Good day guys!
Today, my hubsy @kingceejay is telling us about his experience at Chua Tu Ton, a temple on an island in Nha Trang. He writes once in a blue moon here and I’m delighted he’s found the inspiration to share with us about his trip last weekend. While he was in the temple, I was on a bus to Da Lat. I wish I had seen this with him. Here you go:
I was born and raised in a Christian family and my closest encounter with Buddhism was when I had a student who was a nun and missionary of this sect in the Philippines. That changed, though, because last weekend, I had been to a beautiful temple on an island in Nha Trang and had a chat with a monk who is based there.
The place called Chua Tu Ton-when directly translated could be “Temple from the Sun”-is on an island called Hon Do, which is about 300 meters from the coast of Pham Van Dong Street (farther side of Tran Phu St). To get there, you just have to reach the dock, wave your hand and be ready to be fetched by boat. How much? It is free but you may donate some amount to the boatman. We hadn’t known it because this is not a very popular destination for tourists in Nha Trang and not much has been written about this former red rock island.
Getting there was quick. A motorized boat could take at least 8 passengers and given the distance, the trip should take no more than 3minutes. There were five of us (me, my son and three Vietnamese friends) so with 6 people on the vehicle, getting to the island was quick and smooth. From afar, what you could see is an island with two flags, a pagoda covered with trees, and rocks-lots of them circling the land mass. The closer we got to it, the clearer was the picture of a sanctuary where a thick collection of fauna withstand the salinity of the 2000 sq. meter area surrounded by harsh waves of the Nha Trang bay.
Blame my ignorance of the religion and of the language, there were so many signs with mostly Vietnamese and Chinese text. They sort of welcomed us as we set foot on the island. Our trekking began that point- from the wet natural docking area of massive red rocks to the temple-in which we took the western route. The first hundred steps weren’t very friendly as they were so steep but as soon as we got halfway to the top, the elevation turned more flat and the path had been very helpful. Signs after signs were placed and based on the images, all I could deduce was a message that it was an area for peaceful retreat and soulful prayer. My hiking buddies, one of them a native of Nha Trang, also mentioned about the marks telling the history of the island. Walking plus chatting, in the quietest fashion, had taken us to the pagoda. There we saw more images, idols, paintings and lit incense.
We took off our sandals and briefly observed the group of monks chanting some prayer, singing a prayer with a repetitive rhythm, and reading a scripture while sounding the gong and some drum-like instruments. I saw a very young boy with a curious hair style and there he was-with the monks at least thrice his age,-among them and like them. I thought he must be a seminarian or an assistant. The place was so solemn that even with the sound they made, everyone could hear my steps. I did feel light while I was there-in their presence amid the prayers.
As soon as we had stepped out, we were greeted by a monk who was dressed in a white garment. He talked to my mates and invited us for tea. We thought it was the perfect time for a tra nong (hot tea) so we sat at the table a few meters from the altars. The kind man served us tea, in a fashion I had only seen in Japanese and Chinese movies. There was so much swiftness, meticulousness and grace in his movement that the act looked like a centuries old ritual and probably it was and with that I felt honored and respected. Then , of course, there was the conversation which was rather unconventional: he spoke to my Vietnamese buddies, my companions translated his message to me, I responded and let them convey my reply to him. And this went on for a while, until the chitchat excluded me. I took that time to explain to my 8 yr. old son what was going on.
I’ve learned a few things from the discussion and could remember:
that the island is about 2,000 sq.meters
that the temple was built in the 60s
that the island has its own generator
that people come to the island everyday to water the plants and trees (the island couldn’t produce other than salt water)
that one of the biggest trees adjacent to the temple was brought from India
that monks wear different color of garments depending on the occassion- the golden yellow for special ones
After that, we carried on to explore the island more. We saw some idols, a huge bell, a shrine and birds of rare species. We reached the eastern part where big rocks bravely face the fierce waves. It has a wonderful view of Vinpearl, Tran Phu St. (where the 3km beach strip is located) and two more islands where I will definitely go to on my next Visit in Nha Trang. After two hours of walking around the island, we boarded the boat and reached Pham Van Dong coast.
From afar, we could no longer hear the chanting or the bell or the waves. It’s so quiet, serene and still isolated. After all, it’s an island.