Written by Jodeci527 on 18 Apr, 2013
During my stay in Ho Chi Minh City, I did a fair amount of shopping, for grocery, clothing and souvenirs. I found the experience to be exactly what I had anticipated: A bit disorienting and frustrating, but filled with interest, awe and a myriad of…Read More
During my stay in Ho Chi Minh City, I did a fair amount of shopping, for grocery, clothing and souvenirs. I found the experience to be exactly what I had anticipated: A bit disorienting and frustrating, but filled with interest, awe and a myriad of prices for indentical items. The very first lesson I learned while in Vietnam was to wear a convincing poker face at all times. I am positive that the vendors can smell fear, and once they do, it is near impossible to negotiate a lower price. After learning the hard way, and almost being scammed into paying double for a banh mi sandwich, I had much better luck thereafter. The trick is to appear unaffected and be prepared to walk away. The very instant you display unbridled joy at having discovered something wonderful, whether it be that perfect beach wrap or an amazing work of art, its price would have been raised exponentially without you even realizing it.Street VendorsThe food vendors walk around with baskets attached to a pole which is carried on their shoulder, or some push around small carts filled with everything imagineable. They are usually easy to bargain with, and I never felt ripped off. Whether this is due to competition, or the fact that street food is not geared toward tourists, I found great value buying my meals this way. Large sandwiches cost me less than $1 USD, and the portions were decent and bursting with flavour.Ben Thanh MarketThis centralized shopping mecca in downtown Ho Chi Minh City is a complex maze to manouever. It is packed with merchants selling everything you would expect, and a few things you wouldn't. I bought several different fruits including dragon fruit and rambutan berries. These fruits look somewhat bizarre on the outside, but are actually quite sweet and tasty. The prices being quoted varied dramatically, so all I can advise is to ask around for the best deal. Don't pay more that $2 to $3 unless it's a large portion you're receiving.Further in the market, there are areas where local meals are being served. I had a bowl of Pho Bo, which is the equivalent of beef noodle soup and it was quite delicious. I paid approximately $1.50 for a large bowl accompanied by a small plate of fresh greens. Souvenir ShoppingSadly, I left my souvenir shopping until the very last minute, so I had to utilize the very touristy shops along Pham Ngu Lao street, and it wasn't my greatest shopping experience. The shops were not only unreasonably expensive at $3 for a keyring, but the vendors were rather unfriendly while others were borderline aggressive. Note: Souvenirs can be bought for far lower prices within the Ben Thanh Market.Saigon may not be known for being a shopping destination, but if you need to buy anything while in the city, I recommend checking out the large markets first. The products will most likely be knock-offs, but the prices generally suit the quality. Close
Written by Jodeci527 on 10 Mar, 2012
During one of my free days in Ho Chi Minh City, I decided to attempt a self guided tour. I left my room and went downstairs to speak with one of the staff members at Saigon Backpackers. The lady at the front desk gave me…Read More
During one of my free days in Ho Chi Minh City, I decided to attempt a self guided tour. I left my room and went downstairs to speak with one of the staff members at Saigon Backpackers. The lady at the front desk gave me a general idea of the city, and mentioned a few things that were worth visiting. She also gave me a free city map so that I would be able to find my way back.Walking around in Ho Chi Minh City was no easy feat. Motorbikes zipped up and down the streets with no semblance of order whatsoever. They didn't pause at all for the worried pedestrians who needed to cross the street. The only way to get across, was to pray and place one foot infront of the other until you arrived and the other side! Clearly, road safety was not a major concern in this country.The first attraction which I went looking for was the Notre Dame Cathedral of Ho Chi Minh City. It was built by the French between 1863 and 1880 and most offical city tours included a stop there. After navigating my way through crazy drivers and busy intersections with no stop lights, I arrived at the basilica. I walked around the entire cathedral, admiring the features of the old building. The aspect of the cathedral which I loved the most, was the pair of bell towers which flanked the building on either side. They were massive, topped by gothic looking spires and stood tall at 190 feet.In the front yard of the Notre Dame Cathedral was a beautiful front garden. The lawn was perfectly manicured and the abundance of flowers added a splash of colour to the premises. Right in the middle of the garden was a tall statue of the Virgin Mary, and large numbers of tourists gathered around to take photos. These crowds apparently made the front garden a hot spot for vendors, as there were several fruit hawkers and even a balloon vendor walking around in search of prospective customers. After a while, I continued along my way in search of the Ho Chi Minh City Hall. I spotted it from quite a distance off, as it was quite a massive building with a national flag waving from the highest point on the roof. Along the roof of the city hall were stone statues of gargoyles, whose sightless glares gave the building a somewhat hostile appearance. I didn't attempt to get too close, but I took a few photographs from across the street. Near to the front of the city hall was a giant statue of Ho Chi Minh himself, as a gentle reminder of the national hero. While walking around in the city, I found the locals to be very lively. There were people exercising in the many parks, children were playing soccer in open spaces, and I enjoyed watching a father teaching his daughter how to ride her bicycle. I was a bit tired after walking for two hours, so I decided to grab a cup of coffee at a cafe called Highlands Coffee This seemed to be the 'Starbucks' of Vietnam, as I saw many branches throughout the city. The coffee was pretty decent, but nothing to write home about.After spending the next half an hour just watching life go by, I noticed that it was approaching sunset. This city was hard enough to navigate during the day, so I really didn't want to run the risk of getting lost after nightfall. After several wrong turns, I found my way back to Saigon Backpackers, feeling more than a little victorious. Walking around on your own in Ho Chi Minh City is not for the faint hearted, however if you thrive on a bit of adrenaline, a self guided tour is a great way to spend an afternoon!Close
Written by Jodeci527 on 09 Mar, 2012
The Sinh Tourist is the most famous tour company for independent travelers in Vietnam. Their branch in Ho Chi Minh City was located right in the middle of Pham Ngu Lao, which is the largest backpacker area in the city. Many travelers use the agency…Read More
The Sinh Tourist is the most famous tour company for independent travelers in Vietnam. Their branch in Ho Chi Minh City was located right in the middle of Pham Ngu Lao, which is the largest backpacker area in the city. Many travelers use the agency to book everything from local and international bus trips, to tours throughout the entire country.I visited The Sinh Tourist in search of a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap, Cambodia for the following day. It was already 8pm, and I wasn't sure if they would still have tickets remaining for the early bus, but I still decided to give it a try. After walking through the door, I was immediately greeted with a smile, and given a complimentary bottle of water which even featured their name and logo!After such a nice greeting, I was already feeling quite comfortable so I had a seat in the office while I waited for one of the agents to wave me forward. Their office was quite large, spacious and air conditioned and with free pamphlets for their various tours on display everywhere. Some of the other travelers seemed to be waiting to speak with an agent, while others were sitting on their luggage while awaiting the arrival of a night bus.After waiting for about ten minutes, it was finally my turn so I approached the desk. I explained to the lady there that I needed a bus to take me to Siem Reap in the morning. She clicked on her computer for a bit, before telling me that they actually had seats left! Giddy with joy, I asked her for the price, and she told me a total of US$12. The trip was split into two parts. The first bus would take me to the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, where I would wait at their office for a second bus which would take me to Siem Reap, in the northern part of the country. Altogether, the journey was estimated to take a full 12 hours. The bus would leave Ho Chi Minh City at 6am, and arrive at Siem Reap at approximately 6pm.The agent then proceeded to print my tickets and a copy of my full itinerary. I paid the US$12 in cash and I was given a customized envelope with all my documents inside. The agent then told me that while the bus would leave at 6am, I was required to be outside of The Sinh Tourist by 5am. This ensures that everyone and their luggage are boarded in time, in an effort to avoid delays.The next morning, I arrived a little after 5am, and there was already quite a crowd outside. The boarding process was efficient, and everyone's ticket had a seat number which they were assigned to. I was happy to find that I was given the window seat which I asked the agent for, and sat down to await our departure. I was traveling with a very small backpack, so while others with giant packs had to store their bags in the luggage compartment underneath of the bus, I was allowed to keep mine between my feet for the journey.After the driver introduced himself and started the engine, his assistant passed through the aisle, handing out bottles of water and packets of face wipes. After every one received their complimentary items, we started off. On arriving at the border patrol, the bus assistant collected all our passports and the process went through without any issues. Twenty minutes after stopping at the border, everyone was back onboard and we continued towards Phnom Penh.The second bus arrived on time and we actually arrived in Siem Reap a few minutes early. I found The Sinh Tourist to be reliable and their service was top notch. If there is anyone who needs to use a bus to travel within or out of Vietnam, I recommend The Sinh Tourist. They will get you there on time and in comfort.Close
Ho Chi Minh City is one of those cities which backpackers flock to in South East Asia. It's possible to live there on a meagre budget of $20 a day, while maintaining a rather decent life. So, if this number seems ridiculously low, I'll break…Read More
Ho Chi Minh City is one of those cities which backpackers flock to in South East Asia. It's possible to live there on a meagre budget of $20 a day, while maintaining a rather decent life. So, if this number seems ridiculously low, I'll break it down a bit more. I didn't spend $20 every day, but that was my approximate daily cost of living. After removing $7 for my accomodation at Saigon Backpackers, I would have $13 left to spend during the course of the day. This would cover three full meals and a snack, and any transportation costs which may come up. Here's how I ate cheaply while in Ho Chi Minh City:Small Roadside RestaurantsThese small restaurants are usually owned by small local families, and there are many of them located all around the Pham Ngu Lao Street area. On my first day in Ho Chi Minh, I was rather hungry after a long day of traveling from Singapore, so I went into the first roadside restaurant that looked decent enough. I ordered a bowl of Pho Bo, which is basically beef noodle soup, and a can of coke. The waiter even brought me a free side order of fresh greens. The Pho Bo cost $1.25, and my coke came up to $0.75, which tallied up to a grand sum of $2 for a filling meal. Street VendorsIt's my personal opinion that some of the best local foods in a country can be purchased from these folks with their makeshift stalls on the roadside. In Vietnam, the food that can be bought here is generally pretty good and safe to consume. For dinner, I once bought a banh mi sandwich from a vendor who was pushing her stall on wheels. Banh Mi is a large sandwich which has lots of things stuffed in such as fried egg, chicken, vegetables and even fried rice! This dinner only cost me $1 or 20,000 Vietnamese dong.Ben Thanh MarketThis market has an abundance of cheap eats. Everything from fresh fruits, nuts and locally made sweets to large plates of chicken fried rice can be bought here for very low prices. If you like cooking your own food while you travel, this is the best place to go shopping for groceries in Ho Chi Minh City. I bought a large bag of lychees at the market, and paid less than a dollar! Once you actually take the time out to look for great deals, staying in Vietnam doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg. The country is actually one of the cheapest places to visit in the entire world! Eating on budget in Vietnam is really easy, and you definitely won't go hungry!Close
Written by SeenThat on 18 Apr, 2008
More than any other country in South East Asia, Vietnam keeps security threats for the traveler. Few visitors have neither witnessed violence directly nor know a victim of violence; being aware of the dangers can ensure a pleasant and safe visit.The main, incessant, shock awaiting…Read More
More than any other country in South East Asia, Vietnam keeps security threats for the traveler. Few visitors have neither witnessed violence directly nor know a victim of violence; being aware of the dangers can ensure a pleasant and safe visit.The main, incessant, shock awaiting the traveler in Vietnam are the touts. They are much more violent than elsewhere in the region and they do not give up. Beyond legal commercial activities, many of them cater for the local crime scene and their approaching travelers may lead to an entrapment event. In Saigon, drugs loaded syringes are sold at the tourist concentrations; despite the fact that tourists are not approached the scene is dangerous. A traveler may fall prey to an extortion attempt where local policeman cooperate with the crook. The street crowds ease their work, and provide protection to the real danger: motorbike thieves.I visited Vietnam for the first time with a Canadian companion. While walking Pham Ngu Lao Street – Saigon’s main travelers’ quarters - two men riding one of those ubiquitous motorbikes in Vietnam, approached her from behind and snatched her daypack. Chasing them was not possible.Out of despair, she denounced the event at the nearest police station – not that she expected to see her things again, but because her passport was robbed. A long sheet of paper written entirely in unintelligible Vietnamese was issued, but not other warnings of the theft consequences were offered. Following that, a quick internet search showed that the nearest Canadian consulate was in Hanoi, all the way across this spaghetti shaped country.The troubles began once out of Saigon. Simply, guesthouses and hotels did not allow her to check in without a passport. The same ritual was repeated everywhere: the police report of the theft would be shown to the receptionist; the last would call the local police station in order to get their approval. The local police station would call the issuing station in Saigon in an attempt to confirm the Vietnamese-illiterate tourist didn’t fake the official paper. Only after that she would be allowed to check in; sometimes the process took more than two hours.Later, at the consulate, she was told another young woman was robbed the same week. She didn’t let go of her backpack and was dragged by the motorbike for half a block. Finally the thieves cut the straps and took the backpack, but her shoulder was already broken. Never fight thieves.Violating Basic Freedoms and Legal PrinciplesExperiencing this odyssey, the ongoing rumor was confirmed. Vietnamese hotels and guesthouses keep the visitors passports for the first evening, so that the documents can be presented (and photocopied?) at the local police station. It must be emphasized this is not done for the travelers security, if it was so, providing non-intrusive, impersonal, peripheral security to the establishments would be enough. Moreover, this is a blunt violation to the privacy right ensured by article twelve of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Basically, it means that travelers are considered guilty (and thus the surveillance) and in need to prove their innocence in contradiction to all legal principles.Sadly, most countries requesting identification while checking into such establishments behave in a similar way, even if usually in a more subtle way. Thailand authorities trust the receptionists list, and thus the privacy violation is easily circumvented there using simple methods. Laotian establishments are careless, but any registration problems would be investigated by the immigrations officers at the country exits, as I described in another article.However, with no doubt, the prize in the category of institutional paranoia goes to Bolivia. In a hangover from their last military dictatorship, strict identity control on the people entering and leaving Bolivian cities is imposed by the police. A network of street-informants runs the local streets - I have Bolivian newspaper clippings confirming that. Ten-thousand policemen patrol a city of less than a million people and telephoto cameras located on the Andean High Plateau rim watch the city from high-above. And yet, they pick up travelers documents at the hotels reception desks; the fact that every year travelers disappear leaving no trace – though their bodies usually appear at some later stage – reinforces my point that this privacy violation has nothing to do with the travelers security. On the contrary, it facilitates the job of those attempting to classify easy and valuable crime targets.Close
Written by Combitta on 17 Jul, 2002
I am new to this site and remain slightly intimidated with all of these mandatory 'boxes' to tick. Writing about Saigon will probably help a little. It is a most fascinating city, a tiger in-waiting and most certainly the beating heart of modern-day…Read More
I am new to this site and remain slightly intimidated with all of these mandatory 'boxes' to tick. Writing about Saigon will probably help a little. It is a most fascinating city, a tiger in-waiting and most certainly the beating heart of modern-day Vietnam.
When reading posts on the Lonely Planet's South-East Asia branch and a variety of other travel sites, it is obvious that almost all backpackers and other individual travelers are directed to / do not venture beyond the backpacker centre in Pham Ngu Lao St. and the immediate downtown area. They visit Ben Thanh market, a few pagodas, cruise along Dong Khoi St and Nguyen Hue St. and make a day-trip to the Cu Chi tunnels.
Saigon has much more to offer and in my Saigon Dreaming journal I'll try to highlight some of the lesser known areas and attractions.
Written by Ishtar on 21 May, 2005
I have been fairly lucky over the many years of travel, in that I have never gotten acutely sick. Despite the many incursions to Mexico, Montezuma’s Revenge and I never crossed paths. Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, the entire Caribbean, and the highlands of Costa Rica were…Read More
I have been fairly lucky over the many years of travel, in that I have never gotten acutely sick. Despite the many incursions to Mexico, Montezuma’s Revenge and I never crossed paths. Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, the entire Caribbean, and the highlands of Costa Rica were all very kind hosts and allowed me to feast on local culinary morsels with a certain insouciance that came to a screeching halt in Saigon.
A word to the wise: get your preliminary preventatives before you travel anywhere. For Vietnam, the specialists at Long Island Jewish Hospital recommended Hepatitis B and Typhoid, which I obtained. At this point in time, the jury seems to be out on the "Cipro" situation; Cipro is a wide-range antibiotic which seems to be on every doctor’s "off the mainland" list in the U.S. They also very expertly put together a first-aid kit recommendation, which we faithfully followed.
About Food Poisoning: If it hits you, you will not know from where it came. What I can tell you is that the symptoms worsen as time passes, and do not be as foolish, as I was, as I resisted the idea of either a "doctor" or a "hospital", having been slightly influenced by the negative literature I had read about Vietnam and having seen the local hospital the day before, which was, quite frankly, frightening. Symptoms include sudden and persistent abdominal pain, not unlike hunger; diarrhea and vomiting will alternate, or in a seemingly malicious joke, will want to happen simultaneously. Do not attempt to take anything to stop either: the idea is to get rid of the critter you have ingested.
Getting help: In Saigon, Columbia Asia International Healthcare is equipped to handle whatever ails you, as they specifically address emergency medicine. Who knew? I’ll tell you who knew, and that was the wonderful young woman who served us, the evening we ate at Café Qinq . Her name was Hang, and she had come to the hotel to give me a much-needed foot massage and do a manicure for Chuck. The only way I was going to have a massage that day was in a non-cognitive state, and Hang became worried and told me about the "foreign hospital". She called information, got the number, and then called the hospital for me. She explained the situation to them in Vietnamese, and then they spoke to me in English. Try as I might have to go there, it was not possible. So if Mohammed cannot get to the mountain, the mountain...
Here are the addresses of their two central locations:
Saigon International Clinic
08 Alexandre de Rhodes, District 1
Tel (84-8)823-888, and
Gia Dinh International Hospital
01 No Trang Long
Binh Thanh District
Web: http://www.columbiaasia.com - wouldn’t hurt to get familiar with them; both locations are open 24 hours.
While we are at it, let me give you the address of an excellent pharmacy, though looks were deceiving. They had the much-sought-after Ciprofloxacin, as made by Unimed in Korea.
My Chau Pharmacy
389 Hai Ba Trung,District 1
Open from 7am to 10pm, and prices are comparable to those in the U.S. Point of reference is the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, which is huge and can’t be missed.
The location closest to us was the one near Notre Dame Cathedral, and luckily, the foreign doctor was on call and could come to see me in an hour. I was told that the rates would vary between US$50 and US$90 and as much as $150 for a house call inclusive of lab work. Needless to say, this must not happen very often at the Indochine Hotel, because at this point, the entire staff, including some hotel guests, are aware that there is a sick woman on-hand. Our room cleaning crew, which is made up of four young women, cannot stop giggling. At this point, I am thinking that the laughter will stop the moment she investigates the wastebasket.
The reception rings you up when someone is here to visit you, and sure enough, Dr. Martin has arrived with nurse in tow. As I look up, I need to continue looking up, because this doctor must be seven feet tall. Nurse X, for lack of knowing her name, has a shitload of stuff with her, crammed in blue bags, and I must tell you the whole thing reminded me of a horror movie. I am impressed though, by how thorough Dr. Martin is, in his questions, and quick grasp of the situation. He blames everything on the "fut", most likely airplane.
If you haven’t guessed yet, Dr. Martin is German. And Chuck is bewildered at first, wondering what the "fut" is. He’s also not terribly excited at the sight of a hypodermic needle; neither am I, actually, and I do ask if sterilization practices are in use. Nurse X assures me that indeed they are, and proceeds to administer the recommended dose of Pimperan; remember that name. This is what you need to stop vomiting or get rid of the nausea. The stuff is also available in 10mg tablets, which they gave me but which I did not require, as the first shot handled that problem quite well. The doctor also feels that since no infection appears to be present that the Cipro tablets can be shelved; instead, he does urge me to begin taking Immodium, or the generic equivalent, which we had packed (the only thing we used, besides the DEET bug spray!). The most horrific part of the treatment was the rehydration process; the salt tablets, which were poo-pooed by the folks at the travel clinic in NY, made their debut with me on that day. They gave me fifty of them, and suggested I dissolve two to three in 12 oz. of water and start drinking. This has got to be the most hideous-tasting stuff, but I could have made pacts with the devil that day just to feel a bit of respite.
It’s remarkable, but they had everything to check temperature, blood pressure, lungs, etc. I couldn’t repress a smile when dear Dr. Martin asked me to "cowf". I am told that if I do not hydrate properly as directed, they will have to admit me to the hospital for a glucose IV. Right.
My confidence in my recuperative powers prevailed; what didn’t was my appreciation of the billing system of the hospital. On the form that needs to be filled by every patient, there is a notation at the bottom that allows you to select how you want to part with your money. I’m always thinking miles, even on a deathbed, so out comes the Delta American Express. Well, since they do not have the machine en-bag, you need to take the credit card to the hospital, have them process it, and then return to the hotel. Plus, you will be charged an extra 3% for credit card transactions. What is 3%, when we are talking about a $210 medical bill?
So there you have it! Yes, you can get sick in Vietnam, and yes, you can get good medical attention. For more listings, please follow this link. I was considerably better by the next day and able to resume sightseeing by the day after.
Written by onesundaymorning on 03 Oct, 2008
When in Vietnam getting clothing made is a must, and the streets of Dong Khoi are filled with tailors who can make just about anything. Off a side street I found a gem of a shop. Bolts of silk lined the walls, but we were…Read More
When in Vietnam getting clothing made is a must, and the streets of Dong Khoi are filled with tailors who can make just about anything. Off a side street I found a gem of a shop. Bolts of silk lined the walls, but we were told if we wanted something different that they could get it at the market in the morning. First on my list was a traditional Vietnamese dress called an Ao Da. It is a dress with high slits on both sides and and silk pants underneath. As the tailor was measuring me she very politely reminded me that the Vietnamese where their pants much higher then Americans as she measured my waist.Next I had a skirt made that I had designed. This is a very difficult thing to try to get done. Most people I knew had success with bringing a picture from a magazine. The seamstresses seemed much more at ease copying a dress from a picture then from a drawing regardless of how detailed the drawing I was. This really surprised me since my background is in fashion and art, so I knew how to draw technical drawings, but since I was able to communicate the design she was able to work with me much more then someone who wasn't able to describe the vision as well. This made me in high demand among my friends as I went from shop to shop helping them with dresses and suits. Once everything was communicated, measured, and fabrics were chosen I gave a $30 down payment (my total was $65) and was told to come back in four days for a fitting. When I came back they had everything together and just had a few small adjustments to make and everything was ready later that night.Not all of the tailors were nearly as talented as the one I happened to find. Many people walked away with tragic lumps of fabric, while one person had a Vera Wang bridal gown recreated in beautiful detail for $200 (including hand beading). When the vision turns into a nightmare simply refuse it. Start to point out any flaws, poor fitting, bad stitching, wrong fabric, wrong color. The shop will fight, but in the end most of the money will be refunded. In the case of my friend what was to be a $60 dress she only had to pay $5 to get out of the deal. In the end remember not to be a monster, after all this is their way of life that is being criticized, but stand up and speak your mind. Being civil goes a long way.Close
Written by onesundaymorning on 25 Sep, 2008
Some travel experiences leave an imprint on you for ever, others scar you for life and if you happen to have that experience while on the back of a cyclo in Ho Chi Minh you might just end up scared both physically and mentally.…Read More
Some travel experiences leave an imprint on you for ever, others scar you for life and if you happen to have that experience while on the back of a cyclo in Ho Chi Minh you might just end up scared both physically and mentally. Among the long list of things I was told not to do while in Vietnam riding a cyclo was right their on the top. Ignoring all rational and sane advice I got on the first cyclo that I could find and took off. Cyclo drivers can be found anywhere that their are tourists and for 2 USD they will drive you across town. I handed the driver my money, was told to hold on, and in a brief moment of sanity I had a clear though and questioned what I was about to get into, but I wasn't given the chance to think further; the driver took off so fast all I could see was streaks. My friend, who was on a cyclo next to me, began screaming something, I'm not sure what, but I think it was "we are going to die," which the drivers didn't take as a warning, but more of as a challenge. Thus we began to drag race through the street of Saigon. It wasn't the speed that scared me, the swerving around other bikes, or the man who we hit in the street and didn't bother to stop for (he seemed okay, no falling or blood, but then again we were going at a speed where I couldn't see anything but my life flash before my eyes) it was the corners. There seems to be no brakes on these bikes and corners are taken fast and the reach an angle where my knees where almost touching the ground. The end destination didn't come fast enough. We stopped, the drivers laughed, and we got off.The way back we couldn't find any cyclos so we decided on their slower cousin, the rickshaw. Not nearly as fast considering that is nothing more then a cart attached to a bike, but it was a death trap in its own right. The rickshaw drivers insisted to drive on the road with the suicidal drivers leaving nothing but a thin slice of bamboo between us and the cars and cyclos on the street. The worst was when we had to cut across traffic. Unlike most cities I can not recall a single signal light in the entire city, so crossing traffic is like a game of frogger, and I was the frog. There is nothing like seeing traffic coming at you fast and furious, while the driver takes his time to peddle across the street.Close
Written by onesundaymorning on 14 Sep, 2008
First I need to say that I am not someone who will judge another person based on their religion, even if I don't agree with their particular way of thinking I am in no position to judge another person. Now with that said I do…Read More
First I need to say that I am not someone who will judge another person based on their religion, even if I don't agree with their particular way of thinking I am in no position to judge another person. Now with that said I do think some religions are harder to grasp then other and some in particular are just an all around shock, especially when what is being seen was never explained. Also with that said the religion of Cao Dai is a bit strange (no offense to anyone who practices this). So as it goes my bus pulled up into a parking lot an yet another unscheduled trip to the Cu chi Tunnels. The parking lot was full of yellow sand and signs that read "Do not buy anything beyond these gates. It will be over priced." There are always signs that show what the day will bring and I whole heartily took this a sign of what was to come. Our group was taken to a very brigthly painted blue, yellow, pink, and gold painted building and was told that this was a temple. The inside was a even greater assault on the senses. The room was bright pink and yellow with a blue green, arched ceiling. Columns were carved with even brighter and more cartoon like dragons on them. I felt like I had died and woken up in a Saturday morning cartoon from the 80's. Observers were lead to a balcony that surrounded the temple and were allowed to watch the proceedings. Worshipers stand in perfect lines on the floor and wait for three people, each dressed in a different color to arrive (each to symbolize a different religion).Cao Dai was started in 1926 by the mystic Ngo Van Chieu who intertwined the three main religions of Vietnam, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism with Christianity and a few other religions for good measure to create something new. Everything in the temple has a meaning. there are statues for the first female Cao Dai priest and one of the Buddha riding a tiger to symbolize the year that the construction began. At first it all seems very progressive; inducting women and even blending all religions to create one super religion. It's great, but the following what made me start to question everything. On a platform, on different levels, are the patron saints of Cao Dai they include Christ, Sakyamuni, and Quan Kong, but also include Joan of Arch, writer Victor Hugo, and Charlie Chaplin. Three million people now follow this religion.Close