21 December 2006

Hanoi - Day Bon: Perfume Pagoda

*You should know the drill by now. There are so many pictures in this post, it's insane. If not on broadband, be patient. My lawyer's really good, won't do any good suing me*

After a good night's rest - the next day, day 4 in our Vietnamese holiday, we headed out on a small tour to the Perfume Pagoda.

Some 60kms southwest of Hanoi, the limestone mountains suddenly appear again - in the province of Ha Tay. Here, in the poetically named Mountains of Perfumed Terraces, the countryside is dotted with about 30 buddhist temples (also called pagodas), making this the center of Vietnamese buddhism.

We didn't come here as pilgrims. But if you come during the 1st - 3rd lunar month, the whole place will be swarming with Vietnamese undertaking pilgrimage.

The day starts again at 7.30am, and after picking up all 11 people in the tour, we headed out of Hanoi, for a 2 hour ride. The scenery today was more rural compared to yesterday's, but the ride was just as comfy. Just an annoying Spanish woman to spoil the day a bit. =(

2 hours later, we found ourselves reaching the Yen River, where we drop off the van, and splitted into groups of 4-5, each group getting into metal sampans.

The 1 hour, 3 km boat ride was by far the best thing that happened to me in the whole trip. The river was so peaceful, the air was fresh, no motors means quiet and the scenery was to die for ...

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves ...

At our drop off point, after a 10 minute hike, you can decide to either walk all the way up to the pagoda (1 hour, rocky trail, dangerous in the rainy season) or pay extra VND 30,000 for a cable car ride (15 minutes, beautiful view). Me & Taiko chose to take the cable cars both ways. Some more adventurous souls walked up and down. Some walked up, and took the cable car down. Truth being said - the walk up is not much, because it's all jungle only, says the guide book, tour guide, and some of the people in our group.

The perfume pagoda is really a cave, with a temple inside. Chinese would know it as 南天洞, and Viets call it Chua Huong. A bit anti climatic, but atmospheric, and it's set in great natural settings. And it happens to be the most important pagoda in the whole of Vietnam. During the months following the Vietnamese new year, this place gets thousands of pilgrims every day, some even overnighting in the cave itself !!!

Back from the trip, at the foot of the cable car station, is the beautiful and ancient Tien Chu pagoda, Chua Tien Chu. Truly atmospheric, in a great natural setting, it's worth the time to visit and just soak in the atmosphere. It was under a little bit of restoration work when we visited, but still very much a great temple. The guide told us this temple is more than 500 years old.

Truly a great trip !!! Costs us USD 18, includes the transportation from hotel both ways, the boat trip, lunch and includes 2 tour guides. Of course, you visit the two pagodas, get good commentary from the guides, and generally have a good time !

Hehe ... but the boat ladies will hassle you for tip. Pay around VND 2,000 - VND 4,000 per person. Don't spoil the market ... one of the groups actually paid USD 10!!! I think that lucky boatwoman would be having a good meal that night !!! And she might just wash that meal down with some snake wine ...


angel said...

Now zzzzzzliuzzzzz... kambek tomolo... look so China... zzzzzz...

Anonymous said...

where is your nam, sau, bei, tam, chin, muoi.

Jemima said...

What's the weather temperature there? From the photos, it looks cool which I like.

moz monster said...

ha? why zzz? tired izzit?

*sings lullaby for angeliu*

coming ... coming ... part nam coming soon.

North Vietnam, which I visited, has 4 seasons - and winter is now, from October to January, when the weather is cool. When I visited, it was always in the low 20s or high 10s (celcius, mind you), so it's pretty cool.

Bring a jacket, don't be like me .... I had no cold weather protection, so I wore many layers instead.

khengsiong said...

Great pictures. Thanks for sharing.

I have been on business trips to HCMC a couple of times. I may consider traveling to Hanoi in future.

Che-Cheh said...

Ahhhh breathtaking pictures.

So did you drink any snake wine or snake venom?

Inevitable said...

I am so katak bawah tempurung... Hanoi is definitely a breathtaking place. Hmm... it is time for me to get another memory card... hehe.

moz monster said...

*rolls out red carpet ... makes vietnamese pho ... makes vietnamese coffee*

Hi there ... welcome !!!

I think Hanoi is worth a visit. I know HCMC is also nice, but Hanoi's usually overlooked, unfairly, in my opinion.

Thanks !!!!

Nope. Didn't drink any snake wines. Or ate any snake meat. We were offered dog meat instead (very common and popular in Vietnam in the winter months)

Not too bad, hor, Hanoi ?

I'd have to admit this ... I was surprised myself !!!

pelf said...

WOW, this is good.. I think I really should get Mum to be interested in Hanoi after all. Will probably email you for more details once of these days ;)

moz monster said...

Hanoi is a good place for a holiday in my opinion. If you want to give it more thoughts, I do have a more detailed journal and a Rough Guide book.

Applegal said...

Even in winter the places look so charming. The metal sampan macam nak sink ni?

moz monster said...

It's actually really got this air of mystery in winter.

The metal sampan is safe wor, we're told. The fact that we didn't get any life jackets were supposed to emphasize the sturdiness of the boat.

Steve said...

Thanks for sharing that.

My wife and I are heading to Hanoi next month and we'll be doing a few day tours from there. Looks like the Perfumed Pagoda will be on our list.

moz monster said...

Hi, welcome !!!

I think you will enjoy Perfume Pagoda. And don't miss out on Halong Bay as well.

Hanoi's a pretty rewarding city to visit, in my opinion ...

Hope you'll have a great time in Hanoi !!