The Most Beautiful Temples in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Thien Hau Pagoda
Thien Hau Pagoda | © bvi4092/Flickr
Piumi Rajapaksha

Ho Chi Minh City is filled with magnificent Buddhist temples, some dating back centuries, others much, much younger. Some are large whereas others are small. Here is a guide to the must-visit temples in Ho Chi Minh City.

1. Vinh Nghiem Pagoda

Buddhist Temple, Building

Vinh Nghiem Pagoda
© manhhai/Flickr
Vinh Nghiem literally translated means “ever solemn.” Built over a span of seven years, this pagoda, unlike the others in Ho Chi Minh City, was constructed using concrete. The structures of the pagoda fuse Vietnamese architecture with that of the Japanese. The complex has an area of around 6,000 square metres and consists of the pagoda itself, a four storey-tower that stands behind the pagoda, and a building with classrooms and housing for the monks and nuns. It serves as a centre for Buddhist beliefs and practices, while is also one of the most beautiful attractions for tourists to stop by and explore.

You can visit the pagoda all year around, but the best time is during Lunar New Year or the 15th of every month. You will be surrounded by many other people, so you will get a chance to witness their rituals and have a chat or two.

2. Giac Lam Pagoda

Giac Lam pagoda was built in 1744, making it one of the oldest pagodas in the city. However, it has undergone a couple significant renovations, keeping the look of the temple in sync with modern times. The stupa set amidst garden-like grounds is seven stories tall, so if you manage to climb all the way up, you will be rewarded with nice views of the bustle of the city, since the pagoda is located in an urban location. For the sick and elderly, this climb is a minor pilgrimage, as they believe that if they ring the bronze bell found at the top, their prayers will be answered.

The bodhi tree in the front garden was a from a Sri Lankan monk in 1953.

565 Lạc Long Quân, Phường 10, Tân Bình, Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam, +84 28 3865 3933

3. Thien Hau Temple

Thien Hau Pagoda is located smack bang in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City’s own Chinatown, or Cho Lon as the locals call it. This pagoda is a Chinese-style temple dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Thien Hau, or Lady of the Sea. It’s rather old — having been originally constructed by Chinese immigrants from Guangzhou in 1760. However, it has undergone regular restorations since it is regularly used by the locals.

The pagoda has many valuable antiques, including a set of incense burners that were made in 1886. The smell of incense will help you make your way through the interior, which is a partially covered courtyard. As you walk around, pay attention to the intricate details of the structures. The roof is decorated with small and delicate porcelain figures depicting scenes related to Chinese legends and religions. These were produced by ceramic kilns in China in 1908.

710 Nguyễn Trãi, phường 11, Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam.

Thien Hau Pagoda | © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/Flickr

4. Tam Son Hoi Quan Pagoda

Buddhist Temple

Tam Son Hoi Quan Pagoda | © melis/Shutterstock
© melis/Shutterstock
Tam Son Hoi Quan is a relatively lesser known pagoda located on a small less-travelled street. It was built in 1839 by the Fujian Congregation in Cho Lon, and since then has retained its rich ornamentation.

You will notice that the majority of the visitors to the pagoda are women. This is because this temple is dedicated to Mother Sanh, the Goddess of Fertility. Women pray to the altar of the goddess and provide offerings in hopes of conceiving a child. Many other deities are represented here as well, such as the Goddess of the Sea, Thien Hau and the Guardian of Happiness, Ong Bau.

5. Jade Emperor Pagoda

Another Cantonese pagoda in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, the Jade Emperor Pagoda is arguably the most famous one in Vietnam, made even more famous in the news after former American President Barrack Obama visited the site during his state visit to Vietnam in May of 2016.

Inside, the calming smell of incense follows you as you make your way through the maze of rooms in the Jade Emperor Pagoda, each with its own array of intricate woodworks and statues, depicting scenes from Taoist and Buddhist myths. Staying true to its name, the temple is decorated with green ceramic tiles in every corner. Take a guide with you or else you may miss half of what the pagoda has to offer and not understand its significance.

73 Mai Thi Luu St., Dakao Ward, District 1, Đa Kao, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh City, +84 838 203 102

Jade Emperor Pagoda | © Andrea Schaffer/Flickr

6. Cao Dai Temple

Buddhist Temple, Building, Cathedral, Church, Mosque

Cao Dai Temple
© @felixtriller/Flickr
The origins of Caodaism is right here in Vietnam. The religious movement that incorporates Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Catholicism started in 1926. The Cao Dai temple on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City was built between 1933 and 1955, with influences from all the aforementioned religions when it comes to architecture. The building is a combination of Neo-Gothic, Baroque and Oriental design, and there are square towers, a long central pathway like in a cathedral, as well as extravagant décor, including dragon-wrapped pillars, seven-headed cobras and ceilings painted sky blue.

Witnessing the Caodaist rituals is one of the most interesting parts of visiting this temple — the men and women are separated, their attire long and flowing, while the bishops have the Divine Eye embroidered on their headpieces.

7. Buu Long Temple

Buu Long temple, located in District 9, is one of the most beautiful temples in Ho Chi Minh City, mixing architectural styles of India, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and of course, Vietnam. It was built in 1942, on a hill near the Dong Nai River. Not only is the temple architecturally very beautiful and intricate, decorated in gorgeous gold, but there is a fountain and a semi-circle lake in front of the pagoda, perfect for pictures. There are striking differences between Buu Long temple and others found in Ho Chi Minh City. One is that the use of incense and candles is not allowed within the premises. Another – only Buddha is worshiped in this temple, whereas other pagodas serve many deities.

This pagoda remains relatively lesser known and sees only a few visitors daily. Make sure you dress respectfully when you visit – an important notice when you visit any of the temples mentioned above.

81 Nguyễn Xiển, Long Bình, Quận 9, Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam, +84 96 196 62 74

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