Nha Trang

Long Son Pagoda: Feel the Majesty of Nha Trang’s Big Buddha

Long Son Pagoda (Vietnamese spelling: chùa Long Sơn) is one of the most popular Buddhist sites in Nha Trang city. It’s an active monastery institute with a Buddhist college and is also the headquarters of the Buddhist Association in Nha Trang’s Khanh Hoa Province. The key attraction for many tourists is the view of the Nha Trang skyline from the base of the 24-meter-high seated White Buddha — Kim Thân Phật Tổ.

Reasons to Visit Long Son Pagoda

Reasons to Visit Long Son Pagoda
[ by Svetlana Ivanova from Facebook ]

The pagoda is about 20 minutes from downtown Nha Trang. It’s also just 500 meters up from Nha Trang station, so it’s ideal if your onward journey is by train and you have some time to spare.

  • Free entry
  • Beautiful garden
  • 193-step hike
  • Top views of Nha Trang city
  • Ornate Taoist designed pagoda
  • Vegetarian restaurant

Things to Know When Visiting Long Son Pagoda

Visiting Long Son Pagoda
[ by bvi4092 from Flickr ]

As a key Buddhist institute, they’re quite strict about clothing if you want to go inside the main pagoda hall. Clothing should cover your knees and bare shoulders are not acceptable. There are some over-clothes for rent if you’re more dressed for the beach. 

It’s 193 steps to the top with the giant seated Buddha. Marking the 44th step, you will come across an enormous Reclining Buddha statue with a contemplative relief of 49 disciples chanting His names. 

Unfortunately, this temple has always been a magnet for all sorts of scams and hasslers. The most popular used to be the antiquated postcard sellers, or young people claiming to be students at the college. Hopefully, with the lull in mass tourism and tour bus loads, the hasslers have found greener pastures.

Entry is free and there is no need to pay for anything including joss sticks and candles. If someone offers you a joss stick or candle to light, you’re likely to be hit with a price hike. The motorbike parking is also only 5 000 VND and not 10 000 VND. 

A Brief History of the Pagoda 

History of the Pagoda
The Great Buddha of Nha Trang shortly after completion
[ by Tommy Japan 79 from Flickr ]

The original pagoda dates to 1886. It was destroyed by the great cyclone of 1900. The same storm also caused significant damage to structures in Hue including Thien Mu Pagoda. The temple was rebuilt further down the hill where it stands today, but also incurred significant damage during the Vietnam War. Reconstructions and renovations have largely held true to the original blueprints. 

Interesting Things to See 

The things to see here are quite typical of many a Buddhist complex. There’s the main hall of worship with various artefacts, the beauty of the surrounding garden and bonsais, the big bronze bell, the Reclining Buddha, and the giant White Buddha at the top.

The Main Pagoda Hall

The Main Pagoda Hall
[ by David Juneau from Facebook ]

The main hall is pretty spacious to accommodate large groups of pilgrims and congregations — especially on the 1st and 15th of each lunar month. It totals 1 670 square meters. 

On either side of the main altar are two 3.4 meter high candles each weighing some 900 kg. They were made in Ho Chi Minh City as a gift and offering by a lay member in 2008.  

The central object of worship is the Buddha Shakyamuni and to the left is the Bodhisattva Maitreya (the One to come) and the Bodhisattva of compassion Avolokteshvara (Quan Am) stands to the right. 

The other featured Buddha is the 1.6 meter tall seated bronze in the lecture hall. It weighs around 700 kg and sits at the base of a wall painting of a Banyan tree.

The Big Bronze Bell 

Bronze Bell at Long Son Pagoda
Bronze Bell at Long Son Pagoda
[ by Roger Shitaki from Tripadago ]

The big prayer bell, known as Đại Hồng Chung, weighs an impressive 1.5 tons. It dates to 2002 and was a gift from Buddhist friends in Hue. The 2.2 meter tall bell house is very pretty and as you walk up you can get some of your first aerial views of Nha Trang.

The Sleeping Buddha of Nha Trang

Reclining Buddha of Long Son Pagoda
Reclining Buddha of Long Son Pagoda
[ by Roger Shitaki from Tripadago ]

The iconic Sleeping or Reclining Buddha (tượng Phật nằm) isn’t about afternoon siesta. It depicts the final earthly moments of Shakyamuni, the historic Buddha, before he leaves his body to journey to Parinivana. He lies in a comfortable position to relieve the pain and discomfort of physical death before departure.

Essentially, having already achieved enlightenment, the Buddha smiles serenely in the face of physical death. One of the oldest and most famous reclining Buddhas is the one at Wat Pho in Bangkok.

Nha Trang’s Sleeping Buddha is 17 meters in length and five meters high from the base and was only placed there in 2003.

The stairs beyond this can represent the journey to Nirvana. As one makes the final corner, you are met by a giant seated Buddha of the celestial realms glancing east. Hopefully, there’s a deep blue sky to complement the vision. 

The White Buddha of Nha Trang

White Buddha of Nha Trang
[ by Anna Kovyneva from Facebook ]

This famous Buddha used to be the largest outdoor seated Buddha statue and was completed in 1963. The statue is 14 meters high and including the pedestal and lotus, it’s a full 24 meters. A similar giant 21.5 meter seated Buddha is on Mount Fansipan and there is the Golden Buddha of Dalat which is 24 meters.

Around the base, you’ll see relief plagues of the monks and nuns, including Thich Quang Duc (Thích Quảng Đức), who died in acts of self-immolation during the 1963 Buddhist crisis — the same year the statue’s completion. Although often honored as patriotic national heroes, self-immolation is frowned upon in Buddhism as a whole.

Best Time to Visit Long Son Pagoda 

The best time to visit is in the morning before it gets too hot and crowded. You can also catch an early lunch at the nice vegetarian restaurant next to the pagoda. 

If you visit in the later afternoon, you may want to take a short ride or walk 600 m up the sloping road to Hải Đức Pagoda. It’s also quite a large complex and just as historic as Long Son. It’s quieter there with perfect views of the western sunset. 

The way there is to turn right as you exit Long Son and then take the first right into Hai Duc Road. Continue all the way up and avoid any of the smaller alleys (hẻm) or side streets. Along the way, there’s the traditional footpath you can take and where various people beg for alms or sell stuff.

How to Get to Long Son Pagoda 

It’s easy enough to take a taxi from anywhere in town, and there are always taxis around for the ride back. If you’re traveling alone, Grab motorbike taxis are a good choice, and there is also parking if you take your own bike.

There are plenty of popular tours that will include Long Son Pagoda. You can find these on Tripadvisor, Viator, or Klook. Tours often include the Po Nagar Towers and nearby Stone Church as these are the key religious sites of Nha Trang.

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