Story: Huynh Phuong
Photos: Tuan Nguyen, Jet Huynh,
Mai Thanh Chuong, Do Thanh Nhan

Have you ever been to Tay Ninh? This August, join Heritage on a trip to explore well-known landmarks in Tay Ninh, the province where Vietnam’s terrain transforms from that of the South Central Highlands to that of the Mekong Delta. Join us in discovering the province’s mix of highland and lowland charms.

View of the Cao Dai Holy See from above

Ba Den Mountain and Sky Mountain
Your journey of discovery through this wonderful region should start with a challenge: sunny and windy hiking trails. But don’t worry – the natural beauty of the mountains and lakes plus the warm welcome of Tay Ninh people will make your trip worthwhile. Ba Den Mountain (Black Virgin Mountain) is dubbed “The Roof of South East Vietnam” as its peak hits 986m. This is the first stop awaiting you. Ba Den Mountain is one of Tay Ninh’s most famous spiritual travel destinations. The main attractions are sacred places on the peak, namely the Temple of the Black Virgin and Wind Cave. A cable car can take you up.

Should you choose to visit, don’t forget to sit back and listen to the legend of the Holy Mother of the Holy Mountain, the sacred entity worshipped here. For the young and trendy, this place serves as the perfect place to hike, watch the sunset and sunrise, and enjoy fantastic views of floating clouds.

Caodai faithful at prayer

Dau Tieng Lake, Tay Ninh’s “calm bay”
Ba Den Mountain offers a view over Vietnam’s largest manmade lake, whose surface is as still and tranquil as the sky under gentle breezes. Gazing upon Dau Tieng Lake and its surroundings is like seeing the promised land: endless rice fields stretching to the horizon, patches of lotus flowers releasing their sweet scent into the summer air, and palm trees standing firm beside the calm and quiet lake. Not far from Ba Den Mountain and Dau Tieng Lake lies a forest of rubber trees.  From the end of November to the beginning of March these trees change their leaves and a dreamy golden blanket covers the land, turning this area into another wonderland.

The Cao Dai Holy See
Describing the Cao Dai Holy See, which is located in Hoa Thanh District, around 4km from Tay Ninh City, the poet Dan Thuy wrote:

“On full moon nights, the imposing Holy See is as busy as a festival. The Fairy Lady’s splendid shadow reflects under ivory moonlight.”

 Caodaism’s one-of-a-kind religious architecture reflects the religion’s harmonious combination of Eastern and Western philosophies and spiritual elements. Caodaism’s iconic symbol is the Divine Eye, or the ‘All-Seeing Eye’, which represents God in the form of a giant eye inside a triangle. This symbol is painted in many places around the Holy See. To enter, there are 12 gates, all engraved with the Four Holy Beasts (the Dragon, the Qilin, the Turtle and the Phoenix). The largest is the main gate, further adorned with an image of ‘two dragons fighting for a jewel’. The Temple of the Divine Eye, the main function hall, holds the Universe Globe decorated with 3,027 stars representing 3,000 worlds and 72 globes. Each year, during the Mid-Summer Holiday, an annual celebration named ‘Religious Banquet for the Great Mother and the Nine Goddesses’ takes place. Special features of this festival include splendid sculptures made from fruit, and offering exhibits to the Fairy Lady, inspired by folk beliefs that the Great Mother and the Nine Goddesses will descend to earth and bless everyone with peace and harmony in life. The Banquet is a vital part of Tay Ninh in general and Caodaism’s spiritual activities in particular, not only reflecting sacred beliefs but influencing people’s normal lives.

Children play around two palmyra palm trees in the summertime

Traditional craft villages
Striking mountains and beautiful nature are not the only things that the sacred land of Tay Ninh have to offer. Generations of Tay Ninh people have been working hard and overcoming challenges to pursue the traditional crafts of their ancestors. Examples include palm-leaf conical hats made in Ninh Son; Vietnamese conical hats from An Phu; Trang Bang mist-dried rice papers; Hoa Thanh incense; knit-wares in Long Binh; blacksmithing in Loc Trac; and cast-iron products in Truong Hoa. These villages have managed to gain fame nationwide. While different in products and production-methods, they all support each other following the traditions of Vietnamese neighbors. Therefore, these trade villages are worthy destinations for visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the local cultural life.