Sunday, 13 May 2012

Mount Takou - home to the largest reclining Buddha in south-east Asia?

Gardens at the base of Mount Takou
Although our recent weekend in Mui Ne was a chance to relax, we felt that we should see something of what the area had to offer whilst we were there.  So, after dinner on our first evening, we visited several of the local travel agents to find out what was available.  When we eventually found someone who spoke English and had written itineraries in English (most of the local tour operators were catering for the majority Russian-speaking tourists!), we negotiated the hire of a Jeep and driver to take us to Mount Takou ('Ta Cu' in Vietnamese), an hour's drive away.  The blurb in the travel agent's office told us that the site was the home of the largest reclining Buddha in south-east Asia, but in our 'Rough Guide to Vietnam' it merited hardly a mention so we weren't overly optimistic about what we would see!

The endless cable car!
So, at 7.30 on the Sunday morning, after a cracking breakfast, we were picked up from our hotel and driven in an open Jeep to the base of Mount Takou.  Our driver had very little English, but was able to make us understand that he would pick us up again in two and a half hours.  We couldn't see anything from where we were standing and wondered why we needed so long!  However, we didn't have much choice but to trust him and so we said goodbye!

We bought our round-trip tickets for 90,000 VND each (less than $5) and walked to the massive entrance gate where two uniformed officials checked them for us!!  A small tram was waiting to take us the short distance through the landscaped gardens to the cable car station, but we still had to climb quite a few steps before we actually reached it.  Despite the early hour, the temperature was already well into the thirties and the effort required to make the climb meant that we were sweating by the time we got into the cable car!  Once in the cable car, we began to ascend.  We couldn't see our destination - it was obviously going to be a long ride!!  As we went higher, the views of the surrounding countryside got more and more spectacular.  The mountain was covered in dense forest, but as we got above the treeline, we could see smaller hills and peaks laid out below us.

The restored pagoda
Eventually, we reached the high point of the cable car ride, but we didn't stop there.  Instead, we descended again to the station, where we disembarked.  I had expected to see a large reclining Buddha somewhere, but I should have known better!!  It is never that easy!!  Whenever you visit any of these religious sites you know that some serious effort is required before you get the prize!!  From where we got off the cable car, we could see a large, elaborate gateway in the distance.  As we got closer to it, we could see a massive flight of steps beyond!  Having made the effort to get to the top of these steps, it became clear that we were still nowhere near the Buddha!  We were, in fact, in an old pagoda which is currently being restored and we had several hundred more steps to climb before reaching the summit!  We passed several statues and shrines along the way where we could stop to take pictures and catch our breath.

Worth all the effort!
Finally, we were on the final leg - climbing some very awkward, uneven steps through some dense forest.  We kept catching glimpses of the brilliant blue sky through the tree canopy.  Suddenly, the azure blue was replaced by dazzling white as we saw parts of the Buddha for the first time!  As we emerged from the forest, the splendour of the statue was revealed in its full glory.  It was truly magnificent and well worth the effort it took to get there!!  At 50 metres in length and 11 metres in height, it is indeed the largest reclining Buddha in Vietnam.  It is certainly larger than the stunning golden reclining statue in Bangkok, too.  So, unless someone has evidence to the contrary, I have to accept the information from the local tour operators in Mui Ne and declare the Ta Cu reclining Buddha the biggest in south-east Asia!  Come on, Rough Guides, let's give it a bit more of a write-up in the next edition!!

50m long and 11m high!!
See more of our photos here.

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