The cathedral bell was singing at Phat Diem when I came into the courtyard, in the bell tower that looked like a citadel. A bell without clapper but struck with a mallet like a Chinese temple bell.

(Graham Greene had heard this too, in his day.)

I had intended to sit in the cathedral for a while to listen to the choir and then leave before the mass began, but having misread the mass schedule and, caught off guard in the pews when the altar boys entered, stayed in the (largely aged) congregation for the full mass, passing for a congregant, and listened to the organ music and the cadences of the homily in a language completely unfamiliar but soothing (tonal languages always are), and the hymns on a pentatonic scale that sounded like soulful 80's chinese ballads being belted out with enthusiasm and sonority.

free web stats