Mekong Delta Travel in Vietnam 2018
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Around Chau Doc

Sam Mountain

A sacred  place  for Buddhists, Sam Mountain (Nui Sam, 284m) and its environs are  crammed with  dozens of pagodas and temples. A strong Chinese influence  makes it  particularly popular with ethnic Chinese, yet  Buddhists of all ethnicities  visit this spot  here. The views from the  summit are wonderful  (weather permitting), ranging deep into Cambodia. There’s a military  settlement  on the top , a inheritance  of the days  when the Khmer Rouge made cross-border raids and massacred Vietnamese civilians.

cam nang du lich chau docAlong with the shrines and graves , the steep path to the  the highest place  is lined with the unholy clamour of commerce and there are many  cafes and stalls  in which to  drop in  for a drink or a  snack. Walking down is  ,of course,  easier than walking up (a 45-minute climb),  so if you  want to cheat,  have a motorbike pick  you at the summit (about 20,000d from the base of the mountain). The road to the top is a pretty ride on the east side of the mountain. Veer left at the base of the mountain  then turn right after about 1km  where the road  begins its climb. The mountain is open 24/7, with lights on the road for nocturnal climbs.

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Sights

Tay An Pagoda BUDDHIST TEMPLE

(Chua Tay An;  4am-10pm)  Although  constructed in 1847 on the place of an earlier bamboo shrine, Tay An’s current structure dates from 1958. Aspects of its eclectic  architecture, especially its domed tower, reflect Hindu and Islamic influences.

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With a  main gate of traditional Vietnamese model , on its roofline romp figures of lions and two dragons fighting for possession of pearls, chrysanthemums, apricot trees and lotus blossoms.

The temple is protected by statues of a black elephant with two tusks and a white elephant with six tusks. Inside are arrayed fine carvings of hundreds of religious figures, most made of wood and some blinged up with disco-light halos. Statues  include Sakyamuni, the 18 a-la-han (arhat) and the 12 muoi hai ba mu (midwives). The temple’s name – Tay An – means ‘Western Peace’.

Coming from Chau Doc on Hwy 91, Tay An Pagoda is  situated straight ahead at the base of the mountain.

Temple of Lady Xu BUDDHIST TEMPLE

(Mieu Ba Chua Xu;  24hr) Built  in the 1820s to house a statue that’s become the subject of a popular cult, this big  temple faces Sam Mountain, on the same road as Tay An Pagoda. Initially  a simple affair of bamboo and leaves, the temple has been  rebuilt several  times, most lately  between 1972 and 1976, blending mid-20th-century design with Vietnamese Buddhist  appealing   motifs.

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 The statue itself is likely to be  a relic of the Oc-Eo culture, dating from the 6th century, and is also possibly that of a man – but don’t  suggest that to one of the faithful.

According to one of  many  legends, the statue of Lady Xu once standed  at the  summit of Sam Mountain. In the early 19th century Siamese troops invaded the area and decided to take it back to Thailand.  But  as they carried the statue down the hill, it got  heavier and heavier, and they were  forced to  abandon it by the side of the path.

One day some locals  who were cutting trees  came upon the statue and decided to take  it back to their village  in order to construct  a temple for it; yet  it weighed too much for them to budge it. Fortunately , a girl appeared who, possessed by a spirit, declared herself to be Lady Xu. She  announced to them that  nine virgins were going to be brought  and that they would be  able to move  the statue down the mountainside. The virgins were  then summoned and transported  the statue down the slope,  but  when they  reached the plain, it got so heavy that they had to set it down . The people said that the place at which the virgins halted had been selected by Lady Xu for the temple building and it’s here that the Temple of Lady Xu stands to this day.

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Offerings of roast whole pigs are usually presented to the statue, which is dressed in glittering robes and adorned with an  amazing headdress. Once a month a creation of vegetables representing a dragon, tortoise, phoenix and qilin is also proffered to the effigy. The Chinese words in the portal at which worshippers pray are 主处聖母, which mean ‘the main place of the sacred mother’. A further couplet reads 爲国爲民, meaning ‘for the country and for the people’. The temple’s  most important festival takes place from the 23rd to the 26th day of the fourth lunar month, usually late May or early June. During this time, pilgrims flock here, and sleep on mats in the big rooms of the two-storey resthouse near the temple.

Tomb of Thoai Ngoc Hau TOMB

(Lang Thoai Ngoc Hau; 5am-10.30pm) A high-ranking official, Thoai Ngoc Hau (1761–1829)  served the Nguyen Lords and, later, the Nguyen dynasty. In early 1829, Thoai Ngoc Hau ordered that  a tomb be built  for himself at the foot of Sam Mountain. The  site he chose is nearly opposite the Temple of Lady Xu.

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The steps are made of red ‘beehive’ stone (da ong) brought from the southeastern part of Vietnam. In the middle of the platform is the tomb of Thoai Ngoc Hau and those of his wives, Chau Thi Te and Truong Thi Miet. There’s a shrine at the rear and  several dozen  other tombs in the vicinity where his officials are buried.

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Cavern Pagoda BUDDHIST TEMPLE

(Chua Hang; 4am-9pm) Also called  Phuoc Dien Tu, this temple is halfway up the western (far) side of Sam Mountain, with excellent  views of the  rice fields. The lower part of the pagoda  includes monks’ quarters and two hexagonal  tombs where  the founder of the pagoda, a female tailor  named Le Thi Tho, and a former head monk  ,Thich Hue Thien, are buried.

The upper section has two parts: the main sanctuary,  in which there are many statues  of A Di Da (Buddha of the Past) and Thich Ca Buddha (Sakyamuni, the Historical Buddha); and an  excellent  construction  of caverns and grottoes consisting of  a host of deities, including a 1000-arm  and 1000-eye Quan Am. There’s also a mirror room of Buddhas and an effigy of Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism.

According to legend, Le Thi Tho came from Tay An Pagoda to this  site half a century ago to lead a quiet, meditative life. As  she arrived, she found two  enormous snakes, one white and the other dark green. Le Thi Tho soon converted the snakes, which thereafter led pious lives. Upon her death, the snakes disappeared.

Sleeping & Eating

There is a  bustling community at the base of Sam Mountain, along with  hotels (both aimed at visiting Buddhists and businesspeople), guesthouses and restaurants lining the street.

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Getting There & Away

 Many travellers   get here by rented motorbike or on the back of a xe om (about 40,000d one-way). There are also local buses heading this way from Chau Doc (5000d).

Phu Chau (Tan Chau) District

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Traditional silk-making has made Phu Chau (Tan Chau) district – at this place  the market has a wide range  of reasonable  Thai and Cambodian  goods –  famous  throughout southern Vietnam.

To reach  Phu Chau district from Chau Doc,  you should take  a boat across the Hau Giang River from the Phu Hiep ferry landing, then  catch a ride on the back of a xe om (about 60,000d) for the 18km trip.

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Mekong Delta Travel 1, 2 and 3 Days – Mekong River Vietnam

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