Apart from the very popular tourist destinations that we always hear about when visiting Ho Chi Minh City like Ben Thanh Market, The Reunification Palace, Notre-Dame Cathedral and more, those are definitely not the only places that you can go. There are many other beautiful hidden spots that might be even more of your interest, and today we will specifically talk about Top 5 Best Hidden Pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City. You may have never heard of these following pagodas, but once you visit them, it will surely be an unforgettable experience.
1. Minh Dang Quang Buddhist Institute
Location: 505 Hanoi Highway, An Phu Ward, District 2, HCM City
Opening hours: 5AM – 9PM
Minh Dang Quang Buddhist Institute is now the largest pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, so technically it is not “hidden”, however not many tourists actually have time to visit this place when they come to the city. The institute is a combination of many temples, pagodas along with a great amount of trees and plants, and it is 62,000 meter square large in total. The highlight of the architecture here is the octagonal shape of the roof with multi layer curved roofing, which embodies the noble eightfold path. There are 4 towers in 4 corners of the institute, and in the middle stands the most important building – a 3-story pagoda that consists of a lecture hall, a meditation hall and a multi-function hall.
If you have time, you can even attend some courses or events about meditation or Buddhist philosophy, organized by the monks at Minh Dang Quang Buddhist Institute. Right next to the institute, you will also find a vegetarian restaurant and a souvenir store. Just like other spiritual places, you are not allowed to wear short and revealing outfits when visiting the institute, so make sure to prepare if you plan to come here in your daily schedule.
2. Hue Nghiem Giang Tu Pagoda
Location: 53/5a Nhieu Tu, Ward 7, Phu Nhuan, HCM City
Opening hours: 7AM – 9PM
This is definitely an off-the-beaten-track hidden pagoda with a peaceful and uncluttered atmostphere within the busy and noisy Saigon. Built in 1954, Hue Nghiem Giang Tu Pagoda has a really nice design with many blending colors and big statues which were imported from Hong Kong. In the middle of the pagoda’s yard, there is a Arhat tower which is sophisticatedly carved with the Eighteen Arhat pattern.
Especially, the highlight of the pagoda is the charity healing service for everyone, which is completely free for poor and disabled people. Starting from 2017, the number of patients everyday increases gradually until now. On average, there are about 100 people coming for the healing service everyday. These healing sessions use “Acupressure” as the main method which works for most types of disease. This meaningful charity healing service might be one of the reasons for the peaceful atmosphere inside the pagoda, as if Buddha knows that they are doing for the good.
3. Hoi Quan Quang Trieu
Location: 122 Vo Van Kiet, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, District 1, HCM City
Opening hours: 7AM – 9PM
Hoi Quan Quang Trieu (or Quang Trieu Assembly Hall) can be viewed as a “dupe” of the famous Thien Hau Pagoda, but older and with fewer people, thus creating a more silent and spiritual atmosphere. As one of hidden pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi Quan Quang Trieu used to be the meeting place of the Chinese community, and also a place of worship for the Holy Mother Thien Hau. The architecture of the Assembly Hall is the Cantonese style with the straight roofs, triangular gables with large, wavy pattern, and at the top is the statue of dual dragons.
At the entrance to the Assembly Hall hangs a wooden reliefs made of delicate carvings, symbolizing the boats rescued by Thien Hau Mother. In the the main hall, the altar of Thien Hau Mother is located in the center, while the 2 sides are accompanied by the altar of Kim Hoa Nuong Nuong and Long Mau Nuong Nuong. The highlight of the Assembly Hall are the many hanging spiral incense rings just like in the Thien Hau Pagoda. Anyone can buy incense rings, write their wishes on a paper, attach them to incense and joss sticks will be hung up high, which means you are sending prayers to Thien Hau.
Hoi Quan Quang Trieu would be a great place to visit and explore the story about Thien Hau Mother if you cannot make it to Thien Hau Pagoda, or if you prefer a more silent, peaceful atmosphere.
4. Buu Long Pagoda
Location: 81 Nguyen Xien, District 9, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening hours: 8AM – 4PM
Locating in the far east District 9 of the city, a visit to Buu Long Pagoda will give you a glimpse of another Saigon. This is one of the few very huge pagodas that is located on a hill in Saigon (11 hectares), and it was voted one of the top 20 most stunning pagodas in the world. Buu Long pagoda follows the Theravada Buddhism – the oldest and most orthodox of Buddhism’s three major sects – and has the typical architecture of Thai and Indian pagodas combined with Nguyen Dynasty’s architectures, creating a unique beauty.
The highlight of the pagoda is undoubtedly the main tower – the huge 2000-meter-square Gotama Cetiya Stupa. This is the largest stupa in Vietnam which consists of 5 towers, and the tower in the middle is the biggest and highest one (7 floors). A yellow Buddha statue can be spotted right in the middle of the two main sides of Gotama Cetiya stupa. There are many doors leading to the corridor outside of the main stupa hall. Standing on the highest floor of the tower, one can take in their eyes the entire Saigon’s suburban, Dong Nai river, etc.
On the two sides of the stupa, there are two small towers in which bells and guest rooms are placed. A 280-meter square semicircular lake lays in the middle of the whole pagoda, with a dragon-shaped fountain at the center and green trees surrounds.
5. The Jade Emperor Pagoda
Location: 73 Street Mai Thi Luu, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Opening hours: 8AM – 4PM
Many travel blogs have listed the Jade Emperor pagoda on their must-see sites in Saigon, and we are no exception. However, like so many beautiful, old buildings in Ho Chi Minh City, this Taoist site is usually overshadowed by modern buildings and can be easily missed.
You might have heard about the impressive huge carved wooden figures which dominate the main temple, but there is plenty to see beyond these. One of the best things might be the beautiful tiled roofs of the pagoda. Cross through the dining area and climb up the old stone staircase out onto the terrace, you can get a great close up of the intricate patterns of the glazed ceramic tiles and the ornate mosaic dragons, birds and flowers which decorate their peaks.
Jade Emperor Pagoda includes 3 halls: front hall, mid-hall, and main hall. The front hall has a Buddha statue. Tourists often burn incense and pray for wishes when getting inside the pagoda.
In the main hall, there are 2 wooden statues of general gods, who tame tigers and dragons, on both sides. This is the place for worshipping Jade Emperor, attracting many visitors to visit and pray for. Besides, there is the altar of Kim Hoa Thanh Mau and 12 midwives. This is the most crowded area because many people go there to pray for offspring. On the right of the main hall, Quan Am statue is put in solemn position.
Due to a large number of tourists visiting this site daily, you should visit the pagoda early in the morning in order to avoid the crowd and enjoy the peaceful and quiet atmosphere here.