combination of boat trip, sightseeing, mountain climbing and
religious pilgrimage "Chua Huong" - the Perfume Pagoda is
the name of a collection of Buddhist temples which are very sacred
to Vietnamese people of Buddhist faith, and an annual visit up here
in springtime is a must to a lot of believers.
on the limestone rocks of
in beautiful and mystical surroundings, the pagodas are 70 km or
two-hour driving out of
Hanoi. Unlike other temples in
, the only way to reach this sanctuary is floating along a narrow
but extremely poetic stream by rowing boats that takes 45 minutes.
An iron boat can carry 3-5 people and a large wooden boat - up to
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 joss ticks 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
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.
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.
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
, 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.