ah, yes, a meal fit for a king, maybe even King Po Klang Garai!
After filling up on all of the excellent food, and a few hours of visiting with Ha’s aunts, uncles, and cousins, it was time to make our way to the Vien Ngo Buddhist monastery which is built on the side and atop the Da Chong mountain, in the town of Khanh Hai. The monastery, temples, and two separate living facilities that house both monks and nuns, are filled with beautiful stone carvings of Buddhas, dragons, and other interesting statues that are a part of the Buddhist religion.
The hike to the top is an easy one, and is well worth the trip. This is yet another location in the Ninh Thaun province that I would give a two thumbs up. Once on top, the view is outstanding, unbelievably beautiful, and a place where the quiet tranquility can fill one’s heart with peace. If ever there was a place to release yourself from stress, this is the spot. Ha and I spent several speechless moments just soaking in everything that surrounded us. What a way to end our four days in this area.
The sun was setting, and we had to make our way down before it got too dark to find our way down the path, but it was hard to let go of this place. I don’t know about Ha, but I could have stayed there, taking in everything around me, for the rest of eternity, and been forever happy. This was yet again one of those times I wanted to never let go of. This was the power of the Da Chong Mountain and the Vien Ngo Monastery, which had a grasp on my soul.
Slowly, we made our way down the path carved into the mountainside, gazing often to take in the breathtaking backdrop all around us. We would then get back on the motorbikes, make our way back to Aunty Hien’s house, say our goodbyes, grab our bags, throw them into the trunk of the taxi waiting to take us to our sleeper bus back to Saigon, without any hint of sadness. The days had gone by fast and furious, but had given us a million moments in our minds, moments that Ha, Hoa, and I would never, ever, forget.