An early start this morning. I was up and downstairs for breakfast, god all those stairs are a killer. I think we were picked up. The Polish lass that was staying at the hostel was also going on the trip. I'm sure the pcik up involved us being lead to the main street and onto the bus. I think it was a minibus. Then we spent a while driving around different parts of the city to pick up more people. One bloke proper kicked off with the tour guise for no real reason. Yes it's annoying having to pick everyone up, but for God's sake the tour cost you like $4. If it bothered him that much he should over forked out for a private car and driver. Dickhead!
Anyway, back to the trip. We basically spent the whole morning driving to the Cao Dai Temple and we were a little late in getting there and the service had already started. The Cao Dai religion is a fairly new one, as it was established in 1926. It began in the city of Tay Ninh, and this is the city in which the temple we visited was located. Cao Dai means
"high dias", so is interpretated as the highest spiritual place where God reigns. The religion is interesting as it is a combination of other religions.
According to the church's teachings about creation. It all started with Tao, a nameless, formless, unchanging, eternal source. God was then born from the Big Bang. It wasn't time for the universe to come into being yt, so God created ying and yang. God took control of yang and shed part of himself, which became Mother Buddha, and she looked after yin. The universe was made due to the presence of yin and yang. Caodaiist worship both God and Mother Buddha, but God is more important as he is higher than Mother Buddha. Mother Buddha is also male because it is part of Yang, not Yin. But Mother Buddha oversees Yin, the female side. God is symbolised by the Divine Eye (pretty funky, eh?). The three teachings within Caodaiism are Buddha, Sage and Saint.
The temple was pretty big, and as the service was in full swing when we arrived. The temple was really ornate. There were Divine Eyes (God) in lots of places, and the ceiling was painted with stars and clouds
so that it looked like the sky. We had a quick look at ground level but couldn't see very much as we were at the back and all the church members were facing forward. We walked upstairs and there were people, including a young boy, dressed all in white praying. I can't recall now if they were chanting or not. We walked past them, we were kind of in their way, and headed out along the verrandahs around the edge of the temple. This gave us a great view of what was going on down below. The worshippers were wearing different coloured robes, I don't know if it is to do with their senority in the religion or what. But they looked great.
We spent about an hour, maybe an hour and a half at the temple, which was enough time. Then we got back on the bus and drove to our lunch stop. I had stir-fried veggies, they were fine, not a culinary delight, but they filled me up. Back on the bus we drove to the Cu Chi Tunnels.
One thing I didn't really get about the tour was that the entrance fee to the tunnels
wasn't included. So we had to pay that when we arrived. I don't understand why they didn't just include it in the tour price. So after we paid we entered the kind of park that has been built around the tunnel complex.
The Cu Chi Tunnels played an important role in the Vietnam War, as they were the location of several military campaigns and were the base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968. The tunnels were used by the Viet Congas a place to hide, as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon stores, and as living quarters. We had an official guide to show us around the tunnels. We couldn't see the entrance to the tunnel / hidey hole, as it was covered with leaves. The guide kicked the leaves out of the way, and revealed a small hatch. He lifted the hatch out of the ground and proceeded to climb in the hole and close the lid on top of him. I was in awe. The hole was absolutely tiny, and he managed to get in and close himself off to the world. I was breaking out in a sweat just thinking about it.
Some other peole decided to squeeze in the hole, but there is no way my lardy arse would fit.
We looked at some other torture devices that the Viet Cong had built and hidden to beat the American soldiers. Then we got to go into one of the tunnels. The tunnel had been widened (I think) to fit us fat westerners, but it was still a tight squeeze. There was no light and you had no idea where you were going. You just had to follow the person in front of you, and try not to freak out. It was a relief to get back outside again.
There was an opportunity for people to fire guns, if they wished. I had no desire to do so, but many other people did. So I just hada browse around the gift shop, while they were doing that. Whilst browsing you could hear the guns going off and someone was crying really hysterically in the gift shop. I don;t know if it was a young child frightened by the noise, or someone reliving something very traumatic. After watching a propaganda video, it was time to get back onto the bus and
make our way back to Saigon. The journey wasn't too bad.
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