Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Chua Ba Mariamman Hindu Temple

Just a few blocks from Tao Dan Park is the Chua Ba Mariamman Hindu Temple, a bright and vibrant place of worship, the only Hindu temple in Saigon.  The temple sits in the middle of a commercial block and really stands out.

Chua Ba Mariamman Temple

In the late 19th century, the Tamals came to Vietnam from India to engage in money lending.  The community was very religious and built this temple dedicated to the Hindu god Mariamman and two other temples, of which this is the only one remaining and is actively used for worship by the Saigon Hindu community.  The worshipers in the temple offer flowers and fruits and burn joss sticks for happiness, health and prosperity.

I take off my shoes and enter, walking around the temple, just taking it all in.

 Temple interior

Mariamman, meaning "Mother Mari" is the South Indian Hindu goddess of disease and rain.  One story about her is that she was the wife of a Tamil poet and caught smallpox, fanning herself with the leaves of the neem (also known as margosa) tree to keep flies off her sores.  She recovered and people worshiped her as the goddess of smallpox and to keep smallpox away, they hung leaves of the neem tree above the doors of their houses.

The temple is truly beautiful and inspiring inside and I quietly take it all in and try not to disturb the worshipers.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Saigon's Tao Dan Park and Nearby Sculpture Park

Tao Dan Park is behind Independence Palace, just down the street from the War Remnants Museum. A soon as I enter the park, I find walkways, fountains, and people working out in the exercise area or sitting in the gazebos with their friends.

 Tao Dan Park

A little further into the park is a playground, where a lot of parents and kids are enjoying themselves.


At a small restaurant on the edge of the park, people are sitting, talking, and playing cards and board games.


Continuing through the park, I find fun sculptures, a cactus garden, and a small temple.

 Sculpture and cactus garden


Just past the temple is a group of small children learning soccer and basketball and, apparently, a few other random sports.

Learning sports

Leaving the sports school, I cross the street and find an park full of sculptures.  I wander and truly enjoy the sites, with a small cafe in the middle and people relaxing and admiring the art.

 Sculpture park across from Tao Dan Park

After wandering through the sculptures, I walk out alongside a lily pond and arbors over the path leading back to the busy street, where I continue my journey.

 Leaving the park

Much more city to explore!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Saigon War Remnants Museum

The Saigon War Remnants Museum was established in 1975 to collect and conserve displays from the Vietnam war and from the Indochina war involving the French.   This museum focuses on US and French military equipment and actions, whereas the museum in Hanoi focuses on the equipment and actions of the North Vietnamese.

The entrance price is 15,000 VND ($0.66 USD) and, after paying, I enter the front courtyard that is full of US military equipment from the war.

 Outside equipment display

Inside the museum are nine permanent thematic exhibitions, with rooms dedicated to history of the war, post-war war recovery, use of agent orange during the war, international support for the Vietnamese, and imprisonment systems during the war.

The first floor has displays of battles, anti-war sentiment, and soldier's gear from the war.

 Pictures and articles of war

The upper floor is sensational and thought provoking, with details of agent orange after effects, results and discussions of war crimes (from the Vietnamese perspective), and stories from individual soldiers.

 Stories of the war

Scattered throughout the rooms are individual soldier's weapons used in the war.

 Weapons of war

Whereas some of the pictures and displays are quite disconcerting, particularly those of the children affected by agent orange, the final exhibit of the imprisonment systems and guillotine used by the South Vietnam government is also riveting and seriously disturbing.

 Tiger cages to hold 2-3 people

 Cell and guillotine

The museum was truly enlightening and depressing, it's time to head out into the modern, hopefully-less-violent world.