Chua Huong (Perfume pagoda) is located in Huong son (Perfume mountain) 70 km southwest of Hanoi. Chua Huong is not one temple but a cluster of temples and shrines in the general vicinity of Huong son. The pagoda(s) are located in My Duc hamlet in the province of Ha Tay.
According to the book, Huong Son Thien Tru Pha, Huong Tich temple was built during the reign of Le Chinh Hoa (1680-1705), by a monk who happened on the site on his way to search for enlightenment. Other shrines and temples were later built in this area to take advantage of the beautiful scenery in this area.
A complex of pagodas and Buddhist shrines built into the limestone cliffs of Huong Tich Mountain (Mountain of the Fragrant Traces) makes up the Perfume Pagoda (Chua Huong; admission 17,000d plus 8000d return boat trip). Among the better-known sites here are Thien Chu (Pagoda Leading to Heaven); Giai Oan Chu (Purgatorial Pagoda), where the faithful believe deities purify souls, cure sufferings and grant offspring to childless families; and Huong Tich Chu (Pagoda of the Perfumed Vestige).Perfume Pagoda
The entertaining boat trip along the scenic waterways between limestone cliffs takes about two hours return; allow an additional two or three hours return to climb to the top. A word of warning: bring good walking shoes! The path to the top is steep in places and if it's raining the ground can get very slippery.
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).
Perfume Pagoda festivalPerfume Pagoda
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. In 2002, on the particularly auspicious sixth day of the first lunar month, 3000 boats crammed the waterway and there was a boat jam that lasted from noon until 9pm!
Weekends tend to draw crowds all year, when pilgrims and other visitors spend their time boating, hiking and exploring the caves. Litter and noisy stalls and hawkers are part and parcel of the visit, and some hawkers are persistent enough to hassle you all the way to the top; you have been warned!