Perfume Pagoda


After 70 km or 2 hours driving out of Hanoi, located on the limestone rocks of Huong Son Mountain in beautiful and mystical surroundings. Unlike other temples in Vietnam, the only way to reach this sanctuary is floating along a narrow but extremely poetic stream by rowing boats that takes 45 minutes.Perfume Pagoda


An iron boat can carry 3-5 people and a large wooden boat – up to 20 locals. The stream is edged by rice, grass, small paths, and temples here and there. A local pilgrim can spend here traditionally three days to visit entirely the area and pray at all the temples. The first temple they often stop is called Den Trinh (i.e. The Shrine for First Presenting), where Vietnamese burn the first jos sticks to inform the local deities about their presence and pray for a good trip and good luck for the year ahead. If you are anxious to reach the main Wharf of Huong Son mountain to start the uphill trip to see the Main Grotto of Huong Tich, you may skip this temple, especially in the peak season between January and early April.

The uphill trip takes an hour climbing on the ancient flat and sometime slippery stones, which have been here thousand years ago. The road is “breathtaking” in all aspects – you will have some exercise, and at the same time have chance to take some stops to contemplate beautiful scenery and daily life of local farmers, who plant cassava and apricots in the valleys, who run quickly on the slippery stone with their burdens of tapioca, apricots or medicinal herbs whilst you are careful with your steps. The main pagoda is set in a huge grotto containing a highly decorative shrine. Each stalactite and stalagmite inside, which are soaked by undercurrent, is combined with a legend about its miracle and good luck. Most of them became small shrines by now.

Remember that the stone grotto is huge and very cool, so stop for a while at the entrance to dry your sweat before coming in.

The main festive days of Chua Huong stretches from January to early April, busy and exciting. Sometimes it’s drizzling and the Vietnamese all believe that the real good things will reach you if you catch rainwater after praying in a sacred pagoda. And among all the sacred temples and pagodas in Northern Vietnam, Chua Huong is even more attractive and mysterious not only for its spectacular scenery, but for the painstaking road you passed over to reach to the top.

The fun boat trip along the scenic waterways between limestone cliffs takes about two-hours return, and allow yourself an additional two or three hours return to climb to the top. A word of warming; bring good walking shoes! The path to the top is steep in laces and if it’s raining the ground can get very slippery.

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). It’s very busy during this period, especially on the even dates of the lunar month; you’ll have a much easier time of you establish the lunar date, and plan to go on a odd date. In 2002, on the particularly auspicious sixth day of the first lunar month, 3000 boats crammed the waterway and there was a boat jam that lasted from noon until 9pm! Weekends tend to draw crowds all year, when pilgrims and other visitors spend their time boating, hiking and exploring the caves. Litter and noisy stalls and hawkers are part and parcel of the visit you have been warned.

 

Perfume Pagoda

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