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3 August 2019 / leggypeggy

Ghost month and its consequences

Painting furniture, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Never enough gold furniture

In a matter of a few weeks, we’ve gone from hot, dry West Africa to hot, wet Vietnam. We arrived two days ago.

Our daughter, Petra, who lives in Ho Chi Minh City, told us not to join the ‘landing visa’ queue on arrival. ‘You already have electronic visas, so go straight to immigration.’

Unfortunately, the guy at immigration thought otherwise. He ignored our e-visas and sent us, along with many others, back to the queue for visas on landing.

Two hours and US$50 later we managed to collect our luggage—two bags sitting on their own next to carousel 2. The fact that the cashier for visas managed to disappear for long periods of time added to the delay. Luckily the airport had wi-fi, so I was able to let Petra know about the hold up. And Poor John reminded me it wasn’t as bad as the last time we entered Vietnam when we were stuck overnight at the border.

Anyway, Petra was puzzled and annoyed by this change of system. It had worked perfectly well for others in the past. She discussed the matter with her work colleagues and speculated that it was because immigration hadn’t reached its financial quota in July.

Nope, her colleagues were confident that it was because ghost month had begun and ‘it’s bad luck not to pay your fees because the spirits of your ancestors will get you’. Below I’ve added a short explanation about the annual Ghost Festival observed in much of South East Asia.

After leaving the airport long after dark, we were pleased to find one of the two taxi companies Petra had recommended. She said the ride would take about 30 minutes and the fare should be about 140,000 dong (or less than A$10). One guy pretended to be from a recommended company, but his offer of a $25 fare exposed him as a fake.

Our taxi got us to Petra’s place for 139,000 dong. I managed to take a couple of pics along the way, including one of a furniture showroom/workshop where two fellows were adding gold paint to chairs.

Yesterday was a chance to settle in. We explored the nearby markets and treated ourselves to pho (the famous Vietnamese noodle soup) and a watermelon juice (less than A$5 each).

We’re in the Mekong Delta now and it’s pouring with rain.

Ghost Festival
The Ghost Festival is held during the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. It also falls at the same time as a full moon. During this month, it is believed that the gates of hell are opened and ghosts are free to roam the earth where they seek food and entertainment. These ghosts are believed to be ancestors of those who forgot to pay tribute to them after they died, or those who were never given a proper ritual send-off.

In Vietnam, this festival is known as Tết Trung Nguyên. It is a time to pardon the condemned souls who have been released from hell. The ‘homeless’ should be ‘fed’ and appeased with offerings of food and, presumably, the extra $50 for visas we already had.

Pho and watermelon juice, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Pho and watermelon juice

85 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. IreneDesign2011 / Aug 3 2019 5:05 pm

    Enjoy your daughter and your trip 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  2. afterthelasttime / Aug 3 2019 6:16 pm

    Boo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 3 2019 6:45 pm

      It’s okay. We’ve made it and the rain will stop.

      Like

  3. fragglerocking / Aug 3 2019 7:05 pm

    Have a fab time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 3 2019 7:28 pm

      We plan to.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Rhonda / Aug 3 2019 9:12 pm

      Oh! I don’t think I even knew that you were going! Have a wonderful trip, and enjoy your time with your lovely Petra.

      Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Aug 3 2019 11:55 pm

        Thanks Rhonda. I’ll give her your regards too.

        Like

  4. derrickjknight / Aug 3 2019 7:20 pm

    Nah! Just a con. But I’m sure it will be worth it

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 3 2019 7:29 pm

      Their con that night made them several thousand dollars in the time we were in the airport.

      Like

  5. beetleypete / Aug 3 2019 7:33 pm

    Those spurious ‘charges’ are so annoying. But no doubt westerners seem incredibly wealthy to them, and the ghosts do need those tributes! 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Eliza Ayres / Aug 3 2019 8:01 pm

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ken Berry / Aug 3 2019 8:03 pm

    And the photo behind your photo of pho is of those absolutely lovely Vietnamese fried spring rolls which are quite different to Chinese fried spring rolls. I think the Vietnamese call them cha gio or nem ran… (I always call them “nem”.) I love them, as well, of course, as the “raw” or fresh, large spring rolls…

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 3 2019 8:24 pm

      Thanks Ken. I promise to try both while we’re here.

      Like

  8. a mindful traveler / Aug 3 2019 8:24 pm

    Lesson learn’t, I’ve made a note not to travel to Vietnam during Ghost Month 😦
    Enjoy Vietnam Peggy

    Liked by 1 person

  9. cupcakecache / Aug 3 2019 11:26 pm

    Good morning. Is your daughter an English teacher in Vietnam? That was an interesting story: the contrast between the spiritual belief and the cold business logic of Petra. Interesting. I hate delays at foreign airports. One never knows.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 3 2019 11:57 pm

      Good morning to you too. Petra is in the Australian diplomatic corps.

      Liked by 1 person

      • cupcakecache / Aug 4 2019 5:14 am

        Like your husband, I seem to remember!

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Aug 4 2019 8:39 am

        Very good memory, although he left in 1989.

        Like

      • frankrobert2064 / Aug 11 2019 1:31 am

        Good day to you Peggy

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2019 10:35 am

        Hi Frank Robert. Appreciate you stopping by. Your earlier messages came in the middle of my night.

        Like

      • frankrobert2064 / Aug 11 2019 11:24 am

        With a warm heart of friendship I send you a lovely greeting…here is my number Peggy I will appreciate if you will be able to text me 3216229734

        Like

      • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2019 11:31 am

        Sorry, but I won’t text.

        Like

      • frankrobert2064 / Aug 11 2019 11:59 am

        Alright….hope you are having a good evening

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2019 12:26 pm

        Thanks. It is morning in Vietnam.

        Like

  10. susan@onesmallwalk / Aug 4 2019 1:20 am

    LeggyPeggy – Only two hours? That seems pretty effecient for ghostliness ;)) Hurrah for the travel woes that work out okay. Hope the rain doesn’t last – Susan

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Aug 4 2019 8:34 am

      We’re supposed to visit a floating market this morning. Here’s hoping it stays dry enough for that. We did come in the rainy season, so what can we expect?!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Lisa Dorenfest / Aug 4 2019 1:24 am

    What a change of scenery. Now that you have the challenging arrival behind you, its time to enjoy Vietnam and your daughter’s company.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. mistermuse / Aug 4 2019 2:17 am

    “i39,000 dong”? How much is that in ding? I only ask because….

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 4 2019 8:36 am

      Good question. I’ll ask Petra. She speaks Vietnamese. 😀

      Like

  13. Lynette d'Arty-Cross / Aug 4 2019 3:51 am

    Have a great trip and visit with your daughter (and don’t ignore the ghosts 🙂 ).

    Liked by 1 person

  14. almeidadepaulo / Aug 4 2019 7:54 am

    Enjoy the trip and your daughter Petra!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Curt Mekemson / Aug 4 2019 8:58 am

    Well, Peggy, maybe you haven’t moved all that far away from Africa, after all. Within the Kpelle tribe, and I’ve no doubt other West African tribes, it was very important to properly appease the spirits of the newly dead, Other wise the would hang around and haunt heck out of you. Forget about them being released from hell, they never left! 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 4 2019 1:57 pm

      Oh Curt, I think you’re right. Just as well we paid for the visas twice.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Sheryl / Aug 4 2019 11:09 am

    Have a wonderful time with your daughter! I enjoyed learning about the Ghost Festival. Until I read this post, I never had heard of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 4 2019 1:58 pm

      I hadn’t heard of it either until Petra’s colleagues decided that was the cause.

      Like

  17. Julie Manley / Aug 4 2019 11:38 am

    Two hours is not too bad. If I recall for Cuba is was about three hours while they ransacked all the suitcases, although mine only got ransaked on the way out (they stole a cheap silver necklace I’d forgotten to carry myself). We took the precaution of paying an extra $70 AUD to get the VIP visitor treatment on arrival, i.e. we were out in thirty minutes or so. We were served a drink while we waited in a sort of lounge area and the baggage wasn’t ransacked. Sadly, the rest of the tour didn’t bother with that service… so we still had to wait the three hours, but at least it was outside and we could look as those gorgeous 1950s vintage cars :).

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 4 2019 2:00 pm

      Oh gosh, Julie, your comment made me laugh. Our bags were delayed on the way into Cuba, so we went without luggage for nine days. Then they were ransacked on the way out. Poor John lost his iPad.

      Like

      • Julie Manley / Aug 4 2019 2:23 pm

        Must be a monopoly of sorts on tourist luggage – whatever they can get is fair game. We were warned not to pack anything of value in luggage, only in carry-on. Nine days without undies… oh well, at least it’s warm there.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Phil Huston / Aug 9 2019 7:06 am

        Been there, Delta Airlines from US to Bologna, Italy. Suitcases? You had suitcases? A couple of days of slippery designer manties later our bags arrived.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Aug 4 2019 4:15 pm

        Luckily I always carry a couple of spare undies. You’re right about not packing valuables. Here’s hoping that Poor John listens to me in future.

        Liked by 2 people

  18. Brian Lageose / Aug 4 2019 1:27 pm

    Something tells me there might be a LOT of people in my family coming back as ghosts. Hmm…

    Have a swell time on your journey!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. thewonderer86 / Aug 4 2019 7:07 pm

    Bad luck with the visas. But appeasing ghosts is never a bad idea. And the delta is fab – enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 4 2019 10:09 pm

      Oh yes, very important to appease the ghosts.

      Like

  20. weggieboy / Aug 4 2019 9:12 pm

    Half the fun of international travel is running into those quirky local customs that cause you delays! This is a good one to keep in mind. Anyway, hope you have a lovely visit with your daughter and enjoy lots of local food! You know those will make up for that border incident!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 4 2019 10:10 pm

      To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have written about it except for the ghost element. Some things have to be shared.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. pvcann / Aug 4 2019 11:38 pm

    I enjoyed learning about those details, life is rich at the local level. Great photos (as always) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Alison and Don / Aug 5 2019 1:40 pm

    We’ve had a similar thing happen leaving Mexico. We knew for sure we’d paid the exit fee, but was charged in cash again at the border into Guatemala. Grrr. But what can you do? Hope you’re now having a good time in Vietnam. I always enjoyed it and would love to go back if only to finally get to Hoi An.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  23. jeanleesworld / Aug 5 2019 8:53 pm

    just glad you’re safe! I can’t wait to see what adventures you have with your daughter in Vietnam 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 5 2019 9:02 pm

      Thanks Jean, especially looking forward to spending time with Petra. She’s been here almost two years and this is our first visit to see her. She was home for two weeks about 11 months ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. In My Cluttered Attic / Aug 6 2019 4:31 am

    Loved that last part in your final paragraph about the extra $50 for the visa. Wow, sort of like their version of Halloween over there. The important thing is the time you will get to share with your daughter. Fascinating post, Peggy. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 6 2019 10:26 am

      Thanks Cluttered. We’re having a great time.

      Like

      • In My Cluttered Attic / Aug 6 2019 12:17 pm

        That’s as it should be, so have a great time there, Peggy. Oh, but do stay cool — so hot and sticky over there. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Aug 6 2019 12:29 pm

        Funnily enough, I don’t much mind heat or humidity.

        Like

  25. paolsoren / Aug 6 2019 9:34 pm

    Forty years ago the best way to get through a checkpoint was to have an eight month old baby boy in your arms. Now I will have to write that story again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 6 2019 10:55 pm

      Oh yeah, crying babies have gotten us through a few borders.

      Like

  26. chattykerry / Aug 7 2019 1:38 am

    Ah the joy of traveling through airports in foreign parts! Sounds like you had fun once you were out.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Phil Huston / Aug 9 2019 7:15 am

    The global unity of similar myth continues to amaze me. As does the global “That’ll be $50, thank you,” at every border everywhere. La Mordida
    “Senor, your sticker is out of date/doesn’t match your car/you don’t have the right papers, go back to the first station and fix your papers.”
    “What’s he saying? I never heard that one before.”
    “He’s saying ‘give me $20 or I’ll waste two hours of your time.'”
    “Oh, right. Forgot…I have fifteen, you got a five?”

    Good luck! Enjoy the plethora of dongs and the Pho King fast food!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 9 2019 11:38 am

      They wanted $25 from each of us and still wasted two hours of our time. Making up for it with cheap pho at every corner, and none it has been fast food.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Phil Huston / Aug 9 2019 9:04 pm

        Ouch. Except for the Pho. PhoKing is a staple in Texas.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Aug 9 2019 10:49 pm

        I had no idea PhoKing existed. I’m impressed.

        Like

      • frankrobert2064 / Aug 11 2019 1:33 am

        Hello Peggy

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2019 10:32 am

        Hello back to you.

        Like

  28. Oz's Travels / Aug 14 2019 12:43 pm

    Ah the joys of Vietnamese bureaucracy, especially in HCMC, Hanoi does not seem to as officious. Enjoy your time in VN.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 14 2019 5:34 pm

      I’m not sure about Hanoi in ghost month. Maybe Petra knows.

      Like

  29. barkinginthedark / Aug 17 2019 5:33 am

    Peggy, buy an umbrella, have fun, drink the coffee, eat boat noodles, sail up a floating market see: http://topsvietnam.com/floating-markets-vietnam/

    read: https://vietnam.travel/things-to-do/eating-vietnam-anthony-bourdain

    again, enjoy. continue…

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 17 2019 10:17 am

      We’re doing all of the above, except that we could borrow, instead of buy, an umbrella.

      Like

  30. The Year I Touched My Toes / Aug 18 2019 10:47 pm

    Ghost month? I wonder if they celebrate this in Indonesia. Anyway I’m glad we are going to Bali in September.

    Anyway how annoying about the visa and the extra money etc. But we all know that it is no use arguing with border control, don’t we?

    We got stuck for two days at the Algerian Niger border. Middle of nowhere. end of the earth. Those were the days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 19 2019 10:09 pm

      Ghost month has something to do with the lunar calendar. It’s raised its head a couple of times while we’ve been here, but never caused a problem. Bummer about your border issues.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. indianeskitchen / Aug 19 2019 7:51 am

    Fascinating festival! Too bad about the visa’s though.

    Liked by 1 person

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