Impression of Vietnam – Day 3, Life In The Tunnels, Amazed by The Cao Dai Interior!

30 March 2013

Continue to our journey to the Tunnels, the scenery along the way was changing from city to villages. As I can see, on our left and right sides there was rice field and people houses. It brought me to remember about my own country. For me, this kind of scenery is more interesting and peaceful than the look of a big city. I can’t understand the Vietnamese language even they always think I am one of them, so when my friend, Panda, asked in which place we can stop to reach the Tunnels, the Bus Driver, a young guy, answered her without such a good manner. Maybe it was his habit or maybe he wasn’t had a good day, but he mocked to us because we don’t know the way. Inappropriate! I don’t understand, I just sat there and waiting, but from their tones, I can tell, the man said something nasty, and Panda mad because of that. Fortunately for us, there were some Vietnamese guy who told us about the right place to stop.

After 1 hour on the bus, we finally make our stop. We saw a small store that sell some groceries and meals. I saw they also sell the Durian. Wow, I can’t escape for my desire to try Durian, especially Vietnam Durian, hahaha. So we stopped a while, buy the Durian and drink some waters. The Durians are so sweet and yummy, but you have to buy it in kilos, and they measured the weight of Durians including the skin of it. Hhahaa, a weird transaction, but if you count it, the price is not so expensive, quite same as in Indonesia, which usually we sell it by one piece of fruit, without the skin. It was sweet, yellow and smooth. Heaven! But the taste can not compare to Durians from Sumatera, which contain so much alcohol on it, make the Durians taste so strong.

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From the owner of the store we know how to go to the Enter gate of the Tunnels. It was a terrible hot day. I felt like the Sun exactly above my head. My T-Shirt, was easily to getting wet. We walked to the Ben Dinh entrance and paid for 90.000 VND/person to enter the Tunnels. From the entrance to the real tunnels, it’s quite far. Actually the Tunnels have 2 entrance, you can choose from Ben Dinh, more for tourist or Benh Duoc, more for locals. At that time, we don’t know, so we just enter to the nearest gate from the Bus stop. I think, it was the Ben Dinh gate entrance.

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Before arrived to the first place to start the tour, we saw a huge temple. My first time to see their real temple. I felt amazed and a bit scary at first, since it’s so vast and there’s no one at that time. So quite and the carving of their dragon, bring me to my nerves. But I thought, I should conquer my fears and come to inside the temple. So I made it, while Panda wait for me in the terrace.

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Inside of the temple, you can find huge statue of Ho Chi Minh. Every Vietnamese that come to enter the building, make a pray first, before come inside. You have to take out your sandals/shoes, and give respect to Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh is a real hero for Vietnamese people, not only a good president, but he gave them an example to fight for their freedom. He was waking up the ardor of Vietnam people to live in free and develop their own country with their own strength. I have a strong passion to know great people, I always amaze how they have such big influence to so many human lives. After my trip to Vietnam, I saw and can feel, how Vietnamese respect to their first president, Ho Chi Minh, I can understand their feeling.

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We continued our walk to find where is the Tunnels. It’s a big area. Of course it is, hahaha, it was a forest, wild forest, but because now it’s to showing to the world how they survived in their tunnels from the incursion of US armies, they build a road and make a pretty street to walk. You also can find some restaurant there, even when we were there, many are closed. I wonder why, because today is Saturday, it supposed as a busy day for services company, but the Tunnels is not so many tourist, maybe because it’s quite far from Saigon, or mostly people come early morning or late afternoon to avoid the sun.

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Finally, there’s a sign of the starting point to the Tunnels. They also served you with tour guide, so you can understand the story of the Tunnels. Before we arrived in the starting point, we saw a place with loads of guns and pieces of heavy equipment such as tanks or planes or bomb that already broken to the pieces.

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The Tour guide that lead us to the Tunnels wore an army color clothes, the green navy. With such a Vietnamese original hat. He leads us to one place for another places. He showed us and dare us to go with him to the Tunnels. We crossed the street, a simple road they built to easy tourist come and follow the Tunnels’s track. After walked for a while, we arrived in Cinema room. It’s a room to introduce us what happened in the Tunnels, and how people made it. It gives us a short information, why they built it and how it worked. It was a good moment for me to take a break and have a nice sit after brought my heavy backpack around.

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After 10 minutes watching the video played in small television, we continued our tour. The guide had a simple English. Good for me that I was accompanied by a Vietnamese friend that fluently speak English. She helped me a lot to translate the story and actually, you can understand a bit by seeing their tunnels and the function for every tunnels.

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We reached a short tunnels and the Tour Guide dare us to go inside. Wow, it’s so small hole. Only enough for Asian figure as mine. That’s the purpose of created that small hole, so The US Army can not come inside to the tunnels, because they have a big appearance. But don’t underestimate the Tunnels, it looks so small from surface, but once you come inside, you will amaze how the tunnels has a big room underground. Usually, they cover the door of the Tunnels, by put a huge stone upon it and give a small hole for breathing. Sometimes, it doesn’t look at all as the door and they cover it with some plantations so enemies can not find their secret entrance. Not only they covered the door to the Tunnels, they also made some bobby traps inside the Tunnels, if Strangers come inside and don’t know the area, they also can fall to the bobby traps which having sharp wood or iron that ready to break your flesh.

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Be careful when you visit inside, because there are bats sitting quietly on the rooftop. It will be dangerous if you’re get biting by them, cause their bites are poisoning. And don’t be afraid to get yourself a bit dirty, that’s the fun of visiting the Tunnels. You will see they planned the Tunnels very well, from the meeting room, the kitchen, the bedroom, the operation room, even the small cinema with a room that lead them directly to the lake, so they can swim or had shower, it’s all there, on the underground. I was so amazed imagine how they need to digging step by step and take out all the soil inside to create a huge room under, without modern equipment, only by manual equipment, such as wood, bamboos or by some hoes. Amazing how they have the spirit to finished it and make a safe refuge and shelter for their people.

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Finished with Tunnels, we were heading to Cao Dai temple. The temple located in Tay Ninh, Panda’s hometown. We took a cheap bus which lead us to a very long journey in bumpy road. Panda had to stand up along the way, and I can got a seat few moments before we finally arrived in Cao Dai temple.

Took this bus also another story. The bumpy road made one grandma feel so terrible. She often put a face who easy to vomit, and yes, she was vomit finally in a plastic bag. The Bus crew who asked us for the ticket money, appeared to have been prepared many plastick bags. Make me sure there are many passengers who vomit in the bus because of the bumpy road. I didn’t know the grandma, but I try to massage her back once she finished vomit. So sad, she looked so terrible.

Came a old man to the bus. From his breathe, I can sense he just drank so many wines/alcohol. What made me shocked when he come inside the bus and let his fingers stand still in the Bus’s door. Just a minute before the door closed, I pulled his fingers from the door. If not, I can’t imagine what will happened to that fingers if squeezed by the door, ouch. But he seems not so realized what was happened. He smiling all the time like a dumb person, and another minutes, he spoke with loud to other Vietnamese, which I can understand what happened, but later on, there’s an argue inside the bus. Even the Bus crew, that old lady, scream to him very loud! Panda explained to me, that he just told a nasty thing so made people angry. I really think he wasn’t realized what he did, poor drunk man.

It took around 3 hours from the Tunnels to Cao Dai, actually it shouldn’t be that long. We were taking the public bus which taking the long route, we mistook the number of the bus, so we have to be in that bumpy road for 3 hours, which really made me and Panda so tired. Almost 6 pm once we arrived to the temple. A bad luck because they have service at 6 pm, and possibly will not allow us to come inside the temple. Again, my friend Panda was trying so hard to let them allow me to see inside of the temple. After a tough conversation, finally they allow me to come take a quick visit inside of the temple.

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I was so happy also a bit scary. The temple is unusual temple as I ever saw before. It’s very colorful, pink and many bright color, looks so cheerful but in the otherside, also look so mysterious. The dragon relief and the big eyes, an eye they believe can see all direction, bring me in an eerie feeling. I should admit, I was a feeling scare but also awesome. I amazed with their art work, I amazed with their culture, I amazed when I see many people sit down nicely with their with long dress waiting for the service hour. They all looked at me when I come inside, especially because I was wearing a short pant. I shouldn’t be allowed! I felt a bit ashamed, but the rush permission made me can’t change or even cover my legs before come inside.

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A priest came to us and showed us the temple. We did the quick one way around the temple. And he told me where to stop and take a picture. OMG, I really can’t speak anything. I know it was made by human, but for me, this is so awesome and freaking scary. An unusual temple such brings you a feeling of beautiful and hideous. It’s prohibited to take your own pictures once you are inside of the temple. My friend told me that it can bring bad luck to you. So I didn’t take any picture of mine, I also a bit hard to take a picture of the temple with that walk in hurry that we did. I can understand, because in another minutes, the services will be begun. And only because of me, they need to delay it a bit.

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I am really curious about Cao Dai sect, so I google a bit about them and want to share it with you ;

Cao Dai is a syncretist Vietnamese religious movement that incorporates aspect of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and even Catholicism. The temple was built between 1933 – 1950. The faith is named for its supreme being, known as Cao Dai (“High Tower”), a Taoist epithet for the supreme god. Cao Dai is seen as the same God honored in all major world religions, but the chosen term avoids gender, personality or other earthly attributes.

Caodaists believe that all religions are the same in principle. CaoDai.org explains:

“The noble effort of CaoDai is to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being, whatever our minor differences, in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world. CaoDai does not seek to create a gray world, where all religions are exactly the same, only to create a more tolerant world, where all can see each other as sisters and brothers from a common divine source reaching out to a common divine destiny realizing peace within and without.”

Cao Dai’s pantheon of saints includes such diverse figures as the Buddha, Confucius, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Pericles, Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Victor Hugo, and the Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen. These are honored at Cao Dai temples, along with ancestors.

Cao Dai followers strive for inner peace and harmony in the world and try to gain religious merit and avoid bad karma. Cao Dai encourages obedience to the three duties (those between king and citizen, father and child, husband and wife) and five virtues (humanity, obligation, civility, knowledge, reliability) of Confucianism.

Followers are expected to participate regularly in worship services, practice vegetarianism at least ten days per month, purify their body and spirit and avoid killing living beings.

After finished visiting the temple, we were heading to Panda’s house. I met with Lucky, her puppy that so active and welcome us around. Our body so tired and just after clean myself and have a bit conversation, I went to sleep while Panda still talking with her husband through Skype.

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Good night people, I will continue the story tomorrow morning 🙂

xx,

Dea

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