Mom, don't read this!

Trip Start Nov 29, 2008
Trip End Jan 18, 2009

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Okay, well, the fact that I'm writing this mean I survived, but it might still give you a heart attack!

As an undergrad, I wrote my senior thesis on the role of religious groups in the Vietnam War. One group that fascinated me was the indigenous Vietnamese religion of Cao Dai. I was fascinated by both the religion itself, and the architecture of its temples. It's part of what drove me to want to visit Vietnam in the first place.

Fast forward six years, and I've forgotten almost everything I once knew. But here I am, in Vietnam, so close to Tay Ninh, the home of the central Cao Dai temple. I can't come all the way here and not visit it, right? Well, Tay Ninh is sort of close to Cu Chi, so I told my guide that after the Cu Chi Tunnels, I'd like to break off from the group and go see the Temple, rather than head back to Saigon. He arranged a motorbike and driver for me, and I was on my way. Hop on the back and hold on tight as my driver sped down the highway, and then onto increasingly isolated and decrepit streets until we reached the site. (At least I had a helmet though!) As the journey dragged on, I realized that this side of the visit was from somewhere comparatively close to Tay Ninh--the trip back would be all the way to Saigon. This was a particular problem because riding on the back of a moto is a surefire way to get the world's sorest butt. I was shifting and squirming constantly to try to get comfortable to no avail. How would I manage the even longer trip back?

Okay, on to the temple itself. It was certainly something I'm glad to have seen. The picture of the three saints (Victor Hugo, Sun Yat Sen, and Nguyen Binh Khiem), the bizarre "all seeing eye," and the peculiar blend of Eastern and Western architecture and style. It wasn't any great revelation--I've seen plenty of pictures of the Holy See before and this building is just the smaller temples writ large. But still, it was something I had to see, and I did, so I'm glad.

The trip home was about two hours on a motorcycle, first through pristine countryside, and then into chaotic Saigon. My butt was on fire by the end, but I survived. Mom, I know you probably rank three hours on a motorcycle through Vietnam as something you like me to do even less than eating off of street vendors, but this is what adventure travel is all about!
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