Thien Mu Pagoda, a rich piece of Hue history
The Thien Mu Pagoda is a local superstar in Hue. Every tour agency, local tour and Hue local will tell you it’s a must see.
It has a breathtaking location on the bank of the Perfume River and linked to a profound moment in history.
We weren’t going for the temples or tours or because of what we heard. Leon caught wind of a little blue Austin that had him in a frenzy. We are both automotive enthusiasts so it didn’t surprise me that he wanted to go and look at a car.
It wasn’t until we were there filming that he revealed the significance of THIS particular car.
It still gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.
How we found out about Thien Mu Pagoda
We missed visiting this beauty on our first visit to Hue, but that meant we had a bit more time to find out more about it for our second visit. We already knew it had a great historic presence in Hue and sits in a spectacular location. What we didn’t know was just how special this place really is thanks for one significant event in world history.
Where in Hue is the Thien Mu Pagoda
The Pagoda sits on the across the Perfume River from the city center and a couple of kilometers down from the Hue Imperial Palace.
How to get there
A popular choice is by taxi or GRAB and it won’t cost much.
Something that is really fun and a more traditional method of transport is trying one of the many local cyclos.
If you’re thinking of doing the Imperial Palace and Thien Mu Pagoda on the same day, then definitely negotiating a cheaper day rate with those guys. There is plenty of competition around and they tend to be negotiable.
Not keen to go out there by yourself? It’s not unusual as many travelers prefer either the company of others or enjoy a guided tour that provide more info.
There are loads of options to choose from like online agencies (check reviews before booking!) or you can simply walk down Chu Van Anh and walk into any of the tour operators office off the street.
Renting a bicycle is another excellent way to explore Hue and her attractions. The Thien Mu Pagoda is one of many within a pleasant scenic ride from the city.
We preferred taking our two Honda Waves out there and parked them on the side of the road. There is a paid parking area next to the pagoda for VND5,000 (~USD0.21 / ~AUD0.30) if you prefer that option.
Things to know before you head into the Thien Mu Pagoda
Hours: 8AM – 5PM, Monday to Sunday.
Entry fee: No entry fee, it is free.
Dress code: No naked shoulders or knees for men or women. Inappropriately dressed visitors may not be able to enter.
Apart from being an historic place of interest, it’s also an active temple. Please be respectful.
The pagoda is also an outdoor attraction with limited cover. We suggest checking the weather forecast before you head on out to it.
Who would enjoy it?
It is a family friendly destination but not sure how much entertainment kiddos will get from it.
The Thien Mu Pagoda is perfect for history lovers.
We would suggest finding a guide who can tell you more about the history of the place. Learning about it would certainly make it a more enjoyable visit.
We opted to do it by ourselves armed with info we found online and that was fine too. We managed to learn quite a bit about it that way actually. We’ve also read some hilarious anecdotes relating to the Thien Mu Pagoda in the process.
How long does a visit take?
Our visit lasted about two and half hours. It gave us plenty of time to explore, take photos and get some footage for a vlog too.
You can easily combine a visit here with another spot in the area. The Imperial Palace or perhaps the Temple of Literature come to mind and both are interesting.
An famous historic event with ties to Thien Mu Pagoda
As I mentioned before, we were there for a little blue Austin. When Leon asked me if I recognized the car, I was a little confused. Then he told me to look at the picture on the back wall.
That’s when it hit me!
Isn’t that the Rage Against the Machine album cover?
The picture I’m talking about is also called, “The Burning Monk” by Malcolm Browne. Feel free to Google it, but we warn you, it is graphic so please be careful.
It’s a harrowing story and well worth the read. We wrongly assumed it had to do with the Vietnam/American war and we couldn’t have been more wrong. The plight of this story had its own enormous significance. It resulted in a toppled government and made the whole world paying attention in united horror.
The monk in the picture, Thích Quang Duc was from Hue. The little blue Austin we’re talking about is the car he used to drive from Hue to Saigon in June 1963.
To stand there and see it in person was an experience I find hard to describe. The fact that someone thought to save the car and bring it back to Hue is mind blowing.
Seeing the photo broke my heart. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen it but I now knew the true meaning behind the act. Seeing the Austin didn’t just make it a photo anymore, it made it so real!
If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what seeing something from that picture could do?
What is the rest of Thien Mu like?
The Austin isn’t the only attraction. In fact, most people don’t even know about the Austin and its significance until they get there.
Phuoc Duyen Tower
Upon entering the pagoda, the The Phuoc Duyen tower greets you with all it’s glory. It’s an octagonal shaped, seven storey beauty. From what we’ve read, seven is a sacred number in Vietnam. Even the number of stairs can on each storey is divisible by seven.
In the same area is a six-sided pagoda, home to the Dai Hong Bell. Built in roughly 1710, this ~2,000 kg, this behemoth is audible from 10 kilometers away.
On the other side of Phuoc Duyen tower is a building that houses a stela that dates back as far as 1715.
Through the main gate is the Dai Hung Temple. This beautiful building is an active temple and loved by locals.
Towards the rear there are a number of other temples and shrines. Each one has its own unique origin and legend around it. We’ve read so many different things that it would be good to have a guide to know which ones are true.
Just walking around the grounds leaves you with this calm and peaceful feeling.
Mind you we did get there right on open time and there weren’t many people there yet. Our advice is to get there just before it opens to enjoy as much of it in peace as you can.
If you get a chance, head on over to the Old Gate that used to the part of the original perimeter for the temple grounds. It has an fantastic few across the Perfume River.
What other things are there to do in Hue?
Hue has a lot on offer and it’s legit one of our favorite cities to visit in Vietnam!
It’s also home of some of Vietnam’s most famous dishes like Bun Bo Hue and banh beo. There is also no shortage of eateries around. All you have to do is head to the tourist area (Chu Van Anh street, Le Loi street, Doi Cung street and Nguyen Thai Hoc street)
If this is your first visit to our site, then welcome! Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.
Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…