Perfume Pagoda near Hanoi

This was the highlight of my visit to Hanoi.  We took a van for a 2-1/2 hour drive south of Hanoi.  The Perfume Pagoda complex is wildly popular with Vietnamese people celebrating Tet, but we were visited it was all but deserted.  It was eerie to see a restaurant complex that could accommodate well over one thousand people, all but empty.

The van takes you to a boat landing.  We took a small rowboat (with someone to row us) along a beautiful waterway full of blooming water lilies.  The ride along the empty river took about 40 minutes.  Then, we came to the restaurant complex where we had lunch.  There were a myriad of small shops, but most were closed.  A woman was selling baby chipmunks that were to be released at the pagoda to receive a blessing from the Buddha.  There is a large temple complex right were the boat lands.

We took an aerial tram up the mountain to the base.  It is possible to walk, but my knees did not permit the long hike.  The Perfume Pagoda is a series of shrines to Buddha placed inside a beautiful limestone cave.  The opening of the cave is very large, so it feels more like a cathedral than a phobia-inducing cavern. 

The setting felt very magical.  The experience was memorable.

One of the boats.  Ours didn't have a canopy.

A detail of the lower pagoda.  Photography isn't permitted inside

The entrance to the cave

One of the many natural formations

The Buddhas of the past, present and future to the back of the cave

The footprints in the first picture is one of ways the Buddha is represented.  He is sometimes depicted by his post-nirvana form which lacks a physical body.  His spiritual presence is indicated by the footprints alone.  Many pagodas in Vietnam present the Buddha as his past, present and future self.  I'm not an expert, but this three-part form is unique to Vietnam.


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