It took us a while but we eventually found it.
Lost in Cho Lon, Saigon’s Chinatown, we ended up relying on the locals. When they saw us walking up and down the streets frantically checking our Lonely Planet guidebook, a few women would put their hands together in a prayer sign and then point across the road, to the left or to the right. Ok, they have figured out that we are looking for the pagoda, and we clearly aren’t the first tourists who get lost in the area….
The Khanh Van Nam Vien pagoda isn’t even mentioned in my edition of the Rough Guide, and if it wasn’t for my friends Adrian&Lynette (who joined me a couple of days ago) I would have never got there.
And I would have missed out on one of the best experiences in my travel life!
This pagoda is said to be the only pure Taoist pagoda in Vietnam and is unique for its colourful statues of Taoist disciples. It also operates a home for several dozen elderly people who have no family.
When we got there it was Sunday late morning, and following some female voices chanting inside the pagoda we reached a room where some ceremony was taking place.
Five women (nuns, I’d say) where sitting around a table, praying and singing and preparing offerings, while three more women in the back of the room were playing some traditional music.
All their costumes were reminiscent of Chinese/Tibetan tradition, and all their prayer books were written in Chinese. Food and drinks were on the table. Incense sticks burning everywhere in the room.
We were initially directed upstairs. from where we could follow part of the ceremony. But we were soon invited to join a group of local people in the same room where the ceremony was taking place, so we sat with them for some time. It was absolutely incredible!
When we left we wanted to know more about the ceremony. Unfortunately none of the locals could speak English.
This will definitely remain the “top pagoda experience” of my travel life so far :-)