This week’s Travel Photo of the Week takes us down the life blood of Vietnam, the Mekong River to be stared down by the eyes of a river boat. In Vietnam there are several stories as to why boats have eyes painted on the bow. An ancient tale tells of of a young king nearly loosing a close friend to an attack from a giant fish. The distraught king insisted that all fishermen tattoo their bodies for protection and paint eyes on the bows of their boats. The theory was that the “sea monsters” would mistake the boats with their evil looking eyes as larger creatures and be scared off. Most modern Vietnamese boaters will tell you that the eyes can see through storms and help the sailors return home safely in foul weather. Others believe that they help fishermen see schools of fish. The tradition has spread across Asia and the eyes of the dragon boats are ceremoniously opened just before traditional dragon boat races.
The custom of painting eyes is not specific to Asia. It is quite common in the Mediterranean to find boats decorated with eyes, where they are associated with the Eye of Horus or Osris also known as the “evil eye” and is a symbol of protection from evil.
Other blogs about Vietnam: http://gwnunn.com/blog/2011/04/travel-photo-of-the-week-12april11-vietnam/