Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vietnam: Perfume Pagoda

Northern Vietnam has a lot to offer outside of Hanoi. The most well-known of these attractions and the one I was most looking forward to is Halong Bay. On the morning we were set to depart for this gorgeous natural wonder, we were sitting in our hotel lobby, bags packed, waiting to be picked up. There was a light rain, then the phone rang. The hotel receptionist picked it up and handed me the phone. Our trip to Halong Bay had been cancelled due to the incoming Typhoon Rammasun. We knew about the typhoon and thought we were going to be able to squeeze in before it hit Halong, but apparently we were wrong. I didn't let my disappointment show, but I was pretty crushed. Our 30-day visa expired in six days and we needed to be out of the country before the storm would pass. When you're traveling, things don't always go according to plan and sometimes you just have to accept your fate. 

Halong Bay will not be happening on this trip, but we will go. Someday. Maybe then we won't be traveling like paupers and can do it in style; I'm reassuring myself that it's for the best. 

We decided to book a one-day tour to Perfume Pagoda and it was awesome! Perfume Pagoda is a Buddhist temple built inside a cave in the mountains about 75 kilometers outside of Hanoi. We rode in a non air-conditioned van for three hours to the Yen River where we hopped inside a slow boat. One Vietnamese woman rowed seven of us down the river for an hour before we arrived at the base of the mountain. There we ate lunch and then started the 38-minute trek (our guide timed us) up to the cave. The path was clearly paved with stones and small shops along the way, but there were a lot of steps and a lot of degrees in the temperature which meant that by the time we reached the temple, my shirt was just about completely soaked through. Pretty tiring but so worth it!

The temple itself? So cool! It had a similar feeling to the Batu Caves in Malaysia. There's something about the combination of nature and religious worship that is really beautiful. 

Here are some photos from the trip:

{Riding the slow boat to the mountain}

{and some of the gorgeous scenery around us}

{We spotted several temples on our way up the path to Perfume Pagoda}

{At the entrance to the cave}

{Standing next to some huge cave formations. Unlike what we're used to at US National Parks, there were no rules about not touching the formations in the caves so we both had a little touch and it was cool to feel something so old!}

{The lighting in the cave was so cool and provided for some really neat photo opportunities.}

{This is the main altar where Buddhists worship when they come to the cave.}

{Here you can see my beautiful sweat-stained shirt from our hot trek up. Gotta keep it real!}

{The view walking back up the stairs to leave.}

{On our way down, there was another very cool pagoda that Bradford snapped some great photos of, complete with Buddhist prayer flags.}

{I love this shot.}

After our time on the mountain, we loaded ourselves back on the slow boat and made the hour-long journey back to the vans and back to Hanoi. 

{One last snap of the Vietnam countryside before heading to Laos!}

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