Ha Noi

History - Orientation - Information - Dangers Annoyances - Sights - Activities - Walking Tour - Courses - Ha Noi For Childern - Tour - Festivals Events - Sleeping - Eating - Drinking - Entertainment - Shopping - Getting There Away - Getting Around - Around Ha Noi - Ho Chi Minh Trail Museum - Perfume Pagoda - Handicraft Villages - Thay Tay Phuong Pagoadas - Ba Vi National Park - Co Loa Citadel - Tam Dao Hill Station.


North Vietnam's very own Marble Mountains the Perfume Pagoda (Chua Huong; admission 35,000d and return boat trip) is a striking complex of pagodas and Buddhist shrines built into the karst cliffs of Huong Tich Mountain (Mountain of the Fragrant Traces). Among the better-known sites here are Thien Chu (Pagoda Leading to Heaven); Giai Oan Chu (Purgatorial Pagodai, where the faithful believe deities purify souls, cure sufferings and grant offspring to childless families; and Huong Tich Chu (Pagoda of the Perfumed Vestige). This is a domestic drawcard and it is an interesting experience just to see the Vietnamese tourists at play. The entertaining boat trip along the scenic waterways between limestone cliffs takes about two hours return; allow a couple more hours return to climb to the top. The path to the summit is steep in places and if it’s raining the ground can get very slippery. However, the good news is that there is now a cable car to the summit, costing 30,000d one way. A smart combination is to use the cable car to go up and then walk down. Great numbers of Buddhist pilgrims come here during a festival that begins in the middle of the second lunar month and lasts until the last week of the third lunar month (usually corresponding to March and April). It's very busy during this period, especially on the even dates of the lunar month; you'll have a much easier time if you establish the lunar date and plan to go on an odd date. Weekends tend to draw crowds year round, when pilgrims and other visitors spend their time boating, hiking and exploring the caves. Litter and hawkers are part and parcel of the visit, and some hawkers are persistent enough to hassle visitors all the way to the top; you have been warned!
Getting There & Away
The Perfume Pagoda is about 60km southwest of Hanoi by road. Getting there requires a journey first by road, then by river, then on foot or by cable car. First, travel from Hanoi by car for two hours to the township of My Due. Vehicles usually drop you about a 15-minute walk from the boat ramp, or you can hop on a xe om. Then take a small boat, usually rowed by women, for one hour to the foot of the mountain. The main pagoda area is about a 4km-steep hike up from where the boat lets you off. Allow yourself at least two hours to make the return trip, longer if it's been raininn and is slippery. Most of the travellers' cafes in Hanoi offer inexpensive tours to the pagoda. You can find day trips as cheap as US$10, inclusive of transport, guide and lunch. For a higher quality small group tour expect to spend up to US$20. This is one of those places where it is easier to take a tour. Unless you charier a vehicle, it's a real pain trying to do this trip by public transport.