As I am staying in Ho Chi Minh, aka Saigon, for a while, I decided to explore the surroundings of the city. I visited the Cao Dai temple Ho Chi Minh, which is about 100 km away from this Vietnamese city, and visited it by public transport, which makes the trip a challenge itself.
In total, I rode three different buses from my Hotel to the temple. As it is far I needed to change the bus several times and, as usual, I am the only outsider on the bus. The bus stops right in front Cao Dai temple Ho Chi Minh, but it took me more than 4 hours to get there, and the same to get back. So basically I spent the whole day to visit this temple because I did it the cheapest way. You can simply go by car and save a lot of time and fun, and spend more money. Up to you! I didn’t mind cause I had nothing else to do, and I was willing to do it because I like bus rides where I can see the city and be more aware of how local’s life is here. I’m already used to everyone staring so it’s ok. In total, I have spent less than 3€ on bus tickets, which turns out to be a very cheap trip.
Locals feel weird about my presence on the bus. I do not escape the curious and amazed looks. They laugh when I speak to confirm the information on the bus, but they look friendly. The bus ride is ok. The bus is not so full and the sits could be worse. The street is not bumpy, so the trip is kinda comfortable. Still, so many hours spent on buses are always tiring, even more in local buses cause they are stopping all the time. The views to reach Cao Dai temple Ho Chi Minh during this long journey aren’t mesmerizing.
I arrive at the temple just in time for the 12:00 ceremony. And this ceremony is why this temple is part of tourist itineraries. It is worth going there to attend the ceremony that gathers dozens of followers of the religion dressed in white. There are also other people with colorful clothes but fewer. I think they are more important in the hierarchy.
The ceremony lasts about an hour where songs and bows are performed and the altar is covered with what I believe to be offerings. It’s something I haven’t seen yet, so it’s something new for me.
I was thinking I will probably be the only tourist there which is ok as I would enjoy the show without tourist screams. However, there were more tourists but in groups. I’m the only one on my own. There are some tours from Ho Chi Minh to this temple, so I believe that’s how they got there. The locals at Cao Dai temple Ho Chi Minh are already used to the presence of tourists, so they organize them by giving instructions on where to go. In fact, there is a specific place on the top floor where tourists can watch the ceremony. That place got crowded with tourists taking photos and filming the event. I think people visiting these places should pay more respect. They were loud not a thing to be in a temple… But at least they just stay for a while and then leave.
The men sit on the right and the women on the left during the ceremony. They don’t mix! They sing and pray at one voice and bow at the same time like if they were one body. It’s a beautiful composition to see from the top but you don’t need to see the full ceremony that lasts one hour as they will repeat the same things and movements over and over.
The temple is very beautiful, decorated with colorful dragons, a ceiling with sparkling stars and a divine eye symbolizing God. Incidentally, several eyes embedded in a triangle decorate this temple which has a lot of color and detail. This is the symbol of this religion: an eye. They worship Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, and Confucius, as well as Joan of Arc and Julius Caesar.
Caodaism believes in the existence of one God who considers himself to be the same God worshiped by other monotheistic religions. He is represented through an eye in a triangle since this God has no form. There are many followers of this religion in Vietnam, as its foundation was also found here. There are several Cao Dai temples in Vietnam and they all have the same architectural style. Super colorful!
One thing I was surely not expecting to see while visiting Cao Dai temple Ho Chi Minh was monkeys! Yes, there are monkeys in the surrounding green places that are secured with fences, but of course, that is not an obstacle for the creatures. They jump the fences and walk in the middle of the street. Some of them chasing tourists. Be aware and be careful!
After the visit, I walk the streets looking for a place to have lunch. I have several offers from old gentlemen who ask me if I need a motorcycle, they must think I’m lost because there are no more foreigners in the area, so I have a lot of attention turned to me, but it’s always like that, I’m used to it. It is natural, the human being is curious about what’s different. There aren’t much food stalls around, there isn’t much going on in the area either. It is a very pacific place. I walked the street a few minutes to try to find something, and the only thing I see is a place where all those tourists from the tours were having lunch. Thank God cause I’m starving. Even if it’s expensive, I need to eat. The place looks very cool with lots of trees and some animals. The price is ok. After that, I go to the roadside and wait for the bus. God save me from all the staring, please!
Anyway, I returned to the city 4 hours later on a trip that I didn’t even find complicated to do, so I advise other tourists with time to visit the temple this way if you are on a budget and like to do things on your own.
To get to Cao Dai temple Ho Chi Minh you need to hop on bus 13 (10.000 Dong) and then change to bus 70-2 (14.000Dong) on the last stop that is a bus terminal. Once on bus 70-2 you will see the temple from the street and will know where to leave, but just in case, I told the man on the bus where I was going. Cao Dai temple Ho Chi Minh isn’t far from the Cu Chi Tunnels, so you will see tours offering a visit to both places. If you wanna go on your own, you need to go for the 12 o’clock ceremony as the other one is at 6 pm and you will not have buses back.
To better help you traveling in Ho Chi Minh by local bus, you can download the app: BUS MAP. Very useful with bus trajectory, price, bus stops, you can even track the bus in real-time.