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11 January 2012 / leggypeggy

Long Son Pagoda—a highlight in Nha Trang

The Kim Than Phat To Buddha in Nha Trang.

After leaving Hanoi, Poor John and I had two days and a night in Nha Trang, a popular beach and party destination in the southeast of Vietnam. True to form, we walked along the beach but didn’t go to any parties—we just wanted to have a stop-off on the way to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).

In addition to being a popular holiday destination, Nha Trang is a big producer of cashews, coconuts, coffee, sesame seeds (one of my favourite flavours) and salt (another favourite). I’d like to think it’s also a big producer of bug repellent, but they only sell it. I wandered into a supermarket and bought five bottles of cheap (less than $1 each), but effective, repellent that lasted for the rest of the trip.

The best touristic stop we made in Nha Trang was at the Long Son Pagoda (also known as Tinh Hoi Khanh Hoa Pagoda or Am Nam Phat Hoc Hoi Pagoda). The original pagoda was founded in the late 19th century, but it has been rebuilt and/or relocated several times. In 1890, it was destroyed by a cyclone and later rebuilt on its current location. The Vietnam War resulted in new and extensive damage, but it’s all looking very orderly now.

We visited because—from a long way away—we could see the pagoda’s magnificent 14-metre-tall, white buddha, called Kim Than Phat To. We figured you can’t see something so impressive from afar, and not track it down.

The buddha's view of Nha Trang

It was only a couple of kilometres to the pagoda (we walked, and that walk included the supermarket/repellent stop), and it was interesting to see that the pagoda still functions as a monastery. We arrived in late afternoon and there were still a lot of monks (especially females) wandering around. Wish I’d taken a photo, but sometimes you know it would be too intrusive to take one.

We climbed up to the buddha, which sits on an enormous lotus blossom. There are fewer than 200 easy stairs up, and a very quick trip down, especially if you go by the road.

There was a group of gorgeous kids near the pagoda. While one appeared to be the ‘ringleader’, no one followed us down the hill, and no one begged us for money or our phone number. That was an unexpected, but refreshing deviation from the norm.

Also don’t forget to pick a number before 29 February 2012.

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