Friday, April 10, 2009

Cao Dai and the Cu Chi Tunnels

We took a tour while in Saigon to see a Cao Dai church and service and then to check out the Cu Chi Tunnels. Our guide was a plucky former teacher named Thong or "Slim Jim" as he was nicknamed by a random tourist. He was really informative and entertaining. He had a penchant for slang which was really amusing. He especially liked phrases about drinking and alcohol so we taught him a new one "worshipping the porcelin god". Thong spent the whole day repeating it under his breath and committing it to memory. A note for people thinking about visiting these places. I'm sure you could find your way to both of these places on your own but they are pretty far out of Saigon and every tour agency has a cheap ($7 US/person) daily tour to both, so why bother?

I hadn't heard of the Cao Dai religion before but it's pretty unique. You can read indepth about it if you follow the link but I'll give you a brief overview. These churches are found almost solely in Vietnam (there are some elsewhere but usually the congregation is Vietnamese immigrants) and it was formed in 1926. It is monotheistic but it combines Catholicism, Buddhism and Taosism and therefore you can see imagery from all of these faiths in the church. They also include other Eastern/Chinese philosophies and have three patron saints- one of whom is Victor Hugo. Random!

Everything is bright and colorful and they kindly let us watch their service. Certain higher officials wear different colored robes but the average follower dresses completely in white. The crest is really interesting too, as it appears to combine a fan, a sword and a mop. Religions can be so absurd.

We went to a small restaurant for lunch and then continued on to the Cu Chi Tunnels. These are the tunnels that the Viet Cong (VC) or Cu Chi people used during the Vietnam war to fight the Americans. In case your knowledge of this war is shaky, South Vietnam was mainly capitalist sympathsizers and the North followed communism. What made the VC unusual is that they are from the south but supported the north, hence why they were fighting the Americans.

We got to look inside some of the actual tunnels and there was the option to crawl through a "king-sized" version that they expanded for tourists. I'm not claustrophobic but I don't like the idea of getting stuck somewhere inconvenient to retrieve me. I don't want to be Vietnam's baby Jessica. I saw the movie! Terrifying. Matt was brave and went through it though.

There was a firing range but since it was the day before we were leaving Vietnam we didn't have much dong to spare. It was about a dollar/bullet. Some people gave it a shot (pun intended) and we just posed by the guns like losers. It was a fun day and we were lucky to finish up and make it into the van just as it started to pour. Here's some more pictures!

1 comment:

Stephie said...

haha I think you woulda made a cute baby Jessica!