The huge grounds of the Bái Đính Temple are impressive but not (yet) a standard itinerary option. I guess because there is not so much in the surrounding area and the temple is pretty new. But we enjoyed our visit, had delicious all-vegan food and the road trip by bike was fun and worth is. Seeing the size of the biggest Buddhist temple of Vietnam made most other temples look like miniatures. Although keep in mind that everything is new (they just recently finished). I personally love the old and weathered down temples so I can use my imagination on how it possibly was back in the days.
We had the wonderful idea of going to Bai Dinh just after Tet. We heard that many Vietnamese, even from far away, go there to pray and offer for their new year. So let’s go there! How many can ‘many’ be, the temple grounds are huge so plenty of space right?
It turned out that every Vietnamese, I think from all around the world!, had the same idea! While cruising down the road on our bike we drove between and past many waving and picture making youngsters. Some families came by car but since the motorbike is transport choice #1, we felt like being inside a never ending bee-cloud. This cloud slowed down and turned into a traffic jam, caused by all the bikes which had to find a place and receive a parking-ticket. And with all these bikes I mean thousands!
Getting from the parking to the temple grounds, by electric taxi, was relatively easy. Even with a trillion Vietnamese trying the same! It was our choice to come here, while knowing that many would join, so walking in line past all the statues and big buildings had to be accepted. I think if you go any other time of the year you will have a lot of space. But I can’t guarantee any personal space haha. Since visiting this new temple around Tet was a very special thing, many (old) villagers, including many that never left their village before, were here. Many had never seen ‘white people’ and those that did were surprised seeing tourists at Bai Dinh. Because of this we were for many Vietnamese another highlight of their visit. Around 25 times we were asked to pose for a group picture and many more pictures were taken from the side.
VEGAN FOOD: BAI DINH
In the back of the complex we unexpectedly found a restaurant. Everything was written in Vietnamese and the food didn’t look very vegan so at first I was glad we brought some snacks along. But after asking around and trying to translate the menu I found out that it was a all-vegan feast! Meat substitute snacks and proper meals. Prices were decent so I was able to try it all :) Finally some good vegan food in line with many of the morals Buddhism follows. But I can’t find online if this was just a one-day thing or the default menu at the temple.
So check out Bái Đính if you are into temples, especially big new ones! Go there a couple of days after Tet if you’re up for a challenge, it will be a cultural enrichment for sure, or go another time if you prefer some (personal) space. Try arranging some transport or rent a bike, it’s a nice drive going there. We drove from Tam Coc and combined the national park Cuc Phuong along the way. Read about Tam Coc in this post and the national park Cuc Phuong.