Located in Soc Trang Province, Doi Pagoda is attractive not only for its beautiful architecture but also for its very large roof that houses millions of bats.
It is said that Doi Pagoda (Bat Pagoda) was built during the 16th century, and it has been renovated several times since. It is the forth oldest pagoda in Soc Trang township. From the gate, the pagoda, built by the Khmer, attracts passersby with skilful, symbolic decorations on its pillars and roof, reproducing Khome art. The walls are also covered with large paintings. Other halls in the pagoda are decorated with sophisticated designs and paintings depicting story of the Buddha. The windows are small, casting a mesmerising light inside that is particularly good for photography. Of the 600 Khmer pagodas in the Cuu Long (Mekong) River Delta, Doi Pagoda is so famous that regular tours from Ho Chi Minh City City, Can Tho and Ca Mau visit Soc Trang township. It was even featured on the TV show, Vietnam Guinness Records. The pagoda is located in a lush garden and a pointed tower sits at the summit. In the sunlight after a heavy downpour, the pagoda emerges with four snake-head shaped roofs hand-carved with masterful skill. On each support pillar, a Kemnar statue clasps her hands as if to welcome visitors. Inside the pagoda, soot-blackened statues keep mournful watch; a full year after the fire, the pagoda remains un-repaired. An ancient Buddha statue and a prayer-book written on palmyra leaves can be admired here. In 1999, Doi Pagoda was recognized as a national historical treasure.
The pagoda is known among domestic and international tourists as a "Mecca" for bats, which provide fertiliser for local farmers. The bats in the pagoda cling to tree branches all day, then fly away at dush to seek food, and usually home by four the next morning. Small bats always cling to their mother, even in the search for food. If visiting the pagoda, you can see bats hanging upside down from branches like over-ripe fruit. May to August is breeding season. Those visiting the pagoda at this time of year are expected to walk quietly for fear a sudden noise may startle a bat mother into dropping her child. The bats in the pagoda are actually flying-foxes. A new-born weighs 0.5kg with a wing span of about 50cm. Mature bats can weigh 1.5kg with a wing span of 1.5m. According to the monks, the flying-fox appeared at the pagoda 200 years ago. Interestingly enough, the presence of the bats has not affected the plants growing in and around the pagoda, they never eat the fruit in the garden.
Doi Pagoda with a large space for trees, making it a tranquil place to sit, is one of the best tourist attraction in Soc Trang. Watching the bats take to the skies, it will occur to you that the pagoda is a unique natural reserve. Though neither large nor particularly exquisite, all who hear of it wish to visit...
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