Nha Trang is a coastal resort town about a nine-hour drive north of Saigon. The beaches of Nha Trang are considered some of the most beautiful in the world. The water is an incredible blue and waves are calm leaving the ocean to appear smooth and flat like glass.
The beaches were a big draw—I mean c’mon, who doesn’t love to walk the beach, scuba dive, parasail, or lounge under an umbrella with a book drinkin’ booze out of a coconut? But because it was the day after Tết, a time that you traditionally go to church to pay your respects and bring in the new year with prayers, we decided to temple hop instead.
First up: Long Son Temple, which has a Buddha 29 meters high that overlooks the city.
In front of nearly all Buddhist temples are large vats where incense is placed before entering the temple itself. It’s like a little hello before you get started.
After visiting the temple itself we headed 150 steps up to the big Buddha. All along the way beggars were perched and imploring visitors for a small donation. This practice is very common throughout Asia especially around places of worship. Most people will bring extra money in small denominations for the express purpose of sharing with those less fortunate. My own personal weakness are those with physical handicaps or retardation as they are sometimes cruelly shunned throughout society.
Once we made it to the top there was more incense lighting and prayer. At New Year’s most people are praying for a lucky and auspicious year.
In the same spirit you can also ring the gong and offer up to the Gods your wishes for the year. At this particular temple they allow you to sit under the bell of the gong while a clergyman chants a prayer and rings the gong for you.
Very, very cool! And not nearly as loud as you might think. It was actually pretty peaceful under there.
The inside of the gong’s bell is covered in notes and wishes left by prayerful patrons. I wished I could read Vietnamese so that I could catch a hint of all the wishes offered up for prayer. Really neat.
NEXT UP … The Cham Towers, which are ancient temples originally built between the sixth and twelfth centuries. Originally there were eight of which four are still standing and regularly visited by both patrons and tourists.
Given their age and frequent usage it’s amazing that the buildings are still in such great shape.
As always you remove your shoes before entering any Buddhist temple. I always marvel that folks can always find their own shoes back again.
The towers (or buildings) range in size from very small to medium-sized one room spaces. In order to reach the alter room one most cross through a dark hallway that is lit only by candles and incense. The only furniture or objects d’art in the building is the alter itself. Each tower is dedicated to a different deity.
Whether or not you’re religious visiting temples and spaces of worship is a nice way to start the New Year.