Thien Mu Pagoda

Aside from the citadel, another "must see" sight in Hue is the Thien Mu Pagoda. If the weather is fine and you've opted to rent a bicycle, you can ride along the river about 4km to get there. Another good way to get there is to rent a boat to take you up the river. There are boats for hire at the big hotels on the river -- the Century Riverside and the Huong Gian. The cost for the trip is about $15.

Thien Mu Pagoda
The towering pagoda of Thien Mu

It takes less than an hour to reach the temple by boat, which is located right on the river. In fact, steps lead right from the water up to the pagoda. The octagonal tower was built in 1844, although the pagoda was originally founded in 1601. There are smaller pavilions on either side of the tower. In one, a large turtle carved out of marble carrying a large stone stele. The other houses a huge bell whose sound is said to be heard up to 10km away.

Behind the tower and the small pavilions is the main sanctuary. There is a pleasant courtyard with the main sanctuary at the back. The sanctuary has a long hall in the front, with a wall of shutter-like doors leading to the alter behind. A path to the left of the sanctuary leads to more courtyards, and along one side are the monk's quarters.

There is a special sort of "shrine" here to one of the former monks of the temple. At one end of the cells is a sort of car-port in which a old rusty Austin sits on blocks. It was in this card that one of the monks from the temple drove to Saigon in 1963, got out, and set himself on fire. Although I was only about five years old at the time, the image is one that I still remember.