Travel Vietnam

How to Avoid Offending the Monks at Vĩnh Tràng Temple

A young monk was staring at me and I didn’t know why. He was carrying an incense, lighting them, and putting them in the altar. I wondered if I looked like someone he knew, I wondered if there was dirt on my face, I wondered if I’m the next jedi and he’s going to be my master. Then another monk entered the room and gestured for me to leave. Guess I’m not going to be a jedi. As soon as I stepped out, I realized why I’m not going to be a  jedi my mistake; I was wearing shoes in a room where footwear is not allowed. That’s what happens when you visit a Buddhist temple and you’re not aware of the rules.

During our Mekong River tour in Ho Chi Minh, we had a side-trip at that Vĩnh Tràng Temple. The temple sits on 5 acres of land in the town of Mỹ Phong. It was built in the 19th century, made possible under the efforts of the district chief, Bùi Công Đạt. The place is adorned with fruit-bearing trees, potted plants, and various flowers. [Read: Braving the Streets of Ho Chi Minh]

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This is the first time that I’ve entered a Buddhist temple, or seen a Budai — popularly known as the “Laughing Buddha” — as big as King Kong. I was naturally amazed. I mean just look at that big guy up there in all its white glory.

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That’s the sitting Buddha, now this one is the Reclining Buddha.

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The temple has all kinds of Buddha statues you can ever imagine; big and small Buddha, gold Buddha, bronze Buddha, Buddha carved in stone, Buddha carved in wood, etc. There are so many fascinating things to see, it felt like I was in a museum.

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Yes, the temple is beautiful and if you want to enjoy your visit, you shouldn’t do anything to offend the monks. I’ll share with you some of the things that are forbidden at Vinh trang, which is also applicable when visiting other Buddhist temples. By the way, don’t be misled by the pictures, some of them do not necessarily represent the rules. I just want to preach while showing you how beautiful the temple is.

Thou shall not come in an attire that shows too much skin

You are neither in a beach nor a bar so save your Princess Leia slave bikini outfit for another day. If you gotta be Princess Leia think of her in the Force Awakens, wear something that goes below the knees and a shirt with sleeves. At least in this case, I did right.

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Thou shall not touch, move, or rearrange the statues and other objects in the temple

Especially those placed in the altar. No matter how tempting those shiny shimmery splendid objects are, refrain yourself from touching them (or taking one home). [Read: A Crawl inside the Cu Chi Tunnel]

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Thou shall keep your voice down

A temple, after all, is a place of worship, so be at your best behavior and do not disturb the peace.

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Thou shall not pick flowers and plants

The touch of nature makes the temple all the more beautiful so do not be a prick who picks plants and flowers.

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Thou shall not enter with your footwear the room for worship

And the rule that I learned based from experience, take off your flip flops or shoes when entering the room for worship. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to be shunned away by the monks. Honestly, I still blush from embarrassment whenever I remember this.

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I hope these simple tips can be useful to you when you finally get to visit Vinh Trang. Meanwhile, I am going to find some other ways to become a jedi. :p




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Comments (29)

  1. Voyager

    It is indeed important that when we are travelling in another country we do some research on local customs and culture so that we unknowingly do not break any of their customs or show insensitivity.

  2. Siniciliya

    Thank you for your beautiful photos and great tips! I found them very useful. As much as we want to show our respect other cultures, sometimes we might not be aware of the rules.
    I also had an unpleasant situation in one of the temples in Goa. I was wearing a short top and the lady really yelled at me.

  3. hannah

    this is such a fun post! and the photos are breathtaking!

  4. Sarah

    That’s a great post! I’m always worried about accidentally insulting people in other cultures, so this is very helpful

  5. rochkirstin

    Haha good job! I didn’t bring enough “long” clothes when we visited Cambodia because I knew that the country’s temperature is just about the same as in the Philippines — hot. Good thing I’ve scored a bargain in the local market so I bought a T-shirt and pants for our temple visits.

  6. bluedreamer27

    I remember when I was a kid, Budha statues used to freak me out … I’ve always wanted to visit a buddhist temple but never got a chance yet.. i just find their architecture really fascinating
    thanks for all these reminders

  7. JONtotheworld

    Hey Marge.

    Nice post! Very helpful especially the thou shall not eat the plants. just kidding. Bat ganun, by the time I read that I thought it was “eat the plants” and not pick oh by the way baka gutom lang ako ngayon.

    Pero serously, this is something that is vey basic for a lot of people but still forget when going to the temples. Especially about taking off of shoes. I think one of the hardest to follow is keeping your voice down, that’s hard if you’re with your friends. Pero kailangan magpigil, nakakahiya sa mga monks hehe Thanks for this post Marge.


  8. mr_jeng

    Definitely, these are the usual “do not do things” in places of worship. Something different for different cultures. I remembered visiting a lot of temples in BKK and these usually are the rules… 🙂

  9. Lester

    The place looks amazing and wow there are Buddhas everywhere haha. Very informative post. Will definitely keep this in mind when I go to places like this. Thanks for sharing!

    Lester | http://www.lesteronearth.blogspot.com

  10. Sam

    Noted these the next time I found myself in the presence of Buddhist monks! I really think it’s so much safer to lean on the conservative side lest we offend people. Anyway, love the architecture of the temple! 🙂

  11. Vanessa

    This is very helpful tip especially to us/those who don’t know much about Buddhist culture. I wish to visit temples like this in the future.

  12. Jennifer Villanueva
    Jennifer Villanueva

    those rules are pretty doable! hehe… i don’t mind at all following it, because I believe in mutual respect. I’d definitely go by it, but first I hope I can go there with my family soon.

  13. Leticia

    Except for the shoe ones, all of them are applicable to almost any kind of temple or religious environment. Well, that and the fact that a priest or a rabbi wouldn’t just “stare” at you. Thanks for sharing! it’s always good to remember that respect comes in different shapes too

  14. Heena Dhedhi
    Heena Dhedhi

    This is a great post, almost similar rules apply to all places of worship when we visit. Simple steps to make a visit to a temple fuss-free.
    – Heena, http://www.iCynosure.in

  15. Mhaan Arambulo-Delos Santos
    Mhaan Arambulo-Delos Santos

    Thanks for the heads up! Planning to go to Vietnam this year with the family! Will bookmark this for reference 🙂

  16. Caroline

    Great tips to help anyone traveling in Korea a lot. I didn’t get that monks from beating you

  17. leo kevin mendiola
    leo kevin mendiola

    This is a very informative post. At least when i visit a temple, I will know how to behave. 🙂

  18. Melissa

    Awww! I’m sorry you weren’t able to become a jedi… Haha! Kidding aside, thanks for the tips. My friends and I are going to Vietnam too this year and we could really use these tips and reminders. Shared it with them, hope you dont mind. 🙂

  19. Louise

    Thank you for these tips as I’m planning to visit Thailand and Cambodia soon. I’ll most definitely be entering temples too and I wouldn’t want to offend monks in the area in any way too. These are really helpful tips for those who doesn’t have basic background about religion practices in different parts of the world.

    ❤ Louise | http://www.louisechelleblog.com

  20. Rey

    Being married to a thai buddhist, I can definitely relate. There’s just so much to learn. But hey, that’s what being a traveller does. We learn new things through experience as we go along our journey! 🙂 I enjoyed this, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Rey | MODMENCO

  21. Janine

    This is indeed a helpful post to those who are planning to go there soon! Sana ako din someday! HAHA

  22. aika loraine
    aika loraine

    This is a very essential and must read article. Sometimes, when we travel, especially in a foreigh country we are not aware if we are already offending a raise, a culture or a religion. This kind of article helps travelers. Nice@

  23. Nic from Roaming Renegades
    Nic from Roaming Renegades

    Great tips, some of which even when we try to be respectful we don’t realise what we are doing. We will be spending around about 6 months in Asia this year so this will come in useful!

  24. Mr. Tripster
    Mr. Tripster

    Helpful post, Marge. It reminded me of one time I went out with a guy for dinner at a restaurant and ordered a delicious pork dish for him. And he’s Muslim. hahaha!

    I was delighted to see the monumental Laughing Buddha. So me. Hahaha!

  25. Dave (Silverbackpacker)
    Dave (Silverbackpacker)

    How can you “not be aware of the rules” ?

    Every Mosque, Hindu Temple and Buddhist Temple require that you remove your footwear. Its basic information that every traveller should know 🙂

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      As I mentioned it’s my first time to enter a Buddhist temple. I do not claim to know everything in this world.

  26. CafeconLeche Abroad
    CafeconLeche Abroad

    haha Loved the star-wars references throughout the article! A nice and short read CoffeeHan, thanks for sharing, we’ll be visiting those soon and it’s good to be informed so we can become jedis as well.

    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hi Diego, good to see you here! Glad you liked the Star Wars reference hahaha…


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