How the Rabbit Turned into the Cat

February 8, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Posted in itchy mouth | Leave a comment
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As Chinese around the globe welcome the Bunny for the Year of the Rabbit, Vietnamese is purr-fectly happy being the odd one out. Why? Cos they are celebrating the Year of the CAT.

So, how did the Rabbit turn into a Cat?

It all began as a misunderstanding – The Chinese word for rabbit is 卯 (mao), which sounds like ‘meo’ in Vietnamese, meaning cat. So while others celebrate the Year of Rabbit, Vietnamese will celebrate the Year of Cat. Hahah…Apparently, the Vietnamese have no interest to change it now. Since most of Vietnamese people are farmers, they prefer the cats as they can kill rats that threaten their crops whereas rabbits are the ones who will eat the crops!

Haha…interesting right? A pity Itchyfingers are not in Vietnam now, cos it would be nice to see decoration of the cats all over the street. For Chinese who celebrate the Year of Rabbit, we have red packets with bunny design. So I guess for the Vietnamese, their choice of design will be the cat! 😀

Itchyfingers happened to see this set of 招财猫 (Fortune Cat) red packets…

Called Maneki Neko in Japanese, they are also known as the Lucky Cat,
Fortune Cat or Welcoming Cat…

These do not cost much and has six design in a pack. The back of the red
packet is not left empty too…

Initially we had thought if these were sold last year for the Year of Tiger,
at least it is more related as they are both from the Cat Family…

Then we thought the 招财猫 is a lucky symbol itself so it is appropriate
to use on the red packet..haha

But now we know that the Year of the Rabbit is the same as the Year of
the Cat! Hahaha…

Happy New Year to all!

Also see related posts:
> Museum Hopping for Bunnies
> Gong Xi Fa Cai! – Taipei, Taiwan Trip #4


Carving a Living – Vanishing Trades

September 11, 2009 at 10:36 am | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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Walking on the streets of the Old Quarters of Hanoi, Vietnam, one could find many interesting trades and crafts. As early residents of each of the more than 36 streets at the Old Quarters came from the same village, so on every streets you would find them selling the same thing or making the same crafts. On some streets, you would see all the shops selling shoes (mainly Vietnamese wooden clogs); on some streets, you would see traditional crafts made of wood, silver, bamboo etc. All the streets were named after the things that they sell. This is quite similar to our Chinatown in Singapore in the older days, where early Chinese immigrants staying in the same streets were from the same provinces so they would be in the same profession. :p

Out of the many shops and streets, Itchyfingers found the street selling these the most interesting. It didn’t seem much of a taboo for them to make a living out of these…afterall, it is something that everyone eventually will have to end up in…hahah…our last purchase…

So you guessed it? Yeah, it’s the coffin…

Interesting to see the shops displaying coffins openly outside the shops. Many of these shops selling coffins also sell made-to-order tombstone…

Didn’t see the making of the coffins..but saw these people carving the stones

Samples on display, and some ready made ones too…just fix in the photo!
Oh, wait…did you see some familiar faces???

Britney Spears! Since when was she dead? 😀

And there was something else…

“还珠格格”  赵薇! Or Vicki Zhao from the “Princess Pearl”, the once popular
TV adaption of a novel…Since when was she dead also? 😀

Haha..Chinese consider it a taboo and inauspicious to put a living person’s photo on a tombstone, well, unless you are in the television or movie industry where the script requires you to act dead. But the actress or actor involved would always be given a ‘red packet’ of token money to wade off bad luck. :p Wonder if the celebrities involved were to find out that they were ‘pronounced dead’ in Vietnam, what would their reaction be? :p

Also see related Posts:
> Paper Merchants
Paper Goodies
Money No Enough Too
> Death Notes

i-squeeze – Cu Chi Tunnel, Vietnam Trip #7

April 7, 2008 at 12:38 am | Posted in itchy backside | 8 Comments
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We planned to take a cab to the Cu Chi Tunnel on our own, thinking that it might be cheaper and less of a rush. So we tried to check the price and duration of the journey first before deciding if we wanted the cab driver to wait for us or to hire another cab from there. But the cab driver couldn’t really speak English, the only thing he understood was we wanted to go to the Cu Chi Tunnel. He even took out his mobile phone to call for help from somewhere, probably the taxi headquarter office. The lady over the other end made us even more confused with her heavily accented English.

In the end, we turned back to our hotel to check with them on how to go to Cu Chi. The lady told us to go on our own on a cab would be very much more expensive cos the distance was really far. We would be better off joining a day tour. To our (very big) surprise, the hotel only charged US$5 for a full day trip which took us to the Cao Dai Holy See Temple as well as Cu Chi Tunnel, killing two birds with one stone! Wow, that was really cheap as compared to the prices we saw at the local tour agency. Happily we signed on the package. So sometimes, it might not be more economical to DIY…

The tunnels of Cu Chi, 70 kilometres North West of down town Ho Chi Minh City, is a well-known historical vestige of the Vietnamese revolution. The cobweb-like tunnel complex, built in the early 1940s during the war against the French but became famous for being used as a hideout for surprise attacks against the American and their allied troops in the Vietnam War, is a network of underground dug-outs of over 200 kilometres long, consisting of many layers and turnings with meeting, living and fighting quaters. The Cu Chi Tunnel represented the will, intelligence and pride of the people of Cu Chi and symbolized the revolutionary heroism of Vietnam.

Today, the Cu Chi Tunnel is opened for foreign visitors to Vietnam, I think not so much to earn tourists’ money cos it cost only 75,000 Vietnamese Dong (US$4.60 or S$6.50) but to understand the struggle of the Vietnamese people as well as their keen desire for everlasting peace, independence and happiness. We were showned a black and white documentary on the tunnel as well as a short introduction by the guide.

A tunnel plan
A model showing a typical plan of the Cu Chi Tunnel

Different \
Different “rooms” or “chambers” for different usage

We went through a fairly new cemented underpass before going into the hot and humid tropical woods. The guide said the reason why the tunnels couldn’t be flooded was due to the fact that it was on higher ground than the Saigon River water level. Along the way, you could see the evidence of the destructive war.

A B52 bomb site, easily as big as 3/4 a basketball court

Not before long, we were gathered around by the guide for attention. Underneath our feet were dried leaves all over, which looked perfectly innocent in a forested area. Then…

What we were shown was how a typical Cu Chi Tunnel entrance looked like. Our group of mainly ang moh tourists were so shocked at the sight that when the guide asked if anyone wanted to try, no one volunteered except one Singaporean aunty, who gamely rushed to the front to try… well her legs fitted in quite easily, but hor, she got stucked at her rear end…hahah…:p Curious and at the same time quite confident that I could fit in the hole, I quickly put up my hand, passed all my stuff to Tisu Boy and gave it a go!

First I sat down on the ground with my legs dangling inside the hole.

Then I lowered my body and made my way into the hole!

The hole was like 30 x 15cm wide and I had little problem squeezing in…heee…The hole wasn’t too deep, since it was a mock hole entrance obviously you couldn’t go all the way in and standing completely straight in the hole I was still visible from above the bust.  So I got hold of the cover and squatted down before covering myself up. Once covered, boy, it was complete darkness inside! I stayed inside for about three seconds before emerging out of the hole and for that few seconds I was already perspiring like mad! The special wood used made it almost air tight inside to prevent water from sipping in and flooding the tunnel. To let air in, they had special air holes nearby, which looked just like an ant mould..who would had suspected anything like that?

i squeeze
Tisu Girl emerging outta the hole…hot like hell!

Coming up was more challenging cos you really need to have some strong arms to push yourself out. The ranger who demonstrated earlier simply lifted me up from my armpit….! Haha….Dunnu what did he eat…so small size yet so strong..:p

We were then shown booby traps used during the war…so scary! You could imagine how deadly those were!

A 360 degree trap laid unsuspiciously on the ground waiting for the enemies to step onto.
Look at the deadly sharp metal spikes! Looks like what poachers would use to trap and kill

The thing about joining a group is that most of the time you would be rushed from place to place as they had to stick with certain time schedule, and also you would be fighting with other people for a place to stick your head in so that you could hear and see what the guide was explaining. There were a lot more other traps on display but we could only managed to squeeze our cameras in to take these few.

A sticking trap, not too sure how does this work…probably poke through
the legs….ouch!

Er, the deadly Clipping Armit Trap…er…just now I was lifted by the
armpit…luckily not with these…

Scary looking…wonder why human must invent such deadly stuff?

A tank on display

The sandals were made from old tyres. It was said that they were worn only
in the tunnel cos wearing these under the sun left marks on the feet, which would
give them away as Cu Chi fighters and would be killed if caught by the American soldiers

Making bombs

Shells of used bombs

For US$1 a bullet, you could try your hand on the AK47 rifle. I didn’t try but hor, wow! it was very very loud! Deafening!

Finally we were given the chance to have a taste of life in the Cu Chi Tunnel. The original ones were supposed to be the size of the earlier opening I squeezed through, and this one was made bigger to accommodate bigger ang moh tourists. Even then most would still find it too small and claustrophobic to squeeze through the tunnel.

We walked down a few steps to start our experience. It wasn’t long before the opening became smaller and visibility got poorer, and we found ourselves lowering down our body further and further to the point of duck walking!

See how low and narrow the enlarged tunnel was? The surface of the tunnel was
very hard…imagine having to dig these by hand!

It might look bright here, thanks to Tisu Boy’s super powerful flash light,
but it was complete darkness as we went deeper in, safe for a few oil lamp light
at some corners. Most of the time you gotta feel your way as you duck walked.

Certainly not for the weak knees too!

I read that there were supposed to be three emergency exits but it was simply too dark to even find those.

Finally out. Need to climb up some narrow steps. What an experience!

Everyone was perspiring after going through the tunnel. Imagine having to live in it for years during the war!

Also see related posts:
> The Eye – CaoDaism and The Holy See, Vietnam Trip #6
> Metamorphosis – Hoi An, Vietnam Trip #5
> Raise the Red Lantern – Hoi An, Vietnam Trip #4
> The Way of Life – Hoi An, Vietnam Trip #3
> Idyllic Ancient Town – Hoi An, Vietnam Trip #2
> Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Hoi An, Vietnam Trip #1


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