Friday, March 7th- Today we are heading north out of Saigon and will be visiting Nui Ba Den, a Cau Dai temple and the Cu Chi tunnels. The area that we are going to was referred to as the "Iron Triangle" during the war. This area was heavily infiltrated by the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army.
As we travel in our buses, we pass many sights that are reflective of the rural lifestyles of the peoples. We pass many rice fields with the bamboo huts of the farmers near by. We also see many rubber trees. Rubber plantations are quite common throughout Vietnam.
Just like the people in the Delta, the people of the Iron Triangle are hard workers. We pass many carts full of casaba or other produce being pulled by water buffalo, brahmas or ponies. Casaba is a big crop in Vietnam. Casaba is a main ingredient in tapioca and MSG.
Nui Ba Den, the Black Virgin Mountain
Our first stop today is Nui Ba Den, the Black Virgin Mountain. Here we will tour the temples and shrines that dot the side of the mountain. There are many ways up (and down) Nui Ba Den. Many people choose to walk up the side of the mountain. We choose a more American-style method to go up- skyway cars a la Disneyland. Ahead of me, Larry, a veteran, travels up the mountain. As we pass the people coming down, they call out, "hello!". We answer in our best Vietnamese, "Xin chao!" Behind me, Ed is enjoying his ride.
The temple of the Black Virgin
In front of the temple is the shrine to the Black Virgin. A huge urn sits in front. Worshippers come bearing incense, flowers and fruit. The incense is lit and the worshipper holds it between the palms, with the thumbs centered on the heart. The worshipper bows three times; once for the sky, once for the earth and once for man. The incense is placed in the urn and the flowers and fruit on the alter. The incense will continue to carry the worshipper's prayers to heaven.
On a clear day, it is possible to see to Cambodia.
When it is time to go back to the buses, we discover that there are two ways down the mountain- back down the skyway or sliding down the mountain! The sliders sit on a cart that sits on a metal track. The speed of the descent is controlled by a braking system on the side of the cart. Watch out! Here come the sliders!
Once we are back at the buses, we journey on to the town of Tay Ninh. We are visiting a large Cau Dai Temple to witness the noontime ceremony. The Cau Dai religion is a buddhist sect that was started in the 1920's. In addition to Buddha, a number of other people are also worshipped. These include Jesus, Martin Luther King and Victor Hugo, the French writer. The sect prays using the Ouiji Board and adopt people to worship based on messages from the Ouiji Board. All Cau Dai Temples are colorfully painted with the "all seeing" eye prominately featured. The temple that we visit today is very large. The ceremony is already in progress when we arrive. We quickly move to the temple, remove our shoes and take our place along the upstairs railing to watch the worshippers below.
The different colors of the worshippers' garments indicate the particular type of Caodaism each practices. The blue are Buddhists, the red are Confusionists and the yellow are Taoists. Those dressed in white are the noviates. During the ceremony, the worshippers sit in quiet meditation, which is broken by occasional singing and bell ringing.
Brightly painted columns and the all seeing eye are prevalent throughout the temple.
Painted murals depict the various people who are worshipped in the Cau Dai religion
The Cau Dai Temple in Tay Ninh
|Ed and Harvest Go To Vietnam||Leaving Los Angeles||Saigon||Reunification Palace||Mekong Delta||The Cu Chi Tunnels|
|Nha Trang to Qui Nhon||Phuoc Lam to Quang Ngai||Chu Lai to An Phuoc||Antenna Valley||Hue||Dong Ha, Lang Vei, Khe Sahn and the DMZ|
|Hai Van Pass & DaNang||Memorial Service||Hanoi||Joint Task Force and the Hanoi Hilton|
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