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Fab People

Counsel with the Wise Old Man of Bao Loc - Nguyen Duc Son Nov 12-15, 2014

Counsel with the Wise Old Man of Bao Loc - Nguyen Duc Son

GPS waypoint: 11°33'03.0"N 107°48'31.6"E
Location: Bao Loc City, Lam Dong Province, Central Highlands, Vietnam

Bao Loc was completely unplanned. When Tuyen took me to Cafe V to meet her couple friends, Mi and Son, both Vipassana meditators, the conversation turned to the old wise man of Bao Loc - Nguyen Duc Son, who they fondly call Son Nui. They invited us to come along. The following day, we were already on the sleeping bus en route to Bao Loc, roughly 6 hours north of Saigon. This would be the start of a series of unplanned travels that took Tuyen and I to the rest of Vietnam.

Bao Loc
I was surprised when I arrived at Bao Loc. This was the first Vietnam city I've been to after Saigon. I was still under the impression that all of Vietnam was bombed out of the map by the Americans (even though the war ended 40 years ago). Bao Loc is a never-heard destination in Vietnam. From Saigon, tourists only pass through Bao Loc on their way north to Dalat or Hanoi. But Bao Loc is ideal for many reasons - the climate is cool almost all year round - it doesn't get too cold like Dalat, and it doesn't get too warm like Saigon. It wasn't too progressive but it wasn't sleepy either. It seemed to find that right balance between a working city and a place of quiet retrospection. With its placid lakes and unhurried pace, it's a place you want to get to know better. The energy felt assuring and calm. I was told that Vietnamese people who seek to meditate find refuge in Bao Loc. It is clean, orderly, spacious and uncluttered. The soil is fertile. Coffee and tea grow in abundance. A beautiful place like this that's not visited by tourists? I would get my answer upon arriving Da Lat (in a future blog).

Nguyen Duc Son
At 78 years old, Son Nui (as friends call him), is secluded in his forest hamlet where he remained for the last 40 years. He is heralded as one of the three great minds of Vietnam - celebrated poet, an eccentric, a recluse, an anti-war activist, a philosopher, intellectual provocateur, social commentator, political analyst, author, environmentalist and sadly, perhaps the last of his kind.

He goes by many labels to his detractors - vulgar and rude, because he speaks his mind, calling a spade, a spade, without mincing words nor apologizing for it. He can care less about being politically-correct.

Son Nui commands the elegant use of the Vietnamese language in a way a true poet can articulate root causes of what lies at the apparent level. With his sharp mind, he enjoys a witty play of words to convey his ideas in a unique fashion. His poems are not for this generation alone, but for all generations that are yet to be born.

Last of his Kind
There used to be a lot of intellectuals, philosophers and poets in Vietnam. But they seem to be a dying breed. Many of his contemporaries have left Vietnam or have passed on. Some who chose to remain have chosen menial jobs (repairing shoes in the public market!). Many things from the past will forever be lost. Perhaps the next of his kind will not happen until the next 500 years. I would often say that the next magnificent life I have yet to meet lies just around the bend. I chose the right bend, this time around.

--- TheLoneRider

Next stop: Da Lat City, Vietnam

my first experience on a sleeping bus Vipassana meditators, Tuyen, Mi, Son and myself..eating healthy at a vegetarian restaurant Little Wings flaps her little wings hurting my back on a  failed handstand...never do it on a cold morning without a warm-up!
city reflection on a lake view from the hotel Mi and Son on tandem arriving at Son Nui's forest hamlet
Son Nui, deliberating Son Nui, contemplating on his next words we were all ears as we listened to Son Nui talk Son Nui writes on his book which he gives to Mi
leaving the forest compound and into a cafe serving unique Bao Loc dishes Vietnamese ice coffee remains a staple in every conversation more discussion at a different cafe, a different day dirt riding to a coffee farm...Tuyen is an accomplished motorbike rider
coffee cherries looking like a DNA strand the best paper rice I've tasted was also the  cheapest - in Bao Loc Bao Loc seems sparsely populated with lots of free open space  

Vietnam FYI / Tips / Dos and Don'ts

  • Vietnamese smokers will smoke in air-conditioned establishments, air-conditioned buses packed with people including women, children and babies. They also smoke inside hospitals with no smoking signs.
  • Vietnam ranks almost the same as Thailand and Cambodia for cheap price. Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia cost more
  • internet speed is generally fast and reliable but during important events like Tet holiday, election, etc., it slows down
  • Vietnamese generally do not speak or understand much English. It will be a challenge.
  • only Vietnamese Dong is accepted as legal tender (change your dollars into Dong)
  • best to dress appropriately, not revealing too much skin (Saigon is an exception - the ladies there set the trend in very short shorts)
  • remove your shoes when entering a home or place of worship
  • ask first before taking someone's picture. If they say no, don't persist or offer money
  • best to carry your hotel's business card with you when going out. You can just show it to the cab driver or XeOm driver if they don't understand English
  • leave your valuables, passport, travel tickets, etc. with the hotel's safety deposit box
  • when lying down, don't point your feet or the soles of your shoes to anyone or to a family altar
  • carry only enough cash for your needs that day
  • don't lose your temper in public - Vietnamese people are warm, generous and polite. They look down on people who lose their composure
  • don't take pictures of military installations
  • refrain from taking videos of minority people until permitted to do so

Vietnam Blogs by TheLoneRider

Fabulous People Blogs:

  1. Breakfast Talk with Tagbilaran's Finest at Cafe Atanacio Oct 8, 2017
  2. Lazarus June 12, 2017
  3. Barakki May 7, 2017
  4. Celebrating Friendship in Cebu City Jan 27-Feb 6, 2017
  5. Duterte Mania in Davao Oct 12, 2016
  6. Tirumalai Krishnamacharya Oct 5, 2016
  7. Jin in Davao Sep 29, 2016
  8. The Fabulous Dabawenyos Aug 22-, 2016
  9. Peoplescape of Singapore Aug. 8-22, 2016
  10. Andrea Paige - Health Crusader and Yogini July 18, 2016
  11. Encounters with the Guru-Types of Penang Jun 17, 2016
  12. Satoshi Nakamoto (Bitcoin Creator) Dec 8, 2015
  13. Peoplescape and Synergy July 19, 2015
  14. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew Mar 23, 2015
  15. Counsel with the Wise Old Man of Bao Loc - Nguyen Duc Son Nov 12-15, 2014
  16. Vaibhav Rana (Yogi) Jan 1, 2014
  17. Jeanne Torrefranca (Yogini) Dec 25, 2013
  18. Mystery Lady of GenSan Dec 15, 2012
  19. Dr. Angel C. Alcala (Marine Biologist) Sep 30, 2011
  20. Silver Surfer (Super Hero) Mar 14, 2011
  21. Julian Assange (Journalism Activist) Dec 21, 2010
  22. Manny Pacquiao (World Champion Boxer) Nov 16, 2010
  23. Modern-Day Enlightened Beings Nov 11, 2010
  24. Tim Berners-Lee (developed the World Wide Web) Nov 2, 2010
  25. Charlene C. Tan (Smart Student) Jul 11, 2010
  26. S.N. Goenka (Meditation Guru) May 29, 2010
  27. Alastair Duncan (GIS Guru) Mar 1, 2010
  28. Bruce Lee (Martial Artist) February 3, 2008
  29. Romeo Lee (Rock Star) September 3, 2007
  30. Working Class Fab People May 31, 2007
  31. Shifu Shi Yan-Ming (Shaolin Monk) October 6, 2006
  32. Chris Larsen (Adventurer) June 29, 2006
  33. Fr. Terry Gallagher (Priest) June 25, 2006
  34. Andrew Tan (Human Resources Executive) June 22, 2006
  35. Cooking With Aklay (Chef) June 5, 2006
  36. Joel Disini (IT Executive) May 17, 2006
  37. Sonny Barger (Hells Angels Biker) January 26, 2006
  38. Alone Again in the Cordillera May 9, 2005
  39. The Cordillera with Aklay May 8, 2005
  40. Master Ong (Tai-Chi Master) April 16, 2005
  41. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (Spiritual Guru) April 12, 2003
  42. Thor Heyerdahl (Adventurer) April 7, 2003
  43. Conversation with Kiran Sohal, my Yogini February 5, 2003
  44. Lee Kuan Yew and Ferdinand Marcos Jan 26, 2003
  45. Pizza Nite with Fab People January 25, 2003
  46. Eleanor Roosevelt Oct 22, 2002
  47. Orlana (Good Samaritan) April 11, 2002
  48. John Stamstad (Ultra Marathon Mountain Biker) October 1, 2001

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»» next story: Exploring Da Lat, Vietnam
»» next Fab People story: Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew
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