Ta Cu: 11 levels of Buddhism or 49 steps to self-knowledge
Located just an hour’s drive to the southeast of Phan Thiet and possessing special magic, Mount Ta-Ku is one of the must-see places in the area.
The mountain itself, whose height is 694 meters, is a kind of Buddhist prayer center with a top pagoda (Linh Sơn Trường Thọ) and a lower (Long Đoàn), as well as a Buddha statue. This is the largest lying Buddha in Southeast Asia, pilgrims from all countries aspire to see and touch it.
A bit of history
In 1870-1880, a Buddhist monk led a group of believers who began the construction of the upper pagoda. After his death, the followers built the lower part, and the reclining Buddha – already in 1958. The Vietnamese Truong Dinh Tri did not expect his creation to become the unofficial name of the mountain. The height of the statue is 11 meters, which means 11 steps of Buddhism, and the length of 49 meters is also symbolic and speaks about 49 steps on the way to self-knowledge.
How to climb the mountain
It is possible to get from the foot of the mountain to the summit in two ways:
- 1) independently, which will take 1.5-2 hours of time;
- 2) use the cable car, which will lift you up 10 minutes, at a distance of 2290 meters.
Initially, when the pagoda was only being built, all the monks and pilgrims climbed to the top solely on foot. They paved the road in the middle of the forest, overgrown with huge trees, lianas and populated monkeys.
The path of the monks was difficult, because the height of the mountain is 694 meters, and the rise is steep enough. The staircase is now not preserved, only the ruined stone steps, twisted by the roots of the trees, are left of it.
From my own experience of climbing I can say: when you pass half of the road, a second wind opens, fatigue disappears, and the path itself turns into an adventure. You can climb the vines, see the monkeys and enjoy the view through the trees of the rice-sown fields.
The average temperature at the top of the mountain ranges between 18 and 22° C, which is a kind of reward after the end of the trip. But because of the temperature difference, the stones in the forest are covered with moisture, and one should be extremely cautious, going back.
Pagoda and reclining Buddha
When you get to the top, be sure to enjoy the view and be ready for a new ascent.
To get to the Buddha, you have to go a thousand steps. Before the foot steps on the first step, be sure to make the most cherished wish. According to the Vietnamese belief, if you repeat it until the end of the journey, it will come true. Honestly, I followed the advice, and literally in the same month, my wish came true. Whether this is a coincidence, or indeed a mountain has magical power, it is up to you to decide. I made my choice and I am grateful for this.
On your way you will pass the lower pagoda with three Buddha statues and an open observation deck. Here you can buy water, ice cream or use the restroom.
Having risen a little more, you will get to that unique atmosphere, because of which the trip is conceived. Touch the miracle, stop the inner dialogue and focus on the sensations, the energy that is permeated all around. Even despite the crowds of high-profile Chinese tourists, there is peace in the whole body.
At the end of the trip, descending to the foot of the mountain, you can leisurely stroll through the park, eat food in the adjacent restaurants or buy from local grandmothers bani (Vietnamese hot dog with meat, carrots, green and sauces). And to think about how many years ago monks, without comfortable shoes, in the heat, with stones on their shoulders, climbed up the hill to build this magnificence. They did not even imagine that hundreds of years later visitors from all over the world would come here to enjoy the fruits of their labor and to touch history.