Life - April 12, 2018 | 04:41 pm PT

Trinity of spiritual sites to pique your curiosity on a tour of Saigon

People come here to pray for children, commemorate a renowned mandarin, or just to have some quiet time away from the city.

Giac Lam Pagoda

Where time stands still

A statue of Guan Yin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, stands at the entrance to the seven-story stupa, which is a highlight of the pagoda. Photo by Nguyen Quy

Standing quietly on Lac Long Quan Street in Tan Binh District, the pagoda has stood the tests of time for nearly three centuries, and is one of the oldest shrines in Saigon.

Constructed in 1744 by a hermit named Ly Thuy Long, the pagoda was originally known as “Cam Son”, “Cam Dem” or “Son Can”, and it was not until 1774 it was renamed “Giac Lam” under Venerable Monk Vien Quang.

Stepping through the gate, visitors are rewarded with a calm and tranquil atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of urban life and the waves of vehicles. 

Phuong, 68, bows to a statue of Guan Yin to pray before setting some birds free in an effort to earn good karma. Photo by Nguyen Quy

Michalina, a tourist from Poland, said she froze when she walked into the main hall due to the extremely peaceful and holy atmosphere.

“Vietnamese people did a good job building this pagoda," she said.

The highlight of the 274-year-old sacred spot is the seven-story stupa and  a statue of Quan am, the Goddess of Mercy, sitting at the entrance.

A foreign couple pose for a photo at the pagoda. Photo by Phong Vinh

The Jade Emperor Temple

The place to pray for a child

If you are yearning for a baby, either boy or girl, find a connection at this centuries-old pagoda.

Ngoc Hoang Pagoda was recognized as a National Cultural Heritage in 1994. Its alternative name is Phuoc Hai Pagoda. Photo by Phong Vinh

The Jade Emperor Temple on Mai Thi Luu Street, District 1, tops the list of spritual destinations for those who want to pray for a child in Saigon. It is where the supreme Taoist God, The Jade Emperor or King of Heaven, or Ngoc Hoang in Vietnamese, is worshipped. 

Construction of the pagoda began in 1892 and was completed in 1900 in honor of the Jade Emperor, who is believed to have supernatural powers to decide who is allowed to enter heaven and who is not.

The shrine was built over a century ago with a touch of Chinese-influenced architecture characterized with a yin yang tiled roof and symbols of the dragon and phoenix. Photo by Phong Vinh

In 1984, the temple's name was changed to Phuoc Hai, but local pilgrims are still familiar with the name Jade Emperor Temple.

Fun-fact: The pagoda was visited by President Barack Obama in May 2016, earning it global fame.

A young girl feeds a flock of pigeons inside the pagoda. Photo by Nguyen Quy

Temple of Le Van Duyet

A memorial to a historical figure

If you are curious about Vietnamese history, this is the place to go.

Just a five-minute walk from Ba Chieu Market, the 18,500-square-meter temple is where Le Van Duyet, a mandarin from the Nguyen Dynasty which reigned the country from 1802 until the end of feudal Vietnam in 1945, is worshipped for his loyalty, sincerity and generosity.

The gate to the temple dedicated to Le Van Duyet, a mandarin from Vietnam's last ruling family. Photo by Bui Thuy Dao Nguyen

Take a trip to the temple in the heart of Binh Thanh District to observe how the revered mandarin is remembered by local people.

The temple has been standing since the 19th century, and underwent renovation work in 1937 and 2008.

A corner of the temple. Photo by Bui Thuy Dao Nguyen

Large numbers of pilgrims flock to the temple every day to burn incense and pay tribute to the late mandarin, as well as practice sortilege, a spiritual ritual originating from Chinese folk religion where people ask for advice from the Gods about important issues.

Nguyen Quy