I took a Grab Bike over to Ba Dinh Square this morning to see the One Pillar Pagoda, an important site in Hanoi which dates back to the founding of the city 1000+ years ago.
The pagoda sits in a huge walled in green area, in a square it shares with the Ho Chi Minh Museum and Mausoleum. The site opens early but closes daily between 11 and 2. I was not so interested in the museum and I must confess not at all keen on lining up to view the preserved remains of their revered leader. I just wanted to have a look at the pagoda. There is a fee to visit the museum but I thought you could visit the square free.
At the gate, I told a guard what I wanted to do and he pointed me to another gate, where I was pointed back to the first gate. There a guard pointed me to a ticket office where I explained I just wanted to see the pagoda. Another guard who spoke English approached me. I explained I was being sent back and forth. He let out a hint of a smile. I know, he said. Why not just buy a ticket and go through here. Defeated, I coughed up the 40,000 dong. They put my bag through an x-ray machine – they’re very serious about this site and I understand that.
In 1954, the departing French colonists destroyed the original pagoda and the new government rebuilt the wooden structure on a concrete pillar. In front of it was a lovely shrine. I walked through but out of respect did not photograph.
The garden space was serene and alive with birds. I sat on a bench for a while, enjoying the bird songs, and after a while even saw a few butterflies. The square, separated from the chaos of the city proved to be an enjoyable spot to hang out.