Ho Chi Minh City’s oldest pagoda
If you don't mind a bit of a trip from downtown, Giac Lam Pagoda, Saigon’s oldest place of worship, may appeal.
Constructed in 1744 and funded by the Chinese community, Giac Lam has been renovated and added to over the years. For example, the 32 m high stupa visitors will immediately see at the entrance began in 1970 and was not completed until the 1990s. The stairs up were not open to the public when we visited in 2017.
Unfortunately, the pagoda was also locked up when we visited. Inside the modestly sized rectangular building, supported by 98 pillars, are three rooms: the main hall, preaching hall and dining hall. The interior is supposedly chock full of antique sculptures and ornately carved images.
The grounds are expansive and when we grew tired of peeking into the windows, we enjoyed a stroll through the gardens which include a big Buddha and in the northwest corner, a modern prayer hall where we listened to serene chanting at around 10:00 in the morning.
It does take some time to reach Giac Lam Pagoda and it would make sense to combine it with Giac Vien Pagoda (Chua Giac Vien) since they are only two kilometres apart. While not as old as Giac Lam, Giac Vien impressively dates back to 1798. We obviously weren’t having much luck that day in June 2017: Giac Vien was closed for what looked like major construction work. We sincerely hope it isn’t being demolished.
Giac Lam is 6.5 km northwest of Pham Ngu Lao and is best reached by motorbike taxi. GrabBike made it relatively easy and straightforward for us to get here: 40,000 dong one-way, taking 20-30 minutes. Bus #145 from Cholon also rolls past the entrance.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you'll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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