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Vietnam Discovery
 Mountain offers a sense of peace

     It is a trip that offers a multitude of experiences, culmi-nating with a sense of peace that cannot be gained merely by getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

     The Ta Cu ecological tourism area in Binh Thuan Province’s Ham Thuan Nam District lies 30km southwest of Phan Thiet City and 167km north of HCM City.
     Once we were at the park, we were presented with two options to reach the pagoda that is perched at a height of 400m on Ta Cu Mountain. We could take the cable car or hike about 2.5km through the rainforest.
     The two-hour climb would be hard for the older people and children in our group, so it was the cable car that we took. Either way, it is a good idea to buy some sedge hats sold in shops near the cable-car ticket office, because it is very sunny and gets very hot on the way.
     The cable car ride is well worth it for the panoramic views it offers of the city and the immensely green Ham Thuan Nam District. The higher we went, the surrounding hills seemed to get closer to us. The lighthouse on Ke Ga Island was somehow a reassuring sight that held the landscape together, the sea, the mountain ranges and the forests.
     As we got nearer to the top of the mountain, the air became cool and refreshing. After we got out of the cable car, a short walk through the rainforests got us to the base of 184 steps that led to the ancient pagoda built by First Abbot Tran Huu Duc late in the 19th century. The pagoda was restored in 1963, and work is still continuing.
     Linh Son Truong Tho Pagoda leans against the southwestern slope of Ta Cu Mountain. It was recognised as a national historical relic in 1993.
     The pagoda consists of two small shrines, the First Abbot’s cave, a white tiger’s grave, a group of Amitava Buddha statues and a statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha in the position that he attained nirvana.
     Legend has it that there was a white tiger that often appeared near the First Abbot’s cave and followed him wherever he went. The tiger died the very day the First Abbot passed away, and the monks built a grave for it in the pagoda’s garden.
     Further up stand many statues of the Buddha in different postures, sculpted skillfully by talented artisans. Standing alone, apart from these statues, is a white statue of Ksitigarbha under the canopy of the Sacred Fig tree.
     The peaceful faces of three 7m statues of a Bodhisattva, Amitabha and Avalokitesvara are a calming influence.
     The highlight of the trip is of course, the huge statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha that dominates the landscape. The 49m long, 10m high statue, created by sculptor Truong Dinh Y in 1962 is the largest in Viet Nam.
     As we contemplated the enlightened face of the Buddha at ease with the world, we felt our own tensions disappear gently into the peaceful surroundings.
     Visitors to the pagoda can heighten their experience by visiting it on the 15th day of the lunar month and stay at the pagoda overnight, drinking tea in the moonlight and listening to the monks recount stories about the pagoda.
     As we descended the mountain, it was clear why Ta Cu Pagoda had become an important pilgrimage centre for Buddhists, attracting many tourists every year. The beauty of the surroundings is amplified by the timeless serenity that the Buddha imparts.

Source: by Gia Loc - VNS

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