Friday, December 18, 2009

The Temple Of Literature

{{en}}Văn Miếu (Temple of literature), Hanoi, ...Image via Wikipedia
Today was my last day in Hanoi. Taking my cue from the Lonely Planet guide, I decide to head out to the Temple Of Literature. Built around 1070, the temple is dedicated to Confucius.

I grab a moto from the Old Quarter, put on my helmet, hop aboard and close my eyes for the death ride across town.

As we arrive, I pull out some money to pay the driver, plus a generous tip for not killing me along the way. As I am paying him a small crowd suddenly envelopes us. It seems that I have dropped a small amount of money (at most $3) and one person has lunged forward to step on the wayward bill, acting as if he is just hanging around. Another man explains to me what has happened, and I thank him and the others who have gathered for their honesty.

I turn to the culprit and tell him to move while assessing the situation. Obviously, there is a lot of downside here, with the only upside being that I get my $1-$3 back. Clearly not worth it. I turn to the man and suggest he do something physically impossible involving one of his relatives. I then tell him he is a fine human being and wish him luck in his life. I then pull $10 out of my wallet and give it to the guy who first defended me.

As I shake his hand and walk away, a minor scuffle develops behind me over my misplaced lucre. Sometimes it takes one jerk to make us realise how lovely everyone else is.

Once inside I am again mesmerized by the timelessness of another place. Names of graduates are inscribed in stone dating back through the centuries. Sometimes when I am in places like this my mind boggles as I try and picture the people who walked on this same ground through the ages. I feel a lightning bolt rip through me and the ground pushing up at my feet as I shake my head in wonder.

Indeed, there is more to life than money.