Perfume Pagoda – A trip to the majestic temples of Northern Vietnam

A one-day trip to the majestic temples of Chua Huong - Perfume Pagoda - exploring the phenomenal architectural masterpieces of former times and learning about the traditions of the Vietnamese as well as discovering the surrounding nature by boat and cable car.

Just like most other Vietnamese, my colleagues and friends decided to go to Perfume Pagoda, called Chua Huong, at the beginning of Chinese New Year. Visiting the temples within the first month after the start of the Vietnamese calendar is an ancient tradition and serves to praise the Buddha and give him offerings, in order to make wishes for the upcoming year in return. After a 1,5 h ride from Hanoi, we arrive in the Huong Son village. We switch means of transportation and board a small boat that slowly paddles with us through the village towards the first pagoda. After a few minutes the beauty of the surrounding landscape unfolds as dark-green mountain chains arise on the horizon. Similar to Halong Bay, there’s a seemingly infinite number of steep mountains around us.



 Perfume Pagoda, Chua Huong, boat, cable car

After a relaxing 10 minute ride we reach the first pagoda and immediately start preparing the offering plate for the altar. The group prepares 1-3 together. The health-conscious Vietnamese might place a extra amount of vegetables and fruits, the financially-sorrowed some more money or golden plastic statues and the smoker might add a package of cigarettes to the plate – everyone for the individual wishes for the upcoming year. However, as I’m explained later, it’s not about wishing for the one’s own best, but about the best for the family and friends.

 Perfume Pagoda, Chua Huong, boat, cable car 
After many prayers in front of each Buddha statue, burning paper money and lighting incense sticks, we pick up the plates from the altar and board our little boat again, heading towards the other, much bigger pagodas down the river. The boat ride there is an absolutely enjoyable event. Being surrounded by untouched nature, only hearing the sounds of the running water around you and seeing the other little boats floating beside you, is an extremely relaxing experience. 45 minutes later we reach the Pagoda territory and make our way uphill towards the first temple. Once we get there, we see an ancient temple construction surrounded by many big dragon statues and altars – it’s an amazing atmosphere. People are praying in front of the altars, others place flowers on the patio. Wandering around I discover many picturesque corners that invite to great pictures. It’s a really special place.

 Perfume Pagoda, Chua Huong, boat, cable car

 Perfume Pagoda, Chua Huong, boat, cable car

 Perfume Pagoda, Chua Huong, boat, cable car

After the usual rituals we make our way further uphill to catch the cable car that brings us all the way up the mountain, giving us a fascinating view over the densely forested mountains. Once we get there we encounter a long stone-made staircase that leads down through the jungle, into the heart of the mountain. A huge cave unfolds as we go down the stairs, dripstones hanging from the sealing, mountains of flowers placed in front of the altars, people trying to catch some of the alleged holy water drops that fall from the dripstones – it’s impressive to observe.

 Perfume Pagoda, Chua Huong, boat, cable car

 Perfume Pagoda, Chua Huong, boat, cable car

Here again the aforementioned rituals are being practices before we then make our way back to the cable car and eventually the boat that brings us back to Huong Son village in the most relaxing manner.