Vietnam: Caodaismus – Jesus and Joann of Arc
The end of my stay in Vietnam was neigh. There was one more place to see, a must-see place. The Caodaistic temple. Caodaismus (Đạo Cao Đài) is a young, syncretic religion established by a bureaucrat from South Vietnam in the 1920s.
Caodaism is a religion which fascinates many people. According to the caodaic myth Tao was here before the creation and God. It is shapeless, static, eternal source. Then the Big Bang happened and it created God. God then created two energies which complete one another - yin and yang. In their presence, the universe materialized. Here, God's symbol is the famous the Eye of Providence (the left one as he is the lord of yang which is on the left). Caodaists believe there are 36 heavenly spheres and 72 planets where life exists. The 72nd planet is the closest to the hell. The Earth is number 68.
We happened to visit the temple in Tây Ninh (the largest Caodaist temple) when a sermon was about to start. Priests in blue, yellow and red robes were entering the temple. Believers were all dressed in white. All take off their shoes in front of the entrance. Men enter through the entrance on the righ. Women through to one on the left. They gather in the main hall and on the balconies.
The temple gets interesting right at the moment you enter. There is a painting depicting three persons - the Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen, the Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, and the French writer Victor Hugo. It says "love and justice." These are the three saints who sign the contract among God and the mankind. The Caodaistic pantheon is more than interesting and colorful - there is Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammad, Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Chinese poet Li Po or Vladimir Iliyich Lenin. The temple combines many architectural styles form all around the world. And it is painted in many colors. It's characteristic section is a huge blue sphere with stars scattered on its surface. The chruch's main symbol the Eye of Providence is displayed on it. Below, there is the seat of the Caodaistic pope. However, it has been empty for 80 years.
The sermon was pretty long. Yet it was perfectly organized. Music played in the background. Everything was unreal and almost magical.
Once the sermon was finished, we set off to see the surrounding area. The sun burned. We couldn't resist to take a break in the shade. Men in white robes offered us kindly a lunch worth of food. Caodists are vegetarians, by the way. We gladly accepted their offer. They didn't want any money. Moreover, we had great fun with them and they waved at us once we were leaving. However is the Cadoist myth crazy, there is perhaps some grain of truth in it…
GPS: 11°18'15.9"N 106°07'59.8"E
Text and photos: Hana Bašová
Nha Trang is practically the most famous tourist resort in Vietnam, not so much for some landmarks, this coastal city of Khanh Hoa province is famous for its seven kilometers long sandy beach with adjacent islands. The city of approximately 392,000 inhabitants and this number is growing steadily.
Da Nang (a city almost in the geographic center of Vietnam) is largely unknown. Which is unfortunate. An average tourist usually passes by there in a taxi on his way from the airport to his favorite Hoi An hotel…. I spent three weeks in Da Nang. And the city got on the list of my favorite places in Southeast Asia (right next to Chiang Mai). In Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson called the old road to Hue as the “abandoned fragment of perfection.” I absolutely agree.
As much as I hate to travel by bus, I would repeat the ride from Nha Trang and Da Lat. The former is the city of two hundred thousand. It is the most popular spot to spend honeymoon at in Vietnam. It is situated at 1500 meters in the Central Highlands. You can enjoy a number of great views while on the road. And it gets even better on bike …
Upon an hour of waiting for a visa I was free to explore the capital of the country I really looked forward to exploring. First of all, I somehow let a cab driver to make a 300 crown rip off. Sometimes things like this happen. But honestly – this happens in Prague as well. Aboard the airplane I could see streets where millions of bikes stream in all directions. And “down” here the traffic is even more crazy. If I compare Ho Chi Minh city to Bangkok, a city of comparable size, in the former there are much less traffic jams. One must add that there is no subway, or rail that would go above the ground. It seems that high taxes on car is working.
Someone loves it. Someone swears to not to come again. There is nothing in between. I am with the first group. From the first day on in Saigon, a hectic city, and I turned into a side street. We are about to introduce you to a new series where we tell you about interesting places in the city and the country. First of all, let’s talk some important facts about the country.
We reached Hanoi (Hà Nội in Vietnamese) by train, again. Friends had been waiting for us at the train station already. Hospitable as they were they took us on their bikes to their place. Founded in the 11th century, Hanoi’s original name was Thăng Long – Soaring Dragon. The legend says the emperor saw a dragon soaring at this place so he founded the city there.
I have always longed to see a large desert with sand dunes. However, neither in Europe nor in Southeast Asia (the places where I spend most of my time) is one. Once I first saw pictures of Mui Ne, Vietnam I knew for sure that I want to go there. Okay, it is not a desert per se but sand dunes there are huge.
In the region of Sa Pa, northwestern Vietnam, the best means of transport is a bike. You don’t have to worry about missing your bus, of taxi not coming, or that your taxi cab driver would be someone who drives illegally. Therefore, we rented us a bike in Sa Pa. It cost only a few crowns. Then we planned our trip.
Upon we explore Hanoi a bit we planned to see other places which are must see in the capital. The first one was the Ho Chi Minh Museum (Lăng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh).
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is often regarded economic heart of Vietnam. It is not as hold as Hanoi (Hà Nội) but still it has some magic.
Every time I have the feeling I know something more about something I come to realization which tells me the opposite. I spent one year of studying and travelling in China. Bit arrogantly I had felt Asia couldn’t surprise me much more. Fortunately, I hadn’t boarded a plane to the Czech Republic, instead I boarded a plane to Vietnam.
I was feeling like travelling in China when I was on my way to Hoi An – “there is going to be this yellow bus. It will take you there“.
On the following day we set off to Hoi An (Hội An . It was during the daylight and also it didn’t rain. The sun was pleasantly shining and warm. We reached the historical center by foot and were ready for some great sightseeing (even the one in the night had its atmosphere).
Our journey continued to Hue (Huế), the former capital of Vietnamese emperors situated in the central Vietnam.
Even though the title suggest some offensive connotations we were did not intend to disgrace royal tombs as if we were in an action movie. A rented bike, however, solved our problems. The tombs around Hue are scattered along vast area. Before relying on public transportation it is better to pay couple of crowns to rent a bike.
The last day was before us in Hue, the picturesque imperial city. In the early morning we hit the streets and just roamed around in the city. Indeed, we saw one of the most distinctive sights in the city - the Trường Tiền bridge across the Perfume River.
When someone in Prague says “Sapa” everybody recalls the famous marketplace in Prague. However, once you dig into where the name originates you soon find the mysterious area of Sa Pa in Vietnam’s northwest (near the borderline with China).
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