We took a cab from our hotel (Ngoc Thach Hotel, $27.50 US/night) to Long Son Pagoda ~ founded in the late 19th century. The Pagoda grounds stretch up the side of a hill where there are nice views overlooking the city, mountains and ocean. At the top sits a huge white Buddha (I think the monk said it was 24 meters high). You can enter a chamber inside the Buddha which is elaborately decorated with relief pictures covering the walls, 2 Hindu god statues, and a huge pillar in the middle embedded onto the back of a turtle. Just a little ways down the back side of the hill is where the remains of 2 million people are kept. I’m not sure who the people are; some of the compartments have a picture of the person inside and a date. The monk who showed us the crematorium also showed us where his mother‘s ashes were kept.
On our way up the 150 stairs to the top we stopped to visit a very large Reclining Buddha (approx. 30’ long), but best of all was our discovery of a little pagoda housing a single large temple bell. It wasn’t until I saw the monk banging the gong that I finally became fully aware of the low bell sound that had been floating around my subconscious since the moment we arrived on the site. The monk motioned Richelle to sit on the seat inside the bell, then using the battering ram style banger he bonged the bell 3 times, he then motioned her to come out and it was my turn. I have to admit that seeing Richelle’s legs coming out of the bottom of the bell while he ‘banged the gong’ was funny because it was so strange. He then indicated that we were to make a donation. The monk then positioned Richelle (and then me) by putting our foreheads and palms against the bell while again he bonged the bell 3 times. What an incredible experience these ‘activities ‘were. With my head against the bell I felt my brain vibrating and resonating with the sound waves, it was very uplifting and something I will never forget the feeling of.