Photo: The Perfume Pagoda is a great example of the journey being as important as the destination.

Perfume Pagoda

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The sprawling Perfume Pagoda, or Chua Huong, is a series of revered shrines and temples tucked into the pretty Huong Tich mountains, a few hours' drive out of Hanoi.

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The sacred pagoda is popular with Vietnamese devotees year round, but particularly from the middle of the second to the end of the third lunar months following Tet, and on even days of the lunar calendar. Embrace the madness and see how a Vietnamese tourism destination operates: think lots of noise, souvenirs galore and plenty of snacks and food. This is arguably the mother of all domestic tourism spots in Vietnam, and should be experienced for that reason alone, whether you learn anything about Buddhism along the way or not.

Eeny-meeny-miny-moe. Photo taken in or around Perfume Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam by Samantha Brown.

Eeny-meeny-miny-moe. Photo: Samantha Brown

The first temple on the site here is thought to have been built in the 1400s, though legend has it that the area was found by a meditating monk more than 2,000 years ago. A stele uncovered at the current temple dates the building of a terrace and stone steps to the mid-17th century; sections of the grounds were damaged by both the French and the American wars.

The Perfume Pagoda trip is one of the main day trips hawked by tour agencies in Hanoi. Priced from $25 up to around $39 for VIP service, they kick off with a hotel pick up around 08:00 to 08:30 and get back after dark, around 19:00 or 19:30, depending on traffic.

It's all very peaceful and pleasant till someone blows a horn. Photo taken in or around Perfume Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam by Samantha Brown.

It's all very peaceful and pleasant till someone blows a horn. Photo: Samantha Brown

You'll drive a few hours, stopping for a bathroom break en route at a souvenir shop where you can also buy your own drinks and snacks, then stop at a boat pier where rowers pilot blue light steel boats taking either six Westerners or 25-plus Vietnamese tourist for the 45-minute river trip to the base of the pagoda. Many tourists often take the paddles and row for a stretch, mostly for the photo op. It's all very peaceful and pleasant, until you meet a boat that has purchased blow horns to toot up and down ... Travelfish members only (Around 700 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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How to get there
To get here from Hanoi under your own steam, head out of town on Tay Son Road to the southwest, which turns into Tran Phu and continues for 14km to the town of Ba La in Ha Dong district. There you'll find a turnoff to the left for Route 21B (look for the distance markers, and a huge billboard at the triangular roundabout pointing the way). Continue for 33km to the village of Dai Nghia. A sign there points left to the pagoda, but market stalls often block it with their umbrellas, so watch out. From there it's 21km to Huong Son, at the middle of a four-way intersection. To reach the boats, take a right where the sign indicates Ben Yen/Yen Vy, 1km away.

Once in Ben Yen/Yen Vy, rent a boat, but DO NOT go directly to the boat ladies on the landing, who will overcharge. Find the ticket booth and a boat for six Westerner-sized people can be rented for 300,000 dong.

Location map for Perfume Pagoda

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