A very popular day trip from HCMC is combining the Cu Chi Tunnels with a visit to a temple 4 km east of Tay Ninh, in the village of Long Hoa – the CAO DAI HOLY SEE. When I looked outside this magnificent church, the sign said “DAI DAO, TAM KY PHO DO, TOA THANH TAY NINH” – whatever that means, lol…
But this is really a very ornate temple which reminded me of the Tiger Balm Gardens décor in Hong Kong. This temple which is near the Cambodian border is home to the Cao Dai sect which is a hybrid religion of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Christianity.
When we entered it was the mid-day service and as in most eastern religious sites, you have to take off your hats and shoes before entering. Modest and respectful attire is advised – however, some in our group were wearing shorts and the women had sleeveless attire but they were still allowed to go in by the nice lady at the gate.
We were immediately brought up to a flight of stairs which gave us a good view of all these priests/advocates dressed in white garments, kneeling down face down on the floor, participating in the mid-day service. Prayers are actually conducted 4x daily.
We were allowed to photograph inside the huge high-vaulted church and also video the proceedings. Of course, you have to keep quiet though and respect the prayers going on. I also read that you have to ask first before taking a picture with someone, and I did ask a little man sitting outside the temple for a picture.
You must also take note of the Divine Eye at the front portico of the Great temple – it is likened to the eye seen behind the US dollar bill.
Of course, this is only one of the many temples in Vietnam, but this temple in Tay Ninh is a popular destination for tour groups (but we were the only tour group of six people at the time we visited on that Thursday.
There are plenty of Chinese temples in Cholon, HCMC's very own Chinatown. Here, you are bombarded by a galaxy of Chinese temples big and small. Take a cyclo and you'll be gently surprise how many Cyclo drivers have Cholon and its temples on their itinerary. As a Chinese myself, I am not that interested to be seeing more temples, though I did drop by a couple. The major ones in Cholon are: Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda (for the Chinese God "Guan Gong"), Thien Hau Pagoda (for the Chinese Goddess "Tian Hou") and Quan Am Pagoda (for the Budhhist Bodhisattva of "Guan Yin").
I asked the bike-taxi to drive me to the Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, but after turning around in small streets, and asking to people, we finally arrived at a pagoda, but it was not the one I intended to visit!
This pagoda is located near the crossing of Nguyen Dinh Chieu street and Duong Cach Mang Thang Tham Avenue, in the third district.
Even you do not know, it is always interesting to have a look; this pagoda, too has a seven storey bell tower (first picture), but interesting here are some deities in the main hall, like the gold covered “little Buddha” raising his finger (picture 2) under the sight of the “Great Buddha”. On picture three is an altar, with the two cranes on each side, typically, and on the right of the picture is a feminine deity. I like a lot the jumping dragon of picture 4); look at the fishes displayed as a frieze beneath.
An interesting item of this pagoda is certainly this bell (picture 5), which looks like an antique; people I spoke with may have told me about this bell, but I did not understand a single word of their story. . . . The good side of diving in the totally unknown during travels, just being lost, in all terms of the word, and a bit a bad side, not being able to understand what people tell sometimes. . . .
There is a nice garden in frnt of the Pagoda, with lots of statues of deities, warriors, in a bit kitsch modern style, and there are benches if you walked since some time before reaching the pagoda.
Located in Chinatown ,this is not one of the more elaborate temples but it was sure a happening spot on the New Years day that we visited.
It was interesting to see the throngs of people coming to worship and ask for good tidings in the New Year.
Saigon has many Buddhist temples. These aren't just tourist attractions; the locals actively worship there weekly and on holidays. Buddhist temples are remarkable for their openness; anyone can enter as long as you observe the customs, such as taking off your shoes at the door and refraining from taking flash pictures during ceremonies! There are donation boxes for the faithful, which you may or may not contribute to. Many temples are several stories high, reaching toward the heavens.
Drinks at the 23rd floor Sheridan Hotel (1 - 6pm 2 for 1 drinks!)
Go to Cholon District for shopping and see the Many great big Chinese style Pagodas there... and another tip... put the camera down when you get there, the building is not going anywhere..., watch and observe the prayers, feel the building, enjoy the building, pray a bit for good health or what have you, and then on your way out snap some photos. just a thought.
Spend a day in District 1 with the restaurants, bars, shopping etc.
Eat at a restaurant across the street from Ben Thanh market, its a veg restaurant and order the Malaysian tofu and Bun. or just order Malaysian tofu somewhere. it's great.
get ice cream beneath the Temple House bar and restaurant, or a drink at the temple House itself.
Ride a "Xe-om" which is a guy with a bike with a spare helmet who will call at you for a ride.
Go to the markets, the smaller are great, the big are also great. it's all fun.
Notre Dame replica
Dont forget to check when things are open.
Don't forget to get a foot massage - 5-10 dollars
Don't forget to get lost and have fun.
There are loads of pagodas and temples over town. We went to this really famous one (that's what my Vietnamese friend said), and it was really crowded. Vendors jostling just outside the temple grounds selling you joss sticks and flowers to offer to the Gods. Once you walk into the main hall, you'll see a huge urn with joss sticks, and 3 gold gilded statues of Buddha, goddess of mercy (they have a different name in Vietnamese though which I can't rem) and one more God whom I don't recognize. Walk further in past the statues, and you'll see a gold gilded statue of the monk who was famous for collecting scriptures from the west (From legend of Sun Wu Kong).
On the door, there's the gold image of the door gods. Seems every Asian culture has one, but with different names in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese. Isn't there something about "a rose by any other name is still a rose"?
Believed to be the oldest pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City, this is undoubtedly one of the most popular. Founded in the 19th century, it is dedicated to the bodhisattva Quan Am and is very popular among both Vietnamese and Chinese Buddhists. The roof of the pagoda tells fantastic tales taken from traditional Chinese lore, while the walls are covered with lacquer paintings of various spirits and deities. The garden, which is separated from the street by a red metal gate, contains an artificial pond and fountain. In the middle is a miniature scale artificial island with rocky terrain and a roofed pavilion.
While most Vietnamese are Buddhist there are still a wide variety of other religious places to see...Buddhist temples, Catholic Churches, Chinese temples..
The Caodai temple outside of town is a definite but there are quite a few others that you should take a quick look inside...
most of these can be done with the other highlights on my list of Must See Activity Tips and can be done in one day (a long day so start early and hire a driver and vehicle (motorbike, car, cyclo…)
Notre Deam Cathedral
Giac Lam Pagoda
Jade Emperor Pagoda
Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple
Xa Loi Pagoda
Tran Hung Dao Temple
This temple lies opposite the Museum of Vietnamese History, just inside the main entrance gate into the zoo and botanical garden. It was built in 1926 and named the Temple of Memory before being renamed in 1954. It's a Confucian temple and the Hung kings are said to have been the first rulers of the Vietnamese nation, having established their rule in the Red River region before it was invaded by the Chinese.
There are many beautiful Temples and few Churches in Ho Chi Minh City but unfortunately in our short visit we couldn't see the best ones this time, we only saw these few on our way to the airport. So this means we will have to come back :)
Outside of the temple, just by the street, was a vendor with a cage full of sparrows. I asked my guide, Minh Tran, about them. He explained that pilgrims would buy one or more sparrows before entering the temple and release them into the sky. It is an old Vietnamese custom that is presumed to bring a person some good karma.
Apparently, at least for now, it is also an illegal activity. It is illegal because of the avian flu that has been prevalent in Asia. Since humans are susceptible to this flu, the police will run these vendors off when they find them outside the temples.
And if you are wondering - no I didn't purchase a sparrow. Avoiding the avian flu was good karma enough for me!
There's plenty of temples in Saigon that you can visit. We didn't focus on them much due to time and energy constraints though. This snap was taken at a place that I don't know the name of, again another brief stop during our mad cyclo expedition!
Another shot of this Temple. An entrance fee is charged for the park but this is free once you pay that.