About three kilometers from My Tho city, in the heart of the Mekong Delta, is the Vinh Trang pagoda.
It is among the most well-known in the region and one of the most fascinating, not least because of the three enormous Buddha statues within its complex. A standing Buddha symbolising bliss and compassion is located just outside the main gate. As you enter the pagoda gates, a laughing Buddha symbolising happiness and good luck smiles down upon you. A little ahead is the reclining Buddha, meant to symbolise nirvana.
The pagoda itself rests on five acres of manicured gardens and fruit trees in My Hoa, on the banks of the Bao Dinh canal.
A bit of history
Sometime in the early 19th century, Bui Cong Dat, the district chief came up with the idea of building a pagoda. Unfortunately, midway through the construction, he passed away. It was then up to the Buddhist abbot Thich Hue Dang to continue with its completion. He named it Vinh Trang.
Finally completed in 1850, it unfortunately suffered under the firepower of the French colonists who were battling the Nguyen Dynasty’s army for control of the region. While they subsequently did make efforts to reconstruct it, it fell into disuse.
It wasn’t until four decades later, under the new abbot Thich Chanh Hau, that the pagoda was again renovated. But luck wasn’t on their side once again. It was severely damaged in a tropical storm.
Finally, another round of reconstruction was started in 1907. When Thich Chanh Hau passed away in 1923, his successor Thich Minh Dan took over the responsibilities until its renovation. For this purpose, he recruited craftsmen from the imperial city of Hue. These talented craftsmen brought together various architectural styles that were a blend of East and West, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Khmer and European.
The pagoda complex
As you walk through the gates, look up and you will notice a second level honouring two of its former abbots who oversaw the development of the pagoda into what it is today.
Inside the complex, the garden is dotted with pot plants. There is also a stupa with the ashes of the pagoda’s former abbot Thich Chanh Hau that have been interred under the shades of one of the trees.
The pagoda itself comprises of five separate buildings, two courtyards and 178 pillars. It’s also home to more than 60 precious statues. As you walk into the main hall, multiple statues of Buddha adorn the hall, including the Jade emperor. The side gates are decorated with colourful porcelain mosaics depicting Buddhist stories.
In 1984, the government recognised it as a national historical and cultural relic, making it among the Mekong Delta’s biggest attractions today.
The monks who live and maintain the pagoda also give back to society. They run a home for children with disabilities, special needs and orphans.
Information you can use
Depending on who you have booked your tour to the Mekong Delta with, this should be the first and only stop. There is also a small shop that sells refreshments and snacks, in case you are feeling thirsty or a bit peckish. There is no entry fee as far as I can tell. However, do reconfirm this information before you make plans.