October 16, 2019

How I Found Hanoi’s One Pillar Pagoda by Chance

One day in 2018, I decided to set my eyes on the famous Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi. I wanted to locate it without asking for help (from a local or an app) because all the guides I read online indicated that it was very easy to find. Also, the online travel guides all mentioned that the spot was very close to other famous tourist spots in Hanoi. So, since I felt that I’d been to some of the most important spots in Hanoi, and therefore wouldn’t get lost anymore (?), I went ahead with my plan.

Amazingly enough, finding the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum was indeed pretty easy. It was only a couple of blocks away from the very lovely Thang Long Imperial Citadel as well as the Long Bien Bus Station where I usually get off on weekends.

After the tour of the Mausoleum, I was ready to head back to the Long Bien bus station (because the sun was setting,) when I learned that all visitors had to go around the mausoleum to be able to get to the exit. So, following a small group of tourists, I slowly headed towards a nearby museum where the exit was located. Along the way, however, I noticed that there was a lot of people in the area. I thought that the people I saw were simply there for the coffee stalls and mini souvenir shops.

Several more steps later, however, I saw a strikingly-familiar structure. I’ve seen this structure somewhere before, I thought. I peered through the fence to take a good look at it. Inside the perimeter, I saw a small temple sitting right in the middle of a pond. Immediately, I realized that this was the temple I saw in the travel guides. This was the One Pillar Pagoda!

The One Pillar Pagoda is one of Hanoi’s most visited and most important historical structures. In fact, this Buddhist temple, together with the Perfume Pagoda, is considered one of the most iconic temples in the whole of Vietnam.

According to court records, the construction of the One Pillar Pagoda in 1049 was ordered by Emperor Ly Thai Tong as a thank you gift to the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (whom he met in a dream) for giving him a son. In his dream, the bodhisattva gave the Emperor a son while seated on a lotus flower-a Buddhist symbol of purity.

The One Pillar Pagoda is a wooden temple which sits on a single stone pillar in the middle of a pond. The temple resembles a lotus flower which blossoms right in the middle of a very murky pond. Exactly like the lotus flower where the bodhisattva sat.

The pagoda houses a small shrine devoted to Avalokitesvara Boddhisatva. Visitors who come to the temple can say a short prayer and offer fruits, food, and money.

Here is a closer look at the altar which is filled with offerings of fruits and flowers.

I still could not believe that I was able to locate this tourist destination easily. I could have easily made a different turn or missed the people gathering around it. I do not know how to explain it, but I guess, that day, I got pretty lucky.

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