Thien Mu Pagoda

This superb pagoda is one of Vietnam’s most iconic sites, with a spectacular tower and shimmering bronze Buddha.

Marvel at the spectacular octagonal tower, pray for good luck in front of the huge laughing Buddha and explore peaceful pavilions at the beautiful Thien Mu Pagoda.

Approach the tower at the front of the pagoda up the long, wide staircase. You will immediately be struck by the spectacular form of the 69-foot (21-meter) pagoda. Notice the decorative script on each of the progressively smaller stories and walk the shady pathways around the tower to appreciate each of its eight sides. The tower itself dates back to 1844 although there has been a temple on this site since 1601.

Once you have seen the tower, explore the small pavilions on either side. In the room to the right of the tower you will find a stone tablet dating back to 1715 set onto the back of a giant marble turtle. Less peculiar but equally impressive is the colossal bell in the second pavilion. Locals will tell you that when it is rung it can be heard from 6 miles (10 kilometers) away.

Make your way past larger-than-life figures of Buddhist guardians to explore the ancient temple that they protect. Upon entering you will see the pristine bronze statue of a laughing Buddha, believed to bring luck to all who approach it. Just behind are three more figures that portray the Buddha of the past, the historical Buddha and the Buddha of the future.

Complete your visit with a stroll around the serene gardens. Here you will find shady areas, beautiful tropical plants and more religious sculptures. You may also encounter the resident monks walking along the paths or even playing games on the lawns.

The pagoda is located on a hilltop on the north bank of the Perfume River, approximately 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) from central Hue. It is free to enter and opens daily. Rent bicycles and cycle along the tranquil riverside trail or arrive in style on the Perfume River dragon boat.