Some sights receive a lot of love, while others remain relatively unknown and see few visitors.
Personally, I always preferred the latter. I hate crowded places and much rather spend time at peaceful destinations, than elbow my way through big crowds.
Of course, the problem is to find those hidden gems. Guide books like Lonely Planet only writes about the popular spots, while smaller destinations are ignored.
As a result I have decided to write more about lesser known sights. Those are sights that doesn’t draw the big crowds yet deserves a visit. In fact, you are now reading the start of an article series called Secrets Of Vietnam where I’ll talk about interesting places around Vietnam that doesn’t receive a lot of visitors.
First, let’s talk about one of the most astonishing pagodas in all of Vietnam: Chua Buu Long pagoda.
Chua Buu Long Pagoda
Chua Buu Long pagoda was built in 1942 near the Dong Nai River in district 9, a 45 minute drive from Ho Chi Minh City center. The pagoda is well known throughout Vietnam due to it’s many influences from several Southeast Asian countries such as Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. It’s even called the “Thai temple” by some of the locals.
There are some unique differences with Chua Buu Long compared to other temples in Vietnam. Below are some of them:
- The use incense and candles for worshiping is not allowed at Chua Buu Long pagoda.
- Only Buddha is worshiped at Chua Buu Long Pagoda, while in most Vietnamese temples many other gods are worshiped.
- The indoor decorations are modern and simple, with colors such as wood or yellow copper. In comparison, most Vietnamese temples are ancient places of worship with more colorful decorations.
- On the top floor, you’ll see many revered relics from Buddha and his disciples. The relics are famous throughout the Buddhist world, and for a Buddhist it’s a great honor to visit them. Be very respectful when visiting this room.
Planning Your Visit
As far as I know, there’s no public transportation to Chua Buu Long pagoda. And even if it were, it won’t make much sense to use them, since there are far better options. In my opinion the best way to get to Chua Buu Long is:
- Using your own transportation, which for most people is by motorbike. But only do this if you’re familiar with driving in Saigon. The traffic can be crazy and sometimes even dangerous, though outside the city center it’ll be a more pleasant ride. I would allow 45 minutes to an hour to get there, depending on traffic.
- The most convenient way is by taxi or Uber/Grab, especially if you’re a group. For example, when I visited Chua Buu Long Pagoda I used Grab and paid 300k VND, and on the way back I used Uber and paid 200k VND. There was no problem finding a car for the return trip. I only had to wait 20 minutes.
In addition, it’s good to be aware of the following rules and customs before your visit:
- You need to remove your shoes before entering the Pagoda, so wear something that’s easy to take on and off
- You should wear respectful clothing. Cover your shoulders and preferably also your knees
- Finally, be respecful to the local worshipers. Keep your voice down especially on the top floor
As you walk up the stairs from the parking lot, the impressive pagoda will slowly come into view. Decorated in gold like the temples you’ll see in Thailand, it’s the largest of its kind in Vietnam, has three floors and can house up to 2,000 people.
In front of the pagoda is a circular lake, and on the left is a small forest where you’ll see a finely carved reclining Buddha. If you climb to the top of the Pagoda you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the Dong Nai River and the surrounding country side.
Not many people find their way here. In fact, during my Sunday visit it was not crowded at all. In addition, I was the only foreigner and everyone else was Vietnamese. Due to the lack of crowds, you’ll find numerous paths and places with peace and quiet.
In addition, there’s also a popular vegetarian restaurant that serves dishes such as Bun Bo Hue. The prices are reasonable and I paid 70k VND for two people, including drinks. Right next the restaurant are some free bathrooms.
Finally, let’s finish this article with some more photos of the pagoda and the surrounding area:
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PS: If you are looking for other things to do in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnamsaigon), check out this travel guide.