Sunday, April 16, 2017

Temples on Easter

I spent my Easter Sunday exploring various temples in Saigon's Chinatown.

Chua Ong Saigon
The first was Hội quán Nghĩa An, otherwise known as Chùa Ông, dedicated to Guan Gong, a figure from the Three Kingdoms Period. This according to my very reliable translated-from-Vietnamese-by-Google Wikipedia research. It apparently dates back to the 1800's, though it was renovated in 2010--which makes sense, considering that its colors are vibrant and its sculptures look brand new. I walked carefully and quietly around the edges of the temple--didn't want to disturb the worshippers. The sun shone in and displayed the sacred decor to its fullest, brightest advantage.

Chua Ong Saigon

The second temple I visited, Thiên Hậu, must be much more famous, as it was packed with other foreign visitors, and information about it is far more readily available online. It was originally built all the way back in 1760, and the last time it was renovated was 1916, so it still retains its historical look--I simply mean that it's much easier to tell that it's old. It's dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu, who protects seafarers. It's not only known for its beautiful architecture, but also for its many hanging incense coils, which give the interior a strong, sweet scent. The coils were lovely, although ash kept falling on me--which would normally be fine, except I was drenched with sweat, so the ash stuck there. I exited the temple looking much more dusty than when I entered it.
Thien Hau Saigon
Finally, I visited the Tam Son Hoi Quan Pagoda, which is dedicated to Me Sanh, the goddess of fertility. I didn't spend as much time in this one, as I was already feeling weak from the heat and I still wanted to find the center of Chinatown. But it was interesting to see. The figure of the goddess had an LED-light halo radiating from her head, blinking red-blue-green, red-blue-green, red-blue-green. (I don't like to take pictures of the figures of gods/goddesses--seems rude or sacrilegious somehow.) Not wanting to be associated with an obnoxious group of British tourists who clearly had no qualms about bothering worshippers, I slipped back outside.

Thien Hau Saigon
After my mini temple tour, I headed for Bình Tây Market, the central hub of HCMC's Chinatown, known as Chợ Lớn. That's where my misadventure began. First, it was a lot farther than I expected. Second, when I arrived at the market, I found that it was closed for renovations. Which didn't stop the shop owners, of course--they'd moved the market into several temporary structures in the middle of the road, tall, green metal shacks where the air was sweltering. Third, I was hoping to find some yummy Chinese street food and relive my Beijing days, but that didn't happen. I probably could have found some if I'd had the wherewithal to continue exploring, but by this point I was honestly afraid I might faint.

Cholon Shanghai
On the bright side, I bought a hat. And I found a pretty dragon statue! Almost makes up for the sunburn. Ouch.

I have just a few more days in HCMC before I head to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Despite the limited time frame, I may take it easy-ish today--I have to do laundry, and it will need time to dry. Also, this humid weather is doing more of a number on me than I expected. I think it's probably wise to take breaks.

But I'll be back at it tomorrow--still some museums I want to check out. And I have more postcards to send!

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