The portion of the Mekong Delta that lies in Southern Vietnam is approximately 39,000 square kilometers in size. Unsurprisingly, an excursion in the Delta tends to feel a little rushed, even if you decide to spring for the two-day trip instead of one. The bus was crowded, but air conditioned, and only occasionally tossed us from our seats in the back when the driver forgot to slow down over bumps. Our boat was a wooden motor boat, about 50 feet long, with bench seats and chairs placed (not screwed) onto the deck.
After a quick stop at the Vĩnh Tràng temple to see the beautifully crafted Buddha statues, we arrived at the first island. Here, we drank honey tea—specifically, we drank a splash of tea poured over a healthy serving of local honey and bee pollen—which was delicious. Next, we sampled local fruits and were served more tea. After some time, we climbed aboard a 12-foot canoe and paddled (or rather, our guides paddled) through the canals of water coconut trees back to the shore and our boat. At the next island, we sampled coconut candies made from local coconuts, and stayed a bit to watch the candy making process.
The Cao Đài Temple is a 2-3-hour bus ride from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. To get there, we opted to take a tour bus and include a visit to the nearby Củ Chi tunnels left over from the Vietnam War. The bus was pleasant enough and had the added benefit of a local tour guide who was both funny and knowledgeable—worth the extra 20k dong (about $1).
The temple itself is housed in a vastly expansive complex. In an area that had once been covered in a thick density of jungle, the concrete of the complex now only seemed to amplify the heat of the sun and the sound of the cicadas and bugs still clinging to what little patches of jungle foliage remained. The sound, to me, felt enormous. I have heard cicadas in the summer and fall of the Midwest, but this was that sound 100 times over. One hundred yards away from the temple, standing at the edge of a small patch of foliage—remnants of the jungle that could have been—I closed my eyes and listened to the sound, imagining if I were in the thick of it, surrounded by jungle instead of concrete. The sound felt like it was growing around me, louder and louder, until I was pulled back to reality by a pair of tourists that had meandered over, swapping travel stories with each other.