Phoenix Islet in Ben Tre, Mekong Delta
Phoenix Islet in Ben Tre or Con Phung is located beside Rach Mieu Bridge, which connects Tien Giang province and Ben Tre province. It is about 12km from Ben Tre City center. It is an islet among Tien River in Tan Thach village, Chau Thanh district, Ben Tre province. Its area is about 50ha. Besides Con Phung, there are three islets nearby. They are called Long, Lan, Qui (Dragon, Dragon Horse, Tortoise) that symbolize for goodness. Con Phung has water surrounding, fresh air and delicious fruits. At this place used to exist a religion called Dao Dua (Coconut Religion). Phoenix Islet is an interesting and mysterious place which is worth a visit. It is regard to be the main point of Ben Tre tourism. It has attracted rather many tourists now.
A STORY ABOUT PHOENIX ISLET
Con Phung was well known in 1964 when chemical engineer Nguyen Thanh Nam chose it as the holy land of Dao Dua. Nguyen Thanh Nam was born in Phuoc Thanh village, Chau Thanh district, Ben Tre Province in 1910. His father was a high-class officer and his family was rich. In 1928, he went to France to learn. In 1935, he graduated chemical engineer, came home, got married and had a daughter. In 1945, he went to An Son Buddhistic pagoda in Seven Mountain, Chau Doc, An Giang province and became a monk. He sat on a stone platform in front of the long flag pillar for three years, not speaking, bearing wind, dew. The body was only skin covering the bone. In 1948, he returned Tien Giang province, meditating on the ferry station beside the river although people wend up and down.
In 1950, he came back Phuoc Thanh village, building an eight-sign stage tower with height of 14m. Night after night he menitated on it and wore only a piece of cloth, bearing rain, wind. The food is only vegetables, fruits, especially coconuts; therefore, he has code name as Ong Dao Dua (Coconut Monk). He took a bath only once a year on Buddha’s birthday. In 1958, he sent the letter objecting to President Ngo Dinh Diem about policy, so he was arrested. Then, he was released.
In 1963, Ong Dao Dua (Coconut Monk) went to Con Phung and built Nam Quoc Phat Pagoda (Buddha pagoda in Vietnam country). There he founded Dao Dua (Coconut religion). He bought a barge having a capacity of hundreds of tons, including three floors. He built some towers, living rooms, flower gardens… He named himself Thich Hoa Binh (Hoa Binh means peace and Thich is the family name of a Buddha). His religion is a mix of many other religions in the world such as Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianism…
He encouraged everybody to love one another and keep a vegetarian diet. He did not ask to read prayer-books but only meditate. He raised a cat and a mouse in a case and trained them not to oppose each other. With that picture, he wanted to say that two people different from opinion could also live the same a house peacefully.
In 1967, he had newspapers spread his point of view and called everyone to help him run for the position of Republic of Vietnam president. In this opportunity, a follower presented him with a pair of ivories with a length of 1.8m, a weight of 45kg and a diameter of 0,5m. Today, this pair of ivories is regarded to be the biggest in Vietnam.
He had many followers, especially the son of American writer John Steinbeck. His followers went up three thousand at the highest time point. Since 1975, Dao Dua has gradually withered because it is not suitable for the age. Ong Dao Dua died in 1990, at age of 80. He left a unique religious construction.
PHOENIX ISLET TRAVEL GUIDE
1. What to do on Phoenix Islet in Ben Tre?
Visit Nam Quoc Phat Pagoda
The gate of Nam Quoc Phat Pagoda
From the bank of Tien River of Ben Tre City or My Tho City, you go to Con Phung by boat. After passing the wharf, you can visit Nam Quoc Phat Pagoda. Firstly, you should go into the Gallery. Here, you will see the pictures show the life of Ong Dao Dua before.
Gallary where you can see pictures and photos of Coconut Monk
After that, you go into San Chin Rong (Nine-Dragon Yard). Here, there are nine pillars carved dragons skillfully. The pictures of nine dragons are the symbol for Cuu long River (Nine-Dragon River, at the end of Mekong River). The religioner used to pray here.
At the back of San Chin Rong is Dai Bat Quai (Eight-Sign Tower) Where Ong Dao Dua Used to sit to explain his religion.
Behind Dai Bat Quai is the map of Viet Nam. The picture shows his peaceful dream. He thought that he could do this thing.
Relax at Con Phung tourism area
Con Phung tourism area attracts the most tourists in summer because at that time, fruits are ripened on the tree a lot and tourists are enjoyed the fresh air. If you like quietness, you can choose another season. Mostly you can come at any time of the year. In the Con Phung tourism area, you can ride horse wagon around and stop at a fruit garden where you can plug and enjoy fresh fruits. You will be surprised at delicious fruits such as jack, pomelo, mango, orange, longan, pitaya, especially coconut. How about drink tea with honey in a small house which roof is made of coconut water leaves? You will love this way of enjoying a cup of tea. They also serve you delicious specialties on the islet. It’s also a big chance to enjoy the folk song (Don ca tai tu) – traditional music in Mekong Delta. After that, you can relax on the hammocks, listening to wind blowing.
Ride horse wagon on the small road under the shadow of bamboos and coconut trees at Con Phung tourism area
Visit bee farm and factories
Besides, you can visit the bee farm, producing rice paper, coconut candy, factory producing things from coconuts. You have chance to talk to local people who are honest, friendly and hospitable.
Making rice paper on Phoenix Islet
2. What to eat when you visit Phoenix Islet in Ben Tre ?
At Con Phung tourism area, there are cottages built in the middle of the lakes in the gardens or beside the river bank. They serve speciality dishes of garden region such as Deep-fried Elephant Ear Fish, Grilled Garden Chicken, Hotpot with Saturated Fish, Braised Fish with Caramelized Sauce, Grilled Snail with Pepper, Stewed Eel with Coconut Milk, Fried Coconut Worm with Butter, Vietnamese Pancake, Fried Steamed Sticky Rice…
Grilled Snail with Pepper
3. Where to stay?
Con Phung tourism area has hotels looking to the river. They have many grades of rooms and enough facilities. Besides, there are cloth and other things to build tents in longan gardens so that tourist groups camp.
Visiting Islet region with many green trees and sweet fruit, tourists really are in fresh nature. Being adrift on rivers, tourists have the opportunity see Rach Mieu connecting two banks Tien Giang and Ben Tre. It inaugurated on 19-1-2009. This is a construction designed by Vietnamese engineers with a total investing grade is 1,400 billion VND. Phoenix Islet in Ben Tre is the place where you can immerse yourself into a mysterious and green world. Do not miss this hidden part of Mekong Delta!
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