Cao Dai - Cu Chi

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Caodaism was founded in Saigon in 1925 by the mystic Ngo Van Chieu

Cao Dai means High Tower, Taoist for Supreme God

 Combining the three main religions of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism including also Christianity, Islam and the traditional Vietnamese cult of Ancestor Worship,  the faiths of all Vietnamese  thus coming under one  supreme being

The cathedral and Holy See at Long Than was built in 1927.  At the height of its power in the early 1930's there numbered one and a half million faithful

 The Lonely Planet describes it as  a "rococo extravaganza combining the architectural idiosyncrasies of a French church, a Chinese pagoda, Tiger Balm Gardens and Madame Tussaud's"

Devotions are held four times a day.   We attended the noon time ceremony where visitors are welcome but not allowed on the floor of the temple during the service.   On entry shoes were removed.  Men enter and worship on the right and women on the left.  At noon we were directed to a balcony from where we were permitted to take photographs
In spite of the somewhat bizarre surroundings we found the noonday ceremony with its music and chanting to be very moving 

The robes of the priests who are all volunteers indicate the branch of religion they represent Yellow for Buddhism,  Red for Confucianism Azure for Taoism.  We were advised that they would be unwilling to be photographed but this was not the case 
Octogenarian lady bishops

 

Lunch Stop.  Not sure what we ate but it definitely wasn't chicken in a basket. They caught their bus

While lunch was unmemorable, the company was wonderful

Cu Chi

 There were 200 km of tunnels at Cu Chi, stretching to Saigon and into some American bases

They were used to shelter an under-ground army and enable them to make surprise attacks before disappearing back through camouflaged trap doors.  A trip below is very interesting but not for the claustrophobic

During this introductory lecture by a uniformed ex North Vietnamese officer, a violent thunder storm erupted,  the unplanned sound effects setting the scene for our trip below ground

There were 200 km of tunnels at Cu Chi, stretching to Saigon and into some American bases.

They were used to shelter an under-ground army and enable them to make surprise attacks before disappearing back through camouflaged trap doors.  A trip below is very interesting but not for the claustrophobic

During this introductory lecture from a uniformed ex N. Viet officer, a violent thunder storm erupted,  setting the scene for our trip below ground

Dug using the most rudimentary tools, the 10 -13ft thick roof could stand the weight of a 60 ton tank and the impact of 100kg bombs

Munitions factories, kitchens, hospitals, living and storage areas were housed several stories deep

Enlarged Westerner's Entrance 

Abandoned 'Huey' Bell UH-1 Iroquois

Village Command Center 

If you are so inclined, this is your opportunity to fire an M 16 or an AK-47.  All you need is a $1 a bullet and some borrowed ear protection

Girls too

The target's 'bulls eyes' were obvious depictions of GI's.   I could understand the former N. Vietnamese providing them, what I couldn't understand was Western visitors happily lining up to shoot at them.  The GI targets were replaced long ago with something a little more politically correct and there is now talk of closing the firing range all together.   I think it's about time
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