Day 3 we were up early again! The first stop was the Cao Dai Great Temple in Tay Ninh, about 26 kilometers from the Cambodian border. CaoDaism has some of the characteristics of an established religion and some of the characteristics of a cult. The Cao Dai religion takes parts from Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity and Islam.
One of the main reasons that the Cao Dai are well-known is because of their colorful temples and costumes. The temples are elaborately, gleefully, almost garishly decorated. There are symbols all over, like the all-seeing eye (the eye in a triangle), globes and stars, and the place really is a feast for the eyes. We were able to watch part of the hour long ceremony from a balcony, up in the gods so to speak!
After a great lunch in a small kerbside restaurant, we went to the Cu Chi tunnels. This system of tunnels built by the Viet Cong over a 4 year period spread for over 200kms. There are similar networks all over Vietnam.
The first small tunnel built by the Viet Cong was 80cm x 50cm, the kids went through but neither Robin nor myself fancied it – once you go in the only way out is the other end – what if we got stuck! The kids convinced us to go down the next set of tunnels, which had been specially widened for tourists to 120cm x 80cm. If you bent your legs and bent forwards it was possible to walk through the tunnel but it was very dark, muggy and claustrophobic and the air smelt and tasted musty. The tunnels above ground don’t seem very long but a distance of 10m can take up to 20 minutes to get through. We were happy to get out, it must have been horrible to have spent months underground at a time.
Today was spent having a last look around Saigon. We visited areas not frequented by tourists and saw some fascinating sights along the way. The rains hit in a big way today with areas quickly flooding and we managed to get more than a little wet! Luckily there is always a shop or cafe happy to let you in to while away the minutes until the deluge subsides.
Yet another hot ham roll was required – these guys thought all their christmases had come at once when they saw the boys approaching with an order for 5 with the works!
Tonight we are traveling on the SE2 Reunification Express. The kids are very excited, they loved the overnight train we took to Chiang Mai last year. Our boarding time is at 1830hrs so we are hoping that there will be some hawkers around the station so we can grab a meal, otherwise our provisions may not go far! With beers at 60c and fresh popcorn for the kids for 10c we’re set! Although Robin sometimes needs reminding that it is a matter of a few cents when he gets indignant about someone charging him more than he previously paid!
20,000D is outrageous for a beer!
Thank goodness we spent some extra and got 1st class sleepers or the soft sleeper option, the next level down was hard sleepers – which we later found out meant a wooden board without a mattress to sleep on! The trains in Vietnam are certainly not to the same level of comfort as that of Thailand or Singapore, however it was undoubtedly a worthwhile experience.