We spent several days in the lovely city of Hue during our three-week trip to Vietnam last month. Our second day there was our “tomb day”, wherein we resolved to visit as many of its famous royal tombs as we could on motorbike. On the way to Minh Mang Tomb from Khai Dinh Tomb, one is greeted from afar with the sight of a huge statue of the Goddess of Mercy, known as Quan Am or Quan The Am in Vietnamese. This 21 m-high statue sits serenely near the top of a hill, nestled among the trees. It’s not as big as the 67 m-tall Guanyin statue we previously saw at Linh Ung Pagoda in Danang, but the stark contrast of its immaculate white paint against the lush green canopy makes for a very striking visual.
Our plate was full that day with our quest to see all of the royal tombs, but we vowed to go to wherever this statue is on our last day in Hue. However, when we went back to our hotel, none of the staff knew about this place. (I guess it really must be off the beaten path if even the locals don’t know about it…) It’s also not on the tourist maps or even Lonely Planet Vietnam, even though it is visible from the popular Khai Dinh Tomb. (There’s so many sights to see in Hue; I guess the non-UNESCO World Heritage sites like this one are not given priority.)
Google Maps to the rescue! It is marked there as Chua Phat Dung (Pagoda of the Standing Buddha), located at Huong Thuy town on the outskirts of Hue.
There are two ways to get up the hill — one dirt road leads to the front of the statue, while the other to the back. These two roads are quite clear upon zooming in on satellite view on Google Maps. We missed the front entrance and ended up traversing the other road. I suppose the view during the ride up would have been better had the statue been facing us, but who cares, we got there!
Just before we reached the top, we passed by a girl who signaled to us to park our motorbike with her. If you see her, ignore her and just go straight up, because you can park for free at the area at the back of the statue. We went up and around and finally got to see the statue up front and close.
It was definitely more peaceful than the similar Linh Ung Pagoda in Danang, which is packed with tourists. We spent a relaxing half hour there, just enjoying the view and the breeze and chatting with some of the locals, under the tranquil gaze of the Goddess of Mercy.