By Courtney Ridgel
Booking Coordinator Courtney Ridgel visited Central Vietnam last May and relflects back on visiting the Thien Vien Truc Lam Bach Ma Pagoda:
During college I studied Zen Buddhism through some of my coursework so I was thrilled to have the chance to visit the Thien Vien Truc Lam Bach Ma Pagoda. Zen Buddhism first came to Vietnam centuries ago, and was replaced by other forms of Buddhism in the 15th and 16th century. This branch of Buddhism is now making a come-back and the Truc Lam Bach Ma Pagoda was built in 2006.
Located in Central Vietnam, this hidden gem lies nestled into the White Horse (“Bach Ma”) Mountains, so named for the clouds resembling herds of horses. Like something out of a legend, the temple sits on an island rising from the center of a man-made lake tucked into a valley.
One of the locals took us to the island in his small motorized boat where a group of nuns sat laughing and sharing stories. The journey across the water and trek up the long steps to the entrance is meant to clear your mind and wash away guilt. I found myself breathless, both from the views and from the deceptively long stairs.
Passing through the impressive gate at the top of the island, we passed into the peaceful garden-like setting with various halls and traditional pagodas, complete with temple bells and carved dragons. Inside, the halls are adorned with murals depicting the life of Buddha and the history of Zen Buddhism.
Taking it all in, I just kept thinking, “I am so grateful to be here.” This pagoda will definitely remain a magical place in my memory.