Perfume Pagoda (or Chua Huong in Vietnamese), said to be constructed over two thousand years ago, is a vast complex of Buddhist temples and shrines built into the limestone Huong Tich mountains. The centre of the Perfume Pagoda lies in Huong Son Commune, My Duc District, Hanoi (about 50km away from Hanoi downtown). The centre, or the most typical architecture, of this site is the Perfume Temple, known as the Inner Temple, located in Huong Tich Cave on top of the mountain.
To get to Perfume pagoda, you would firstly go by road, then by river, after that on foot or by cable car to the top pagoda. You can rent a car in Hanoi, the drive takes about 2 hours to the Perfume Pagoda, then take a small boat, rowed by women from the local village for one hour to the foot of the mountain. This entertaining boat trip travels along scenic waterways between limestone cliffs. Allow a couple more hours to climb to the top and return. The path to the summit is steep in places and if it’s raining the ground can get very slippery. There’s also a cable car to the summit (one way/return 80,000vnd/140,000vnd), and a smart combination is to catch the cable car up and then walk down.
Generally, there are two times in a year that you can best visit the Perfume Pagoda. If you are a pilgrim, you cannot ignore the festival time. 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 the 15th of first month of the lunar calendar (around February to March), but the peak in visitors lasts from the middle of January to the middle of March. The Festival is seen by some as a good opportunity for young people to find romance and begin courtships. On those days, it is highly recommended that you take a boat from Yen wharf, stopping at Trinh shrine to ‘present’ yourself at the ‘registration shrine’. On such a romantic voyage, you would have a feeling of calmness, tranquility and peaceful deepening into the beauty of nature on the river side. However, one thing you should know is that since the festival takes place at the beginning of the lunar new year, the number of visitors coming to pray for luck is extremely large, leading to the problem of getting stuck in the crowded line of people.
In case you want to make your trip to Perfume pagoda for sightseeing, the rest of time in year except for the festive period, to be specific in autumn, would be a perfect choice due to the fact that there will be less people than usual. What’s more, you wouldn’t feel tired being waited for such a long time for the cable car and could have a chance to watch the sightseeing as well as feel the holy spirit of the Buddhist Temple. If you are kind of a person that would love photographing, this time is definitely suitable for you when the blossoms have grown and the fields have become so much gorgeous and brilliant and tranquil. Hardly can you deny shooting some photos and keeping it as a memory of a life once coming to this worshiped landscape.
Beside the Perfume Temple, you can also visit Trinh Temple, Thien Dong Pagoda and Huong Tich Cave in Yen valley of the complex structure which are the most three beautiful scenery as well as the holiest places to go. Only when you come can you recognize how amazing, beautiful and peaceful it is to become one of the most famous sites that must not be neglected in Vietnam. Let all of the hard work and stress in daily life go away by praying and exploring the beauty of nature and the awesome landscape by a trip to Perfume Pagoda.