While in Hanoi, a side trip you should not miss is the visit to Perfume Pagoda. This vast and beautiful complex of Buddhist temples and shrines can be found in the limestone mountains of Huong Tich, in the suburban district of My Duc. It is about 60 kilometers southwest of Hanoi, and about 1 hour 30 minutes by car until the starting point village of Duc Khe. From here, there will be another 1 hour or so boat ride going to the pagodas. The Perfume Pagoda is the site of the Huong Pagoda Festival, an annual event attended by hundreds of thousand of Buddhist pilgrims in celebration of the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.
Here are our top 4 reasons why the family loved our visit to Perfume Pagoda:
1. Sampan ride through the Yen River. The ride from Duc Khe to the base of the mountain where the pagodas can be seen using a sampan (rowboat), although scary at first, was a new experience for the family. This experience, I would say, was one of the highlights of our Perfume Pagoda trip. The Yen River is called by locals as the “mirror river”, as it reflects the surroundings which give it a mirror-like effect. As the boat is only powered by two rows controlled by the rower, the 4-km boat ride takes about 1 hour 15 minutes. Aside from the relaxing scenic sights, the sampan ride will also give you a glimpse of rural river life in Vietnam.
2. Serene surroundings at the Thien Tru Pagoda. Once you reached the base of the mountain, a short hike will lead you to the outer pagoda: the Thien Tru Pagoda, also known as the Heaven Kitchen. Thien Tru Pagoda is home to a bell tower and Hall of the Triple Gem, the three things that Buddhists take refuge in and look toward for guidance.
3. Panoramic sceneries to Huong Tich Cave by cable car. Another short hike from the Thien Tru Pagoda and you will reach the cable car station. From here, a 20-minute ride in the cable car will show panoramic sights of the surrounding Huong Tich mountains. An alternative to this is a hike from Thien Tru Pagoda to Huong Tich Cave. This will give you alternative sceneries as well.
4. Huong Tich Cave. Locals liken the opening of the Huong Tich Cave to the mouth of a dragon. They also consider this place the most significant site in the Huong Son mountains. Once you reach the Huong Tich Cave by cable car, you have to take the sometimes slippery 120-step to descend to the belly of the cave to see the Buddha statues. The scenes both outside and inside the cave are both serene and surreal.
teachers for most of the last 15 years... into educational technology, e-learning and quality assurance. builds scale models of cars and robots, and experiments in photography in spare time. loves to travel and explore new places with family.
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