Outside Dalat in pictures – temples, new religions and a lot of rain
Dalat is a beautiful city no doubt, but you have barely scraped the surface if you limit yourself to just roaming its hilly streets up and down without seeing what is beyond its confines.
And there is plenty- waterfalls, valleys, lakes, mountains to hike and just about everywhere your eye can see, beautiful landscapes.
Riding on our rented scooters, we kept on stopping and admiring the views that unraveled in front of us as we went. This day we chose to go and see the farms that take advantage of Dalat’s cooler climate to deliver a supply of fruits and vegetables that dont grow in other parts of Vietnam. And avocados! I have never seen so many of my favorite green fruits in one place, as I did in the central market – $1 a kilo.
The beauty of Asian farming is that its small scale, rooted in tradition and often instead of ruining the views, they make them more charming. One would rarely see big motorized machinery, large plots of monotone planted land (rice is the exception), and even in the poorest areas, there are no fences.
We spotted a pagoda in the distance and drove to it to see if its worth exploring.
We thought that we had seen every kind of temple there is, but we were wrong. We entered into the most kitschy, wonderful, fairytale place – Chua Linh Phuoc.
The building one can see from the upper floors.
Elaborately decorated, the temple is a feast for the eyes and the child within. We kept on going up and down the windy stairs and the experience was similar to the one exploring the Crazy House in town.
Next to the pagoda is its bell tower, which is the tallest one in Vietnam.
Buzzed, we hopped back on our scooters and went up to see the big yellow building on top of another hill that looked interesting.
As it turned out, we were heading towards the seat of the religion of Caodaiism – the Tay Ninh Holy See. From a far, it looked not that different than other places we have seen, but once we entered we knew we have stumbled onto something new.
Cao Dai is a religion established in the 1920s with its roots in the very place we were. New as it may be, it started the old fashioned way – a few chosen people get communication from God – and now has an estimated 2-3 million followers.
Used to Buddhist temples, the girls quickly kneeled on the welcoming cushions and started looking around.
A quiet man in white approached us and informed us that women go on the left, while men on the right, and then I noticed the few women, also in white, sitting further down on the left side of the temple, contrasting the males on the other. And so we separated in our designated areas.
The building had a wonderful warm, serene feel to it. I caught myself smiling while walking around, obviously taken by the combination of cheerful colors, reflecting off the glass like tiles like the light that was coming from the beautifully decorated windows.
I dont know much of anything about Cao Dai, but it sure left us on a high, especially when we found out that Victor Hugo is one of its saints.
..the weather turned…
..and we got washed down.
It rained so much that I had drops coming at me from every direction, even bouncing up from Little B’s helmet, bobbing under my wet chin.
By the time we got back into Dalat, it slowed down enough to let us enjoy some fried breads and vanilla buns.
Only to bucket down again.
We waited patiently with a bowl of noodle soup at the central market.
Should you venture out of town? Ab-so-lut-ly!
You never know what you will find and how wet and cold you will get.