Not only was Hué home to our first imperial enclosure but also our first pagoda – compulsory viewing for anyone visiting Asia! The first of many, Thiên Mu Pagoda is located on Hà Khē hill, a short taxi drive away from the royal residence. Built in 1601 by the then governor of the area now known as Hué, Thiên Mu is the tallest religious building in Vietnam!
For those who don’t know, a pagoda is a type of tower with multiple eaves, although they are built in a range of architectural and cultural styles. Modern pagodas are an evolution of the Indian ‘Stupa’, built to hold religious relics (such as the remains of Buddhist monks or nuns) and were also used as a place of meditation. Some pagodas are also used by Taoists as a house of worship. The word itself can be slightly misleading however, as due to the French translation, the English word ‘pagoda’ is used more as a generic term as a place of worship.
Thiên Mu is certainly an awe inspiring place to visit, and the area surrounding it is equally as beautiful. Whilst there you can walk around the gardens which, as we saw whilst we were there, are tended by the Buddhist monks who live at the site. If you are interested in the history of Vietnam this is also an excellent place to visit as it house the Austin motor vehicle used by Thich Quang Duc in 1963 in his self-immolation protest against the Diem Regime. As someone who didn’t learn anything about Vietnamese history growing up, seeing this car for the first time and learning the story behind it was a truly shocking experience.
“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, in dimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” – Pico Iyer