The Perfume Pagoda in Vietnam.

About visiting The Perfume Pagoda which is situated along The Suoi Yen River around 60kms southwest of Hanoi in Vietnam.

Most Hanoi hotels and guesthouses will have this popular day trip on offer - it typically costs around 30 USD each including transport, guide, a ride on a sampan, entrance fees - plus one way on the cable car and lunch. (If you decide to go on this trip remember to take some bottled water with you - prices at the Pagoda entrance gate as well as the stalls on the way up are totally outrageous).
The Suoi Yen River in Vietnam. A sampan on The Suoi Yen River  in Vietnam. Sampans on their way to The Perfume Pagoda in Vietnam. Waiting Sampans at the Perfume Pagoda, Vietnam.
The Perfumed Pagoda is one of Vietnam's most popular and spectacular sites and located on the Hui Huong Tich (Fragrant Vestige Mountain) - a complex of shrines set in the hills. Where the Red River Delta ends the limestone hills rise out of the paddy fields and the ride along the flooded valleys is quite spectacular. From My Duc small metal boats rowed by village women make the hour long trip along the Suoi Yen River to the landing area. it's very busy here, loads of food and gift stalls, cafes and tour guides desperately trying to keep their groups together. After walking a short distance through the mayhem you then commence the climb firstly going to Thien Tru Pagoda - The Pagoda leading to Heaven.
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Entrance Gate at The Perfume Pagoda in Vietnam. The Buddhist Thien Tru Pagoda in Vietnam. Chinthe guarding the Thien Tru Pagoda - Vietnam. Old bridge leading to the Thien Tru Pagoda in Vietnam.

The Buddhist Thien Tru Pagoda - Vietnam.

This is a shrine which was built in the 18th century and rises through three levels - an elegant triple roofed bell pavilion stands in front of the temple. The temple itself is dedicated to Quan Am (bodhisattva Guanyin - The Goddess of Mercy) and her statue takes pride of place on the pagoda's main alter. Although the temple complex is quite pleasant to wander around the whole area is basically very busy with tourists and worshippers.
Thien Tru Pagoda roof - Vietnam. Religious swastika sign at Thien Tru Pagoda in Vietnam. Quan Am statue at Thien Tru Pagoda in Vietnam. Temple guard at Thien Tru Pagoda in Vietnam.
From the side of the temple there is still a bit more climbing up steps to do to get to the cable car area. Although the idea might be taking the cable car to the top and walking back in fact the queues can be totally horrendous - much shoving and pushing and little crowd management. It does not take too much thought that this is just not worthwhile - so the alternative is obviously to walk up the mountain instead and use your ticket to ride back down. The 2.5km climb up does however require a certain amount of fitness and probably takes about an hour. Not only is the way up very steep and can be hot and humid but also the route is narrow because of the stalls lining either side and there are many people walking back down as well as up.
Nice carved figure - The Perfume Pagoda - north Vietnam. Food stalls line the route up to the Perfume Pagoda in Vietnam. Congested path up to the Perfumed Pagoda, Vietnam. Many stalls selling artifacts on the way to the Perfume Pagoda in Vietnam.

The Huong Tich Pagoda and Cave - north Hanoi.

On reaching the top you are faced with a steep descent down 120 steps into the cave and the (the pagoda is dedicated to Quan Am). Trees cling to the side of the cave and incense smoke is thick in the air. Note: although the walk down the steps is fairly ok once at the bottom the surfaces are very slippery and there is a lot of pushing and shoving - and it is quite difficult to see very much let alone walk around.
Huong Tich Cave - Vietnam. Packed with pilgrims - Huong Tich  Cave in Vietnam. Huong Tich Cave and Quan Am Shrine - Vietnam. Pagoda Bell at Huong Tich Cave in Vietnam.
Once back to the top it is only a short walk back to the cable car and eventually back to your boat for the trip back to My Duc (you are expected to give a tip to the rower once back - this is usually 1 USD or 20000 Dong for each passenger).

Is this Perfumed Pagoda trip in Vietnam worth going on? The boat trip is enjoyable and The Perfumed Pagoda is one of Vietnam's most important religious sites however the heat and really huge crowds make it quite hard work. This is particularly the case on weekends and naturally during any public holidays or important religious periods. If you are mostly interested in taking a quite unique Vietnamese river trip on a sampan along with excellent countryside scenery - and can only do one trip due to limited time - then Visiting Tam Coc on a daytrip from Hanoi is probably a much better and more relaxing choice.
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