Bizarre, ethereal and beautiful, Halong Bay is geology gone wild. With thousands of limestone pinnacles jutting majestically out of the sea, cloaked in lush jungle it has been designated a World Heritage site. What a marvellous way to end my journey. This mystical landscape peppered with caves has the most incredible stalagmites and stalactites I have ever seen. In the Cave of Marvels are three vast chambers where Nature over three hundred million years has created astonishing forms out of the limestone that replicate life.
As I looked around the chambers I saw Ganesh the Hindu God in elephant form, lovers kissing, a giant, perfectly formed penis, majestic lions and best of all a giant turtle. Baring in mind that drops of limestone water over millions of years have created these fine forms one can only marvel at the genius of Nature. A fitting end to an incredible journey. Stroking the head of the ancient turtle I felt connected to the past, present and future. It's a good feeling...
With great anticipation I arrived tired and sweaty at the home of Mr. Can, a slight and sensitive man who had some difficulty making eye contact. The day before he had requested details of my birth date and time and so had prepared a comprehensive reading in advance of our meeting. The reading was uneventful and the meeting only became interesting when my translator began talking about the high ranking politicians and generals who regularly visit Mr. Can, for advice and direction about personal issues. My last reading of the journey and probably the last fortune teller I will ever meet. It's easy to see how it can become addictive, maybe the next one will have all the answers! Brendan
Hanoi with its narrow buildings and shops spewing their wares onto the narrow pavements gorges the senses. And so it was that I found myself in the hallowed, quiet grounds of the Temple of Literature, Hanoi's first ancient University.
For a country that frowns upon fortune tellers was interesting to read in the national newspaper that over thirty thousand young people sitting University entrance exams came here in one day to gain good luck and merit by stroking the many stone carved turtles that line the walls of the temple. Two students I spoke to were adamant that the government could not change people's beliefs about the unexplained and that many young people still seek out fortune tellers. Brendan
Arriving at the home of Mr Hien in the late afternoon I joined several locals, all waiting for a personal reading. In front of me was a lady who wanted advice about the layout of her new home. Everyone in the room agreed that Mr Hien was an excellent reader. As I sat in front of him he looked at me suspiciously and asked if I had anything to do with security or the police. Once it was established that I was clean he began his reading. First Feng Shui - he asked me to describe where I lived in London. With a dismissive hand he said I should leave my flat immediately as the layout was only conducive to ill omens and negative vibrations and could only bring sadness and ill health. Great start! He then began to channel and said I should live alone and begin writing. That I could do anything I wished as I had great power to draw people into helping me with projects. That I was a healer and had a strong sixth sense that should be honed to help others. Two hours later he stripped me down to the core, I felt hypnotised. His face morphed so many times, kindly, serious, jovial, stern, cajoling, questioning, enlightened, leaving him was like leaving an old friend. Brendan
The market seemed like a good place to seek out fortune tellers. As soon as I asked several women they shot out their hands for me to read. With limited knowledge I looked at their lifelines, loveliness and children.
Soon I had a large audience, all wanting their palms read. It didn't seem to matter that no one understood what I was saying. With hoots of laughter they began reading my palm. All good fun and a welcome break from my search. Brendan
South of Danang, half way up the coast of Vietnam is the small ancient town of Hoi An. It was here I met an old fortune teller who used coins from the 19th century to fortell my future. With cataracts in both eyes he confidently juggled the coins, maybe thirty in all, from hand to hand. I would ask a question about my future, he then passed the coins from hand to hand and asked me to grab a handful from his open, cupped palm. Counting those I had, he would then answer my questions. I asked him how could he tell my future from the coins. He quickly shot back that this was his secret and none of my business. My interpreter, who was a non-believer told me afterwards that fortune tellers were not to be trusted and they were holding back development in Vietnam! Brendan
Finding fortune tellers in Vietnam was going to be a real challenge. Each inquiry was received with incredibility..."Do you really believe"...., "its dangerous"..... "there is someone but it's out of town"....! Finally I was told to head north of Ho Chi Minh to Tay Ninh, home of the Cao Dai religious sect, where a female channeler worked only at midnight using a Ouija board to make contact with the ancestors. After attending one of the most beautiful and mystical ceremonies of the journey at the Cao Dai temple I eventually received word that the female channeler would receive me for a reading. In a small wooden shack on the outskirts of town I found a small, elegant lady in her fifties rocking in a hammock with a large oval hand fan fighting off the mid-day heat. I was told that her reading would be short as she was worried about the police. With a face full of laughter she chattered nonstop for over thirty minutes, waving her hands in every direction, my interpreter found it difficult to keep up. Her poor cat was smacked in the face several times by the fan as the fortune teller became more excitable, I left exhausted.... Brendan
After an idyllic respite on the island of Langkawi we found ourselves suffering from sensory overload smack bang in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. With over three million motorbikes vying for space, crossing the road was like dodging bullets. Madame Cuc, in her fifties, a successful hotelier and larger than life character explained that the government had outlawed "fortune tellers". She then produced a large old tattered Vietnamese volume on Astrology and Numerology and swore that this tomb had guided many of her decisions throughout life, with great aplomb she went to work on my chart after firing several questions - birthdate, place, time ....Madame Cuc did not charge for her services. Brendan
Before meeting Master Chin, an eclectic reader to the rich, powerful and famous, I had my fortune read by a Chinese street fortune teller. Being predominately Muslim, Malaysia does not abound with fortune tellers. Many are frauds, one Indian taxi driver warned. Via my interpreter, the kindly palm reader who patiently used a magnifying glass, studiously began his reading. A crowd soon gathered. No privacy here on the streets of Kuala Lumpar. After an uninspiring reading I caught up with Master Chin, dressed in a silk gown with a round hat and a fake pony tail. Master Chin was every bit the professional... He was an adept at reading personality traits. It was as though he had known me all my life! He was so good that the crew had a reading. Master Chin read the Tarot, my palms and my face. He was so confident, not once did he ask for confirmation about his reading. Brendan
A small, quietly spoken and serious man in his mid/forties met us in the gardens of a monastery close to the Royal Palace. Somewhat nervously, he explained that his was a full time salaried position. Unable to speak about his advisorial role to the King he was proud to announce two predictions that had made headlines in the national newspaper "Beware of Mekong Crocodiles" and "Angry Wives in May". The new king of Cambodia spends much of his time in Paris ballet dancing.
A type of fortune teller unique to Cambodia are the "people in white" as some locals had mysteriously described. I found one such lady in the suburbs of Phnom Penh who was able to channel the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman. As soon as I arrived I was shown her bedroom. Here was a magnificent shrine to several Hindu Gods including a large toy red Ferrari. The reading began with a prayer and suddenly her voice changed which indicated the channelling had begun. Without ventilation and searing heat I found myself going into a trance called sleep. I had to pinch myself several times to remain conscious. Among other things, Hanuman said that he could see many girls on my mind and in my future life. That was enough to send me into Ga Ga land. Brendan
Outside of Phnom Penh in the countryside stands a large temple complex under construction. A vast site managed and run by a no -nonsense laughing monk who spends most of his days blessing the mobile phones of rich business people. This apparently helps draw in more business deals by improving the vibes. I liked him, he seemed to enjoy his work and everyone went away with a smile at the thought of impending success. His grand designs required money, business people from all over Cambodia required his blessings, both parties win. After reading my fortune he followed by anointing my eyes, cheeks and lips with some kind of animal fat. He then presented me with a huge sack of fruit. Brendan
My next reading was with an ex governor of the Eastern Province of Cambodia. When I arrived he was lying in a hammock with a loin cloth. Recovering from a fever and looking as though his days were numbered he insisted on going ahead with the reading. It wasn't long before his energy levels rose and he began enjoying himself. With free abandon he pointed out and touched my privates saying, I had a spot on my "panny". With this everyone in the room fell about laughing, especially the old lady with no teeth in the corner. Apparently spots on the genitalia means good luck and a great lover. As I was leaving, his health seemed much improved!! Brendan