Thursday 29 March 2012: Thich Ouang Duc's death ride!
The photo is of the Austin Cambridge (?) in which the monk, Thich Ouang Duc, travelled to the centre of Saigon on June 11 1963, sat down in the lotus position and burnt himself to death in protest at government persecution of Buddhists and religious persecution in general. The car is seen in the infamous photograph which has become quite iconic of this country's suffering. If you can zoom in you might see that photo on the back wall.
Had a good wander around the second most significant site - Thien Mu Temple, some 3 km south of the Citadel. This is a working monastery with some 50 monks and a few novices. The pagoda here is the city's official emblem. The name means Elderly Celestial Woman. No sign of her today, unless she was masquerading as a fat American tourist.
We had lunch in a small restaurant in a little courtyard, and were engaged in conversation for about half an hour by the owner's eight year old son. What a bright kid. He started reading by himself aged three. He plays piano, guitar, and wants to be a doctor, but has no expectation of ever being able to travel. His classmates call him "Old one" because he has 3 or 4 black hairs protruding from the cleft in his upper lip. These will probably never be cut as there is a tradition, I think of Chinese origin, of not cutting odd clumps of facial hair.
Our train for Dong Ho'i was an hour late in arriving / leaving so we got here after dark. Think that might have been a bit of a blessing as what we can see is "not that attractive", and that's being kind. Never mind, we're off again at 05:30 for Hanoi.