Many cultural sites in Vietnam you may visit during your tours, such as pagodas and temples, even those in ruins, are actually sacred grounds and inappropriate behavior or dress can be interpreted as offensive. Please refer to this post to know how to dress appropriately at cultural sites. And to know what are the differences between pagodas and temples please read here.
Praying at a pagoda
Pagodas and temples are for local people worshipping their beliefs and religions, tourists should show respect there by knowing what to do where to go. Everyone has their own belief and that should be understood and respected. It is forbidden to walk or climb anywhere out off the regular footpaths, to scrawl or scribble on monuments, and to collect stones or any parts of the monument or site.
Don’t try to copy what local people do, for example you don’t have to burn some incense when visit a pagoda unless you are a Buddhist and you know what to do. For those who are just purely tourists visiting the cultural sites the best thing to do is to observe and admire their rituals. Pictures are mostly acceptable but please follow common sense. Don’t take photo of people or monks during their prayer time. Pointing at statues of Buddha or talking to loud or using flash taking photo is not nice.
Shoulders and knees should be covered when visiting a pagoda, no matter how hot it is
When contacting with monks, novices and nuns please acknowledge that offering handshake should be avoided. In general there should be no direct physical contact to monk like a tap on shoulders, handshakes…let alone hugging and kissing! Avoid stepping on a monk’s shadow too.
Ladies, please show at least of your skin as possible when you have direct contact with Buddhist monks. You are kindly requested to not to sit next to a monk or hand anything to them. If you have something that needs to be handed to the monks, leave them on a table or somewhere off the ground.
Monks during their prayer time
Statues of Buddhas and the altars are the most scared part of pagodas. When visiting such places please avoid showing your back toward Buddha statues. Pay attention when you sit and feet should not point at the altars too.
When you are given Buddha images or sacred objects, handle them with respect; avoid placing them in inappropriate places (on the floor for example).
By Pham Tuyen