Of smoke and prayer.

I visited my favorite Saigon pagoda at the weekend and was fortunate to witness a little ceremony. Hung from the ceiling of this Chinese pagoda are large incense cones that unravel to several feet in length. As you enter the pagoda the air is heavy with heat, and smoke and the smell of incense. 

Mr Thanh is 85 years old and has worked at the pagoda for 15 years. He takes his cone hanging role very seriously. Each cone is numbered and is given a name, written in Chinese characters on a red paper ribbon attached to it's top. The cone will burn continuously for 30 days once lit and hung. Worshippers solemnly light each cone and then Mr Thanh does the hanging.

Mr Thanh is as deaf as a post and he was not too keen on a photographer documenting his work. More than once he cussed loudly at me in Vietnamese. Apparently this is allowable in a pagoda :)

The whole scene was a fascinating slice of life to observe.