With rivers and karst mountains, the journey to the Bái Đính Temple is as stupendous and epic as the temple complex itself — if not more.
The Journey Is As Important The Destination
It was an unusually cool, rainy, and foggy morning in Ninh Bình. Daisey wasn’t feeling well, so I was off on a solo mission to the Bái Đính Temple. The Bái Đính Temple is the largest religious (i.e. Buddhist) complex in Vietnam (over 700 square hectares). It is situated in the countryside outside of Ninh Bình in northern Vietnam. It should be noted that the landscape of this region is absolutely stunning. With rivers and karst mountains, the journey to the Bái Đính Temple is as stupendous and epic as the temple complex — if not more. The weather only added to the mystique of the journey.
Disney World For Buddhists
Of course, the largest religious complex in all of Vietnam brings in lots of tourists. Most visitors are Buddhists making a pilgrimage to the holy site. The day I spent there was rainy and cool, yet still filled with Vietnamese and Chinese adherents who had come to pray — and have fun. It seemed like Disney World for Buddhists replete with cafes and gift shops.
After you arrive at the immense parking lot, you take a shuttle to the entrance of the complex. I seemed to be the only one not on a group tour. A guide might be a good idea if you don’t want to get lost — and understand either Vietnamese or Chinese.
The Bái Đính Temple is much more than a single temple. There are many temples, halls, pagodas, lakes, courtyards, and gardens. Sculptures everywhere. When I was able to avoid the tour groups, it seemed as if I had the place to myself — a wonderful place to get lost!
You can’t build something of this scale overnight. The construction, as best as I could tell, started in 2003 — and continues to this day. The quality of the craftsmanship was astonishing. I’ve been to the Notre Dame and Angkor Wat. The Bái Đính Temple complex is a modern day rival built to adhere to traditional aesthetics. I don’t know if it will stand the test of time, but as it stands now, it will survive the scrutiny.
After shooting over 500 pictures and wearing my feet out, I decided to venture back. After all, the countryside is magical too. I felt the same reverence for exploring the landscape as I did in the temples. God’s Country.
A genuine adventure requires getting lost. Not only did I get lost several times at the Bái Đính Temple complex, I got ‘misplaced’ several times on the journey to and from the temple. A few times locals helped me navigate my way. It’s amazing how far one can get on pantomiming — call it gestural GPS.
Not Home Yet
As I got closer to our hotel, it was getting dark and colder. I was soaked from the misty mystical ride back to Ninh Bình city. As I approached the city limits, I got a flat tire — but I’ll save that for another blog post. Let me conclude: it was an unforgettable day filled with a few trials and a lot of wonderment.
If you are in the Ninh Bình province, perhaps to visit Tam Cốc-Bích Động and Mua Caves, I recommend spending an extra day to visit the Bái Đính Temple.
Britt is a photographer/music producer & proud member of #teamtraynham