Tour of Hue, part 2: Take the pagoda seriously?
You might think that given my prolonged absence, I’d have new adventures to share. I do but I’ve still got pictures from sunny Huế as well. I’ll share the last of them with you in this post and the next, then we’ll move onto my motorbike, linguistic progress and what I’ve been eating lately.
I’ve written about and photographed pagodas before. You’d think I’d get over them, right. Um, no. This is Vietnam, after all, and pagodas are pretty central to my sightseeing. Huế is home to the Thien Mu Pagoda and Báo Quốc Pagoda*.
Thien Mu Pagoda: Overlooking the Perfume River is the Thien Mu Pagoda, which was founded in the 1600s after a woman prophesied that a pagoda would be built at that location. Pagodas house relics (“bits of bone” as my first art history professor called them) of the Buddha. At Thien Mu Pagoda, the main, octagonal tower, pictured below, is the building holding the relic. The pagoda also exhibits the car in the famous photograph of monk Thich Quang Duc burning himself in protest of Southern Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem in Saigon, 1963. I did not take a photograph of the car.
The pagoda gates are guarded by carved, brightly painted statues of warriors.
Chu Van and Kinh Tuan have been to the pagoda. Grafitti on the turtle stelae.
Stelae, you’ll recall, are essentially gravestones. They memorialize important intellectuals, emperors and political or religious figures.
Báo Quốc Pagoda: Compared to the seriousness of Thien Mu Pagoda, Báo Quốc Pagoda looks like something out of Disney. Outside is a small fake forest filled with plastic deer and other animals and towering overhead is a gleaming white boddhisatva statue. Its atmosphere, however, is quite the opposite. Whereas Thien Mu is a popular site among tourists, Báo Quốc is not. I was the only foreigner there. The few others at the pagoda were Vietnamese making offerings and vendors selling incense and lucky money.
*In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not positive if this is the correct name for the pagoda. I can’t remember what it was called. Lonely Planet is of no help in this matter and it was only after much Googling that I came across this name and a similar photograph. If I am wrong in calling this the Báo Quốc Pagoda, write it in the comments or, if I find out, I’ll update the post.