August 11, 2014

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam: On CaoDaism and the Cu Chi Tunnels

Another way to get a slice of Vietnam's culture is to head out to the countryside and journey to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. If you have more time to kill, include Tay Ninh's Cao Dai Temple in your itinerary, too. If these don't spring out excitement, I don't know what else will.

Enter the Great Divine Temple
Their style of breakfast
View from the bus
It was a beautiful day in Ho Chi Minh when Kai and I took a 4hr bus tour to the province of Tay Ninh to witness the Caodaism ceremony. Upon entering the temple, I felt amused with what I saw.

This symbol welcomed me as if i'm about to join the Illuminati. This eye symbolized the 'Left Eye of God'
The Great Divine Temple
This is the Cao Dai Temple. To give you a brief description on what Caodaism practices, I got this excerpt from Vietnam Beauty

Caodaist ethics are based on the Buddhist ideal of becoming a good person with a veneer of traditional Vietnamese taboos. Basic parameters such as avoiding killing, lying, opulent living, sensuality, stealing and eating meat that facilitate the soul's progress through the cycles of reincarnation.

3 religions are merged into one, this painting depicted their venerable saints: Sage by Trạng Trình Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, Buddhism by Sun Yat Sen, and Religion by Victor Hugo
FYI, Caodaism is the third largest religion in Vietnam
 Worshippers in white
Cao Dai refers to God the Father (The Supreme Being, the Creator, the Ultimate Reality of the Universe)

Thank you for coming :)
After an hour of being immersed in the ceremony, we had lunch at this small restaurant called:

and had this

Along with a bottle of Bia Saigon and 7 Up. :p
While waiting for the others to finish, Kai and I went outside for some downtime and observed the people around us. A few minutes later, we met 2 lovely ladies who traveled all the way from Australia. It was during that short break where we decided to merge on our trip to the tunnels.

A photo with them at the Cu Chi Tunnels
An old documentary of Cu Chi was presented before hitting the tunnels. I have no idea how old the video is.

But what was the main purpose for the tunnels? I learned that:

1. It served as an underground headquarters for the Viet Cong fighters.
2. It was bulit like a labyrinth that can either lead you to the Mekong River, the Cambodian border, to the homes of these fighters, or to your death by traps.
3. It was a successful resistance against bombs or massive attacks by the American soldiers.

After the briefing, we went to the main site and saw a diorama of the Vietcong soldiers, the traps they prepared, and the spoils they got from the Americans.

 Two viet cong soldiers wearing American military uniforms aka 'Spoils of War'

After learning about how smart the Viet Cong fighters did to protect their land, we proceeded to the tunnels.

The entrance to the main tunnel

My friend, Kyla, was rocking her way while leading us inside the tunnel

 And this is me panicking because I didn't know that I had a slight case of claustrophobia

The path led us to a fork and we chose to go left towards the nearest exit. Seeing the daylight made me appreciate for seeing the sun. In case you're wondering what happens when you turn right, it leads you to your death. I'm kidding. It's just a longer path towards the other exit.

And this photo (above) tops the whole Cu Chi experience. I was able to hold and fire an old AK47 salvaged from the Vietnam war. :)

Being able to witness a ceremony from a different religion, and a historical site filled with memories was an honor. If I could redo this experience, I would definitely love to get a hold on that AK47 again. And by the way, the whole tour costs for only $9 (thanks to Ms. Vy of Vy Khanh Guesthouse) so don't bother booking online because your local hostel can offer this at a very reasonable price. :D