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    Perfume Pagoda

    The Perfume Pagoda (Chua Huong) is about 60km south-west of Hanoi by road. The pagoda is a highlight of the Hanoi area and should not be missed. The fun boat trip along the scenic waterways takes about three hours. A word of warning: bring good walking shoes! The path to the top is steep in places and if it’s ruining the ground can get very slippery.

    The Perfume Pagoda itself is a complex of pagodas and Buddhist shrines built into the limestone cliffs of Huong Tich Mountain (Mountain of the Fragrant Traces). Among the better known sites here are Thien Chu (Pagoda Leading to Heaven); Giai Oan Chu (Purgatorial Pagoda), where the faithful believe deities purify souls, cure sufferings and grant offspring to childless families; and Huong Tich Chu (Pagoda of the Perfumed Vestige).

    Great numbers of Buddhist pilgrims come here during a festival that begins in the middle of the second lunar month and lasts until the last week of the third lunar month (usually corresponding to March and April). Pilgrims and other visitors spend their time here boating, hiking and exploring the caves’. Weekends also tend to draw crowds, as one pair of travellers reported.

    Avoid Sundays! This is the busiest day for locals we had (he misfortune of travelling there on a Sunday and elided lip in a mob of thousands of locals pushing and shoving on the stairs leading to the temple. We were very disappointed alter haying spent all the time in transit.

    The main pilgrimage season at Chua Huong is during the Huong Pagoda festival, when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims make their way to Huong Tich cave and the other temples. The longest lasting festival in Vietnam, it officially begins on January 6th on the lunar calendar, to the middle of March. The Festival is seen by some as a good opportunity for young people to find romance and begin courtships.

    Getting There & Away

    Getting to the pagoda requires a journey first by road and then by river.

    If you want to do the river trip, which is highly recommended, you will need to travel from Hanoi by car for two hours to My Duc, and then take a small boat rowed by two women for 11/2 hours to the foot of the mountain.

    The main pagoda area is about a 4km (two-hour) walk up from where the boat lets you off. The scenery is comparable to Halong bay, although you are on a river rather than the sea. The combined fee for the boat journey and general admission ticket is US$7. The return trip to your vehicle is also by rowboat.

    Most or the travellers’ cafes offer inexpensive tours to the pagoda. You can find day trips as cheap as US$9 or US$10, inclusive of transport, guide and lunch (drinks excluded). For a better quality tour (meaning smaller group and a more comfortable vehicle) expect to spend around US$14 to US$16.

    Perfume Pagoda in Hanoi
    Perfume Pagoda


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