Cao Dai Temple
Cao Dai Temple
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1,141 reviews
Very good

jakarta97 contributions
This temple is really different with other temples. It has a specific symbol - eye- and many different belief are incorporated in this Cao Dai. The services are held 3 times a day, the easiest time for visitors to visit is 12 o' clock noon time. The people there are very nice and friendly, but we have to follow the rule when we enter the temple. We do not need to pay to enter the temple. It is however quite far from Ho Chi-MInh city.
Written February 18, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Manchester, UK1,496 contributions
A brief background

Disregarding break away sects, the temple complex is the centre of Caodaism. This developed following ‘revelations’ received by Ngo Van Chieu who then held an administrative post when under French Colonial control but became the religion’s prophet. Caodaism was recognised as a religion as recently as 1926 with the temple itself dating from 1933. Its adherents subsequently followed a path with significant political involvement and armed resistance during WWII, but it’s involvement in politics during both Indo-China Wars resulted in delays to its legal recognition by the government of a reunified Vietnam. When we were thinking of visiting the temple perhaps the most frequently mentioned aspect of the religion were that it is a fusion of several religions and even that this was intended to bring harmony to religious discord, though in fact it stems from the nature of the revelations said to have been received by Ngo Van Chieu. Caodaism does embody elements from Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Catholicism and does so very visibly. On approaching the temple note the different primary colours along its length, the yellow representing Buddhism, the blue Confucianism and the red Catholicism.

Getting there and securing a good view

Cao Dai Temple lies just around 100km from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and unless you arrange your own transport it’s likely that you will visit on one of the organised tours that usually take a full day and include a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels. There was considerable variation in the price asked for these tours when we visited and generally speaking thy similar though of course I can’t speak for the quality of the guides, coaches and meal stops for example on all but the one we used. However, when we visited the temple in April 2014 we opted to take the cheapest one we could find, organised by TNK Travel who have an office on De Them Street in HCMC (Ho Chi Minh City) and we were happy with the guide who was informative, attentive and helpful. Admission to the temple itself is free if you are making your own way there. If you are thinking of taking a tour and wonder how long you will get at the temple it will be around 50-60 minutes with about 25-30 minutes inside the temple. That’s not a lot considering it’s a long drive – around 2½ to 3 hours - with speeds no more than about 50km per hour at best and often less, making for a long day with the trip to Cu Chi included. That said, if you’re interested in the religion or want to see what may be among the most colourful sights during your trip to Vietnam then it’s certainly worth the time. Although it is a religious building and you should respect this, there is no dress code and when we visited no-one was prevented from entering for wearing shorts or T-shirts for example, even though one young lady wore one with a very prominent expletive across the back.

The temple has four services each day (06:00, 12:00, 18:00 and 00:00), during which musicians assemble on the landing above the entrance and adherents form up below. The one at 12 noon is the one you are likely to see if you are on an organised tour. On arrival at the site you will be dropped by your coach outside the main gate and will have to walk around what looks like the main entrance to the far side of the temple where you will have to remove your footwear before going in through a door on the far side. Ideally you should try to do this at least 20 minutes before the service starts because securing a good spot to view it is difficult. Looking at photographs of the temple you may notice a viewing gallery that runs all the way down each side but when we visited this was closed off and it seems this is always the case. We were told it was for safety because there is some uncertainty about whether the gallery can actually take the weight of a large number of visitors. To make matters worse, the landing over the entrance mentioned above is occupied during the service by a circle of seated musicians and a small number of singers, so only a very small area to either side is actually available from which to view it. In total maybe 10-12 people one each side and most with a limited view can comfortably wait here. As if that doesn’t make matters difficult enough you may find as we did that the followers acting as attendants to direct visitors and prevent you from straying into areas you shouldn’t be simply don’t agree on which route to follow. The result at one point for us was being sent around in a complete circle on part of the landing actually meeting people who had been on the stairs behind us. I found the best way to approach this was simple sign language, indicating that a bottleneck was developing and pointing at a spot on the other side where I simply stopped with my wife while other people then went around us. This was the only way in which we secured a reasonable viewpoint, by the rail and as close as possible as we were allowed to be to the musicians. There are columns here but at least you can look around them and get a fairly good view down the length of the temple. If you want to take photographs there are no restrictions and this makes a good spot to take pictures of the singers as well as the ranks of the faithful assembling below. The lighting is good and as a matter of respect you should consider not using a flash though there were no restrictions on photography or video.

The service and after

The service itself begins with the people gradually massing below in orders ranks and proceeds when this is complete with a combination of music and chants that quickly becomes repetitive. Although the service lasts for around 45-50 minutes therefore, we were asked by our guide to leave after no more than 20 minutes and unless you have a specific interest this is probably enough and of course gives others the opportunity to view it though entrance to the temple isn't permitted for a few minutes prior to the service commencing. It is without doubt an extremely colourful spectacle and I heard one person describe it, with any apparent intention of being disrespectful, as ‘Disney does religion’ simply because of the vibrant colours and designs from the repeated motif of the left eye – one of which is central to a giant orb at the far end of the temple – to the cloud painted ceiling and the richly coloured serpents that wind up every column. It seems doubtful that anywhere else in the country could be quite so eye catchingly colourful. The background to all this can easily be found on the internet so I won’t go into details here, but do allow yourself time to walk around the exterior too. On heading back outside you will not be allowed to retrace your steps – we were told this is because the open space you initially walked across is thought to be occupied by the spirits of the faithful and it would be disrespectful to disturb them – but it means that your route will take you to the left, going counter-clockwise around the outside to eventually head back towards the gate and your transport. As you do this, keep your camera at the ready because any open doors will afford some views from ground level of the faithful taking part in the service.

It’s quite a long trip for what is essentially a fairly brief visit so I hope the details above help you to get a better view of the service and to enjoy it if you decide to make the journey. Whether it’s worth such a long trip is entirely subjective but in terms of your photographs alone the images from Cao Dai temple are likely to stand out. If visiting on one of the many tours available remember that the access you have and what you can see when you get there will be the same whether you choose a tour from a more expensive operator or a cheap one. Bear in mind too that reasonable viewpoints for the service are very limited so try to head in at least 20-25 minutes before it’s due to start leaving your view of the exterior to the end if need be. All in all I hope this has been helpful in deciding whether to visit, how to make best use of your time and that you very much enjoy your trip.
Written June 10, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Luzon, Philippines15,280 contributions
We visited the Cao Dai Temple after Cu Chi Tunnels as part of the day tour package outside Ho Chi Minh City. This temple is home to Vietnam's unique religion called Caodaism which in my opinion is a fusion of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism and Taoism. It reminds me of the ecumenical service in Christian churches, however, this one is entirely different and uniquely Vietnamese. Don't be surprised to see that Victor Hugo is regarded as one of their saints.

We have to remove our footwear before entering the temple. Tourists are allowed to observe the ongoing religious activities but silence must be strictly observed. It is also forbidden to take photos together with the religious icons inside the temple. We had a good view of the monks in multi-colored robes. Tourists come in big groups especially at noon time. This is an interesting experience if you want to learn Vietnamese culture and religion.
Written April 24, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

7 contributions
We went here as part of our tour to Cu Chi tunnels. The actual service inside is great to watch and take photos, but there is something very dodgy going on here. 3 of us used the men's toilets and each were harassed by two men in white and blue shirts who were waiting outside the toilets and followed us inside. On top of this, before you enter the temple you must leave your shoes outside. Our friends noticed someone hanging around the shoes as we went inside, and when we came back 15 minutes later my wife's shoes were missing. When we reported it to a tour guide, the first thing he said was "No one here stole your shoes" which makes me think its not the first time. If you do visit this temple, make sure your kids do not go to the toilets alone and carry your shoes in a bag when you enter the temple.
Written July 29, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Cork, Ireland23 contributions
We went on a full day tour to the Cu Chi tunnels and the temple combined. My advice, skip the temple and do the half day tour to the tunnels. We left our hotel at 8am and arrived at the temple at 12am, a horrible stuffy and uncomfortable bus ride did not merit the experience at all. The temple is an impressive structure and beautifully decorated but just because followers of the Cao Dai religion revere it so highly and make it their life goal to one day visit doesn't mean western tourists would feel the same attraction. We stood upstairs on the balcony watching the noon ceremony for 20 minutes which felt more like an intrusion than a cultural experience and we didn't feel exactly welcomed by the ushers at the entrance who just herded us up the stairs like sheep as if we were a nuisance. Bottom line, If you're thinking of doing the day tour, skip the temple, it's not worth the journey.
Written July 21, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Mornington, Australia191 contributions
After a visit to the Chu Chi tunnels on our way back to Saigon we visited this beautiful temple. Arrived while a ceremony was being held in honour of recently deceased people which goes over a period of 300 days. It was very moving and a colourful event. The building itself was built between 1933 and 1955 and was very colourful and ornate. It is unique in the fact that Catholic, Buddhism,Hinduism and Taoism is practiced here. Naturally your shoes and socks are to be left outside as a sign of respect.We had our own guide which was very helpful and recommend you have one or at least learn about it before visiting. It is located about 2 hours out of Saigon and as previously mentioned we visited here on our way back from the tunnels. My personal opinion is that i would have preferred the extra time at the tunnels than the 1 hour visit to this temple as i felt it was too long.Due to steps i would say this site is not wheelchair friendly. Good to see but not high on my list of Must Sees in Vietnam. (If you find this review helpful please tick the box tks )
Written September 17, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

The Wandering Reviewer
Melbourne, Australia9,688 contributions
Until I visited the Cao Dai Temple, I had never heard of the religion and have to say, it was one of the most touching and beautiful places I've ever visited - and I've seen a few places in my time.
We'd organised a private guide and bus as we didn't want to go on the huge buses that were hauling people in and out of various attractions. The tunnels were after the temple.
Although we could avoid many of the buses, when a service is taking place, it fills to capacity with people. I sat upstairs on the floor, looking between the railing and felt in awe of what I saw.
The musicians started to play their music (they are on the second floor where I was) and the harmonic sounds along with the women singing in their collective, calm voice was captivating - mesmerising. I'll never forget the sense of peace and calm I felt from this - it set the scene.
If you're upstairs, you can view the entire service - as people file into the temple with their white robes. Take notice of the age of some of the people - they could be 50 or 500 years old and they walk with purpose and grace.
They sit in symmetrical order and are still and quiet while the service is on. I couldn't take my eyes off a couple of the more senior people, wondering what they'd seen in their lives. What experiences they'd had living in a country that had been through so much in the last 100 years.
The Temple itself is colourful and bright so take photos of all that it has to offer. Be respectful. Be patient. And don't point your camera in people's faces.
The town has some interesting places to eat local food and explore. Once the tourist buses go - you'll get a better feel for the town.
Savour this experience, it's not one you'll find in many other places.
Written June 9, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Cambridge, MA1,808 contributions
I visited this temple as part of a private tour. We arrived for the noon service. The galleries were filled with tourists while the adherents prayed below. Pictures were allowed.

there was much chanting during the service. The floor of the temple is a series of steps and our guide explained the meaning of these levels. The faithful can progress from level to level and they take their place in the temple at their own level.

We remained well after the tourists left and the service continued. for a long time and we were free to move round the outer edge.

Finally when the service ended we were free to walk through the body of the temple.
Written December 5, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Oslo, Norway45 contributions
We got to have a look at a sermony with this little known religion for us in the west. Very different from most more well known, and older religions.
Written July 27, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

55 contributions
We did a day tour with An Travel for $9. It included the bus trip (good bus), this temple and a visit to the cu chi tunnels. Worth the drive as its a very interesting thing to see. You get to experience their prayer service
Written July 7, 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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Cao Dai Temple, Tay Ninh

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