After a wonderful shabbat, our group was ready to discover the wonders of the Saigon night market. Now I am sure that in a city the size of Saigon, there are probably tens of markets, but this one just happened to be about 3 blocks from our hotel, across Le Loi Street from Chabad, a very convenient location. It consisted mostly of clothing, shoes, luggage, handbags, and jewelry. The prices were very good.
After buying a sufficient number of items, we had to buy a suitcase to put them in… Actually, that really isn’t the truth. We had bought a very cheap suitcase a couple of years ago and by this point on the trip the luggage handlers had pretty much destroyed it, so it was time to get a new suitcase and the one we found was large and not so heavy and seemed practical. However, it does seem to me that you can’t really leave this market without buying a serious amount of stuff, if only T-shirts for souvenirs.
In the morning, after a good night’s sleep and breakfast in the roof garden, bright and early, we made our way through the traffic and the rubber plantations to Cu Chi. Cu Chi is where the Viet Cong had constructed an entire city under the ground. They were able to live there undetected by constructing a series of tunnels at three levels, by directing their cooking smoke through enough conduits that by the time it emerged, it was barely detectable, and by constructing entrances that were invisible to all but those who had placed them there. They had entrances from under the river and through tiny holes in the ground that were completely covered up most of the time.
We were treated to a tour of the Viet Cong’s instruments of torture and death. They certainly were innovative. There were any number of traps where if a soldier was caught, he would pray for death. It did eventually come because they made sure that the stinging edges of their spikes were also able to infect or poison the soldiers. Of course, when asked, the Vietnamese will all tell you that the war is over and this is another time and there is no reason for any bad feelings.
What was a bit disconcerting was that from time to time we would hear shots fired. There is a rifle range adjoining the area we were touring. It made for some not so pleasant authenticity.
We made our way from Cu Chi to an amazing place. How can I describe it? Well, perhaps only through pictures. In the 1920s a new relgion was founded called Cao Dai. Here is some information about it. Their main temple in Tay Ninh is quite impressive both outside and inside.
The religion attempts to unite all religions and to emphasize kindness toward people and toward the world. High priests are strict vegetarians, and all adherents must follow a moral code.
During the service which includes chanting, playing of bells and gongs and the people prostrating themselves, visitors are asked to watch from the balcony. Wearing shoes in the temple is forbidden and so a large pile of sport shoes and crocs waited for us after the service.
Since Cao Dai incorporates several religions, there are priests representing each of the three major contributing religions, they are dressed in red- for Christianity, blue- for Taoism, and yellow- for Buddhism.
Here is another photo of the worship at the Cao Dai Temple.
Next: What is Angkor Wat? and why is it special? and what is Angkor Thom? and aren’t all Cambodian temples alike? Find out the surprising answers next time…