Getting there: Hotels in nearby Hoi An and Danang can book you a seat on an early minibus for $6, which includes $4 admission. The more adventurous negotiate with a motorbike taxi driver, who will wait as you poke through the ruins, so long as you pay the roughly $4 price at the end of the day. Be warned, however, that the 55km road is both bumpy and dusty.

Lam Ty Ni Pagoda One of the best afternoons I've spent in Vietnam consisted of drinking tea for hours with the richest man in Dalat, a hill station in the highlands of central Vietnam. The only monk in residence at a sprawling Buddhist temple, Mr. Vinh Thuc is one of the marvels of modern Vietnam. Fluent in English, French and Thai, the monk is also an artist whose monastery is his canvas writ large. He paints pastoral scenes and pen-and-ink abstracts on scrolls, then adds a poem he thinks is appropriate for his new friend: you.

All this sounds a bit transactional, but the experience is as remarkable as Mr. Thuc's lovely haiku. After a long discussion of his life, he bent over my painting of a white crane before daubing his final thought: "Zen poetry banishes millennial sorrow!" And it's true. You leave lighter in wallet, but also in spirit.

Getting there: You can walk down Dalat's Hoang Van Thu Street past the Duy Tan Hotel, take the next right, and follow the road to Lam Ty, but the roads are poorly marked. Hiring a $1 taxi from central Dalat is much easier; admission to the pagoda is free.

Xa Loi Pagoda Located on a traffic-clogged HoChi Minh City street, this bustling temple, built in 1956, is no architectural marvel. But in the 1960s it was the stage for increasingly bloody Buddhist uprisings against theAmerican-backed South Vietnamese president Ngo DinhDiem. Diem sent the army into the pagoda, a show of force later cited as a motivating factor in the leader's assassination that year. The temple alsogained fame as the site of self-immolations that helped mobilize international condemnation of the war.

Getting there: Xa Loi is located at 89 Ba HuyenThanh Quan Street in downtownHo Chi Minh City. Admission is free, though donationsto the box in front of thealtar are appreciated.

Cao Dai Holy See An eclectic blend of Buddhist,Taoist and Confucian thought, the Cao Dai sect was founded by the Vietnamese mystic Ngo Minh Chieu in1926. The temple complex, located in Tay Ninh Province, a few hours drive fromHo Chi Minh City, is a surreal confection of borrowed imagery: statues of "saints" such as Victor Hugo, Moses, and Sun Yat Sen are all painted in lurid pastels. One of the most striking symbols is a giant "divine eye" within a pyramid, familiar to any Freemason or owner of a U.S. dollar bill. Visitors arewelcome to watch any of the four daily masses, including rhythmic chanting and elaborate rituals conducted by priests of both sexes.

Getting there: It's impossible to beat the price of the $7 half-day trips to the noon mass at the Holy See, organized by theb ackpacker cafes which dot Pham Ngu Lao Street in HCM City. But if you'd prefer to explore without hordes of tourists, charter a car at your hotel (cost: $25)and try the morecontemplative 6 p.m. service.