The next day, we had arranged a day trip to the Perfume Pagoda. We went with the tour company our hotel, Thu Giang Guesthouse, arranged. We ended up alone in a big minivan with a Dutch couple. Getting to the Perfume Pagoda involves a long boat trip in a small rowboat, followed by a substantial hike up a mountain. The boat ride was frightening. With 4 Westerners and 2 Vietnamese (our guide and the rower), we only had an inch of clearance to the water. Every time a motorized boat came by, we had to furiously wave to them to get them to slow down, or we’d sink. We can swim, but we had our cameras that would have been wrecked.
After a very, very long 1 hour trip, we started the hike up the mountain. It was hot. Very, very, very HOT. We didn’t know we could even sweat that much. Fortunately, all the way up, there are stalls selling drinks. At other times of the year, the Perfume Pagoda is packed with pilgrims, and the infrastructure to support the crowds can be seen year round. In fact, while we were there, they were working on a chairlift to carry people most of the way up the mountain (Amen!).
The pagoda itself is in a cave down a long flight of stairs at the top of the mountain. Incense wafts out of the cave and creates a mystical, spiritual atmosphere. Unfortunately, we were not warned to bring long pants, so we felt slightly uncomfortable. We also weren’t offered the time we would have liked to soak it in, because the guide wanted to get back down the mountain.
At the bottom of the mountain, we checked out some other beautiful temples, and at our insistence, split into two rowboats on the way back.
At night we ate at the Hoa Sua Restaurant d’Application (training school), which was a fabulous meal. This restaurant takes kids off the street, and trains them to work in high-end hotels. This restaurant is their training ground, and service was absolutely faultless.