One of the first places that I visited as soon as I arrived home was Simala. As a Catholic, the shrine is very dear to me. I come here whenever there are huge decisions to make or when there are things that I feel I couldn’t handle on my own. Simala has become sort of a refuge, a place where I can pour out my whole heart and leave whatever heavy burden I am carrying.
So, after a whole year in Vietnam, with a lot of things – good and bad – happening to my life, I knew that visiting the shrine was one of the very first things that I needed to do.
Simala never fails to amaze me. Every time I visit, there is always something new and interesting to see. It is, after all, still a work in progress.
I remember the very first time I set foot in this place. The entire ‘Simala’ was just a small chapel on a hill then. It was surrounded by trees and it looked very solemn and peaceful. Today, it looks like a palace complete with a lake, high walls, towers, and winding staircases.
The main facade of the church used to be pretty small. If I’m not mistaken, the structure with stained glass windows was the original church.
Over the years, Simala continued to evolve and expand. These life-sized statues are now seen standing in front of the church facade. This structure wasn’t here before.
People come to Simala to kiss and pay homage to the image of the Blessed Virgin. Now, this can be quite a challenge as thousands of people come to Simala to do the exact same thing. Take a look at the long queue.
Check out the details of the ‘towers’ on one of the connecting walkways. I can’t wait to see how this looks like after it’s been completely painted.
This is a view of one of the four major towers located on each corner of the property. It is massive!
The details in the structure are nothing short of amazing. This would look more breath-taking with some paint on, I’m sure.
My fellow devotees braving the heat of the sun and staying patiently in line.
Here is a wonderful view of the still very green neighboring hills of Lindogon.
This is the view of the eastern section of the three-level high wall. I hope they use subtle colors later on so that the whole property doesn’t look too gaudy.
Finally, after queuing for more than an hour, we got a glimpse of the church interiors.
A few minutes later, we inched towards the candle-lighting section where people light candles and offer prayers.
During the slow march towards the image of Mama Mary, you can see several other smaller ‘chapels’ along the way. One of them is this one which houses an image of Senor Santo Nino.
Pictured is a statue of an angel holding a basin of holy water. Catholics usually use the holy water to bless themselves before praying.
Finally, we arrived at the image of Mama Mary. I wasn’t able to take photos because it is not allowed. I got a photo of this beautiful bed of roses, however, which is laid out in front of the image.
After visiting Mama Mary, it was time to visit the gallery. I always love coming here.
The gallery features different images of Mama Mary from different countries and regions.
On our way out of the shrine, we saw this tower with a giant image of Senor Santo Nino.
And here is a gorgeous view of the eastern wall, the first tower, and the lake in front of the church.
I can only imagine what the whole area would look like two, three, or four years from now. What I am certain of, however, is that it is going to look lovely. I can’t wait!