This photo essay from a statue factory in southern Vietnam shows the complexity of the religious landscape of the country. While most Vietnamese eschew affiliation with any formalized religion, a panoply of beliefs and spiritual practices are widely observed across the Vietnamese community. Though sometimes characterized as a Buddhist nation, in fact, spiritual practice here is remarkably symbiotic, with the vast majority of people, even those formally affiliated with an organized religion, at the same time practicing ancestor veneration and indigenous religion. This means that nearly every temple or pagoda you might visit, not to mention household altars, has its own unique features, with a surprise around every corner.


Myanmar's traditional mini cigar, the cheroot, is near extinction as manufacturers struggle with high taxes, high costs and stiff competition from imported and local cigarettes. “Nowadays, cheroot is found only in two out of a hundred tea shops in the country,” a cheroot manufacturer said. The tobacco used to produce cheroots has increased in price, while wages for the women who manually roll them have also risen. The mini cigars are usually produced with tobacco as well as some spice leaves. Cheroot production has a long history in Myanmar, but producers say that without government support and the application of new technologies, the tradition may fade away entirely. 
  
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A huge variety of dipping sauces and fresh aromatic herbs are the soul of Vietnam’s cuisine – a memorable feature of many journeys here. A bowl of dipping sauce is almost always besides a Vietnamese meal, with many dishes having their own special dipping sauce. Seemingly everything, from grilled pork to boiled snail, is served with its own requisite sauce of complementary flavours.


Among the many small streets of the Old Quarter in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, Gam Cau Street still feels a bit forgotten, a bit out-of-the-way. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that one side of the street faces an abrupt wall – or so it seems. In fact, this is an elevated rail line which was originally supported by stone arches, since filled in to assume their present somewhat grimy façade, notwithstanding some shops hanging their merchandise over the street or on the wall opposite their stores. However, this may be about to change. 

A plan to renovate and open as public spaces up to 127 of these historical stone archways is under consideration by authorities. Aiming to open new space in the city centre for cafes, book shops and artistic events, the plan would reopen stone archways which have been filled in and sealed for decades. Linking the central Hanoi Station and the iconic Long Bien Bridge, this rail line was built around 1900 to 1902, and any renovation plan adopted to highlight this in-the-rough urban heritage would also need to preserve the architectural integrity of the rail line, not to mention addressing the concerns of local residents and vendors.   


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