Chua Huong - the
Perfume Pagoda temple complex
The 'Perfume Pagoda' is not a single building, but a large tract
of 'karst' limestone landscape extending over about 30km2.
Within this area of rocky peaks and paddy fields bisected by the
Yen Vi river is a large complex of temples, pagodas and shrines.
The 70km journey from Hanoi takes
about two hours. It's possible to reach the location by road,
but most visitors opt for a trip along the river in a small boat
- most are rowed by women. Thankfully, motorised boats are banned.
the Perfume Pagoda
The main pagoda is located in a large cave. The usual path starts
from the Den Trinh temple (The Temple of First Presenting) where
pilgrims burn incense to alert the local deities of their presence.
Next is the Chua Thien Chu (Pagoda Leading to Heaven).
there, it's a long walk uphill - walking at normal speed, it takes
about an hour (not including stops on the way). On the way, the
route passes a sacred stream where pilgrims wash away their negative
there, visitors head for the Tien Pagoda at the mouth of the Huong
Tich grotto and its Inner Pagoda.
belief says that the pagoda was built around the end of the fifteenth
century on a site discovered by a monk searching for enlightenment.
Since then, the Perfume Pagoda has been a major centre for pilgrims
and followers of Buddhism.
Perfume Pagoda festival period
There's no doubt that the pagodas and the landscape are very attractive.
Less agreeable is the commercialisation of the area. The route
to the Tien Pagoda is lined with vendors and is usually crowded.
its three lunar month festival (at varying dates between February
and March) thousands of Vietnamese people worshipping Buddha and
his disciple, Avalokitasvara, crowd the buildings, grottoes and
To give an idea of the
scale of the invasion of pilgrims, on February 3rd, the first
day of the 2006 festival, around 400,000 worshippers flocked into
authorities have tried to mitigate the crush by demolishing recently-built
illegal pagodas cashing in on the tourist bounty, widening the
paths and roads, and installing a cable car. Nevertheless, heavy
congestion during the festival period is likely to make a visit
to the Perfume Pagoda a less than pleasant experience.
peak times are the first few days, the 19th of the second lunar
month, and the week before the end of the festival. Unless you're
happy to join a Mecca-style crush of Buddhist devotees, we recommend
staying well away from the Perfume Pagoda on those dates.