After early morning arrival from north Vietnam, we quickly dropped our bags at the hotel before our guide picked us up and we hit the road again. This time we drove about 60km from Hanoi to the landscape of limestone hills where, in karst cliffs, lies one of Vietnam’s most famous pilgrim site – Perfume Pagoda.
We arrived at My Duc where we got on a row-boat. It took us to the foot of the mountain where the complex lied. But first of all, we had to wait for two other girls from our group who went to buy offerings and had to do some paperwork for their wishes. The place is extremely busy from February to April when Vietnamese people from a whole country come here to pray. Those two girls were from Ho Chi Minh city.
While rowing up the river, we enjoyed views of the flooded valley with its green hills and rice fields. Other passing boats with Vietnamese people were obviously enjoying a view of us and didn’t hesitate to take a picture either – we felt like celebrities.
When we got off the boat, we headed to Chua Thien Chu – a temple from the 17th century. The place was very busy but pavilions and pagodas were beautiful and there was a nice smell of incense in the air.
We left the complex and went to a restaurant where we were going to meet our guide for lunch. The selection of food was broad. From classic chicken, pork or beef to snakes, smoked squirrels or porcupines. The meals we got were quite standard, although Jakub and my brother were convinced that the staff mixed a few pieces of snake meat into it.
After lunch, we grabbed a cable car to the summit. A one-way ticket was included in the price of the tour, so we chose to have a ride up and then walk down later.
The cave itself was about 10 minutes walk from a top cable car station and we had to descent about 100 steps down to its entrance. The whole place was overcrowded with Vietnamese visitors. Each corner inside the cave was filled up with flowers, fruit, candles and other offerings which people brought. All that covered in clouds of incense.
On the way back to the boat, we walked the path which was lined with stalls all the way down. People were selling all different kinds of stuff but mostly souvenirs which looked pretty tacky. We only bought some traditional cinnamon crackers which were tasty.
Overall, the trip was an interesting experience. We visited the place in its busiest time of the year and it was interesting to see so many people, some of them traveling from the other side of the country just to put an offering inside the pagoda and pray. We only noticed a couple of foreigners. So, a pure Vietnamese experience.