MangoVine
Adventures in East Asia

Tay Ninh’s Ba Den Pagoda, Ropeway and Slideway System

In a country so steeped in religion and tradition, much like Hong Kong, there appear to be temples and pagodas everywhere in Vietnam. Some are located every few blocks flanked by shops in busy towns like Ho Chi Minh and others are in more secluded (and possibly more spiritual) locations.

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We spent today traveling out of Ho Chi Minh to the Tay Ninh province and to its capital, Tay Ninh which is approximately 90km to the northwest. Our first stop was the Tay Ninh Ba Den pagoda which is situated up the Ba Den mountain. Our minibus dropped us off at the car park and for some reason, the ticket gate is still some quarter mile away from the foot of the mountain, so once through, you can either walk a further 15 minutes (in the heat) or wait for a mini train to take you there for a small fee.

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At the foot of the mountain, you can pay (again) to take the "Ropeway System" (cable cars) up to the pagoda. Apparently, these cable cars have only been around since 1998 and so previously, anyone wishing to visit the pagoda had to climb the distance, which does include rough steps here and there, on foot. Linh "fondly" but vaguely remembers the steps up from a childhood visit, confirmed by her father. As we ascend and look below us to glimpse a few hardy climbers clamouring up steps, I remind myself how lucky we are in these modern times!

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About half-way up, there is a large and vividly painted head of a dragon on our left. Like some sculptures and buildings I've seen so far in Vietnam, the colour schemes they've used are really bright and colourful with the appearance of lots of attention to detail. From what I've discovered about the economic structure of labour in Vietnam, it wouldn't surprise me if alot of exterior decor is executed by skilled painters and crafts people, which must be more affordable than say in London.

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Once we reach the Ba Den pagoda, this outlook on exteriors is reinforced by the stunning collection of temples, featuring multi-layed and decorative, angled rooves, steps leading to different levels and a rich, warm colour palette to echo the heat and the sun. There are several altars, looked after by monks and attended to by visitors burning incense, making offerings and requesting fortunes.

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Linh and I, along with her father's family also attend to each altar with incense, and in doing so, I came across these impressive, big, fat ones! I couldn't believe how much effort must have been used to render the 3D characters and dragons on these sticks, and yet they were simply going to burn down!

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Dotted along the edge were also these benches with some mildly ornated typography. I quite liked the look of these, probably because of the slightly exotic Vietnamese accents. I was to later discover that they're common throughout Vietnam and are usually advertisements or simply benches that have been donated (sometimes from overseas Vietnamese) to the places they're sited at.

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We didn't stay up at Ba Den pagoda very long and in making our way down, we decided to take the risky-looking "Slideway System", which is essentially a sledge-on-wheels that you ride on down the metal chute, all the way to the foot of the mountain.

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The Slideway System has only been opened since 2002 and apparently, you can also go up the mountain as you can also sit on each sledge as it is pulled back up to the top. If you can peel your anxious eyes away from the chute, you can at least take in the views of the country below.

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For our ride down, although the sledge has a brake, cornering doesn't swing it as expected for some reason, probably due to the wheels. I.e. turning left swings the sledge up the inside corner (to the left). As a result, we didn't descend too quicky for fear of flipping over!



Once at the bottom, Linh and I decided to walk back to the gate, rather than take the train, in order to get a closer look at a pair of giant chickens(!) and the twenty foot Monkey and Pigsy.

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Check Flickr for more photos from our visit to the Tay Ninh Ba Den pagoda.


This entry posted in : Attractions. Culture. Tourism. Vietnam.

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07/08/10  at  06:15 AM
i like played in Tay ninh
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