Home > Vietnam > The freak show and the tunnels

The freak show and the tunnels

January 29, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

The freak show at the Cao Dai Holy See Temple was a religious experience to match any cult offering of the USA. This “new religion” was conceived in Vietnam and unsurprisingly has a temple in California. From what we can make out, they worship a complicated mix of “gods”, with recent messengers of god that they speak with during their séances including Charlie Chaplain, Louis Pasteur, William Shakespeare, Joan of Arc, Lenin and their favourite – Victor Hugo…. you start to get the idea.



For us it was interesting, but pretty uncomfortable, the symbol laden temple with it’s gaudy candy sweet  decor, covered with all seeing eyes and lions on globes symbolising the global expansion of the religion. The congregation huddled up like desperate zombies all dressed in white, taking great pains to cover their thumbs, marching behind the red, blue and yellow coloured priests, with Military Police style priests with their distinctive armbands, prodding and poking the congregation into lines – all very photogenic, all very weird.

devottees subject to almost military precision

check out the odd clash of vulgar columns, military layout and voyuer tourists around the gallery

Luckily we were not there too long, and before we knew it we were heading with our tour to Cu Chi, the underground resistance tunnels of the Viet Cong. The organised tours are a bit of a rushed affair, but we still got to see the tunnels first hand and find out a bit about the Vietnam War from the Vietnamese perspective. The gruesome man traps and hiding holes a particular hit with the kids, whilst the video’s of the children recieving medals called “American Killing Hero Medals” were a little less comfortable. The tunnels were the highlight and were as claustrophobic as expected well worth braving; Theo was OK but I was on my knees and only just managed to squeeze through in some areas, whilst the other two kids were desperate to explore and dragged me down into the sauna that was level 2 before I managed to herd them back up into the relatively fresh air.

and breath in!

the tunnels: a network of 220 km of tunnels on 3 levels. Not a nice place, but better than being napalmed.

Whilst in Cu Chi we also found out that the kids really like steamed whole Tapioca, a kind of sweet potato root vegetable thing and the staple food of the Viet Cong– it is amazing what the kids end up eating when they are desperate, the local tea was a little less successful all round. After some odd experiences and a bit too long on the bus (about 7 hours in total) we rolled back into Saigon glad that we had made the trip out.

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