Meeting the H’Mong women in Sapa was terrific, but anther highlight of our trip was the Temples. It’s easy to get Temple overload but they surely are worth visiting. It’s again difficult to pick out one experience as THE highlight so I thought I would go for a top 5. This excludes the Cham Temples at Nha Trang and My Son as they are Hindu and a lot different to the Buddhist Temples. Again this shows that Vietnam has a lot of different experiences for travellers. Anyway, my top 5 experiences at Temples are:
5. The Happy Buddha Temple (Vinh Trang Temple near My Tho)
You get to see lots of run down little houses in Vietnam – then you get to a Temple that is magnificent. This one is visually stunning with very large Buddha statues – a couple of which sit on buildings. You can wander through the Temple and they have no problems with photographs.
4. Lin Urg Pagoda Nha Trang.
It’s actually about 20k north of Nha Trang on the coast road. I’m still not clear on the difference between a Temple and a Pagoda. But I believe that the Buddhists don’t consider themselves to be religious as they don’t see Buddhism as a religion. In any case, it was the first time we saw orphans at a Temple. It seems that orphans are taken in, fed and educated at these places. Seems like a peaceful way to grow up
3 The Temple of Literature Hanoi
Here’s a tourist favorite. Construction started in 1070 while the Normans had just kicked the Saxons off the English throne. Our ancestors were squabbling primitive people while the Vietnamese were constructing universities. The main feature of this beautiful Temple is the stone tablets which record the names of the Doctors who graduated there. There were plenty of uni students at the Temple and they were very friendly. The Responsible Adult was asked to be photographed with a couple of them.
2. Tien Du near Nha Trang
This Temple ticked all the boxes for us. It is out of the way and I doubt many tourists get there. It services a rural area which again seemed to be pretty poor, but their Temple is magnificent. I guess we have to take into account that these buildings are old and have amassed their collections of statues and buildings over many years. It was here that we met two orphans who showed us their English homework and took us around the place. One asked if we would like to see inside the Temple and produced a key. Like many Vietnamese children, there was no apparent adult supervision – they just get on with life. While I say that they are orphans, it seems that their family just gave them up due to economics. I surely hope that these kids get on, they were very charming.
1. Chua Pho Quong Tanh Bin District Ho Chi Minh City
This was tops for us. Our friends in Saigon suggested we meet them there at 6.30pm for the service. Our cab driver was a bit confused, but we put him on the phone to our friends who gave directions. This is not a tourist spot but worth visiting if you have a chance. We got past the touts and a couple of beggars at the gate. One guy wanted money to release a bird from a cage full of birds. If I could speak Vietnamese, I would have told him that he shouldn’t have put the poor things in the bloody cage in the first place.
Anyway, the Responsible Adult and I went into the ground floor of the Temple. We could hear the chanting upstairs, but just took a few minutes to kneel at the downstairs alter. After my knees started complaining we got up and met our friends. We were feeling rather relaxed. Then it was upstairs to sit at the back of the mob while they got on with the chanting. Again, it was very peaceful and relaxing.
Then exit through the gift shop. They have a large amount of Buddhist goodies at very cheap prices. If you like Buddhist bling, then this is your destination. Go at night and enjoy the service.