chapter  8
13 Pages

Pilgrims and pleasure-seekers

ByALEXANDER SOUCY

When we reached the pagoda, the women promptly arranged the offerings of fruit onto a few of the plates that pagodas always supply for this purpose. The men of the group took a cursory look around the pagoda before settling down to smoke cigarettes and chat in the courtyard while the women went in and made offerings and wishes at the various altars in the pagoda complex. One of them prayed to get married, another wished for a son. By the time they made their rounds of all of the altars, enough time had passed for the offerings to be filled with the gods’ and buddhas’ blessings. The loc, the offerings infused with good luck from the gods or buddhas, were gathered up again and taken out to the men who were still smoking in the courtyard. The offerings were put back into the bags after some of the oranges were passed out and eaten immediately by the group. We then followed the stream of people up the mountain behind the pagoda and visited a few shrines and a large cave before finding a place to sit and have a picnic, consisting partly of the remainder of the offerings which had been transformed into ‘lucky’ food. After lunch, we went to visit Chua Tay Phuong, another famous pagoda nearby. At this pagoda a similar process took place. The young women made offerings of incense, while the men took a quick look around before sitting at a nearby drink-stand to order a pot of tea for the group. The men said that they did not want to go in and look as they had already been to this pagoda many times in the past.