The Perfume Pagoda (Chùa Hương) is about 60 km southwest of Hanoi. It's an important place of pilgrimage, and certainly one of the most scenic. Everything on the way is remarkably photogenic, except, of course, the Perfume Pagoda itself, which is in a cave at the top of a mountain that it takes 2 hours to climb.
The trip starts in the village of Đức Khê, where there are rowboats manned by women. The boat trip takes about an hour, through karst country that looks a lot like Guilin in southern China. The mountains form odd shapes, and the locals have names for each of them. There are two complexes of temples, the most important being Thiên Chu (Leading to Heaven), and then the 4 km walk straight upward in that direction.
* = Duyên's photo
|Đức Khê village
The starting point on the trip. There are steps to leading down to the river, where women with boats row to the Perfume Pagoda.
|*The boats in question|
I believe this is actually on the way back, but why let facts interfere with a story?
The boat is a sort of aquatic snowboard. Along the river there are also fish farms, rice fields and ducks.
flanked by karst mountains
|Another small pagoda
with rakishly inclined millinery.
|The first set of temples
where we didn't stop because of the time
|The gate of Thiên Chu
where we did stop. Built in the 17th century, it's still in use, with monks' quarters on the premises.
|Small building at Thiên Chu|
|Stylite with inscriptions
in front of the monks' quarters. Before the Roman alphabet, Vietnam used Chinese characters to write its language.
|Thiên Chu, facing the temples|
|More of the same|
|From the other side
A courtyard with plants, sculptures and pillboxes with statues.
|A Vietnamese Beefeater
The gin is made in the bathtub on the left.
|Someone you shouldn't mess with porcelain or not
In London tourists enjoy tormenting the guards, who aren't allowed to move.
Despite the fact that this fellow can't, I'd stay away from him anyway.
|Temple altar, with offerings|
|*The Perfume Pagoda
Not a pagoda, but a cave. It takes two hours of climbing to get here.