The Perfume Pagoda
Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
260Trip End Ongoing
For a day trip it was pretty expensive. After visiting half a dozen tour agencies, the best price we could find was $11. However, since the alternative was a difficult set of local buses and some confusing navigation that would be almost impossible with our zero words of Vietnamese, we were forced to pay whatever was demanded. Also, local buses are often filled beyond capacity and can be less than reliable. It turns out they can also spontaneously burst into flames. Traffic was stopped for quite some time as, what looked like it had just recently been a nice bus, simmered on the freeway
We arrived in the village nearest the pagoda and exited our bus. The hour-long boat ride to the remote site is the most impressive part of the trip. Unfortunately the journey to the mountain took place while the sun was blazing overhead, bleaching the lush greenery surrounding us. So photo opportunities were limited. However, we did meet a nice couple from Massachusetts (now we've talked to 5 people in 3 months)
Once at the mountain it's a lovely 1-hour hike to the top. Lindsey and I don't hit the gym much and it was rougher than I'd like to admit. I had the cool shaking calves I used to get from running stadiums. But Lindsey was sweating in all the right places and looked pretty rough too, so I didn't feel quite as bad.
The cave was okay. We didn't almost die inside, so I guess that's a plus. The shrines themselves were entertaining, but not awe-inspiring. Three of the Buddhas in the back row had this circular kaleidoscope/carnival look about them. I didn't expect a revered Buddhist site to have neon and electricity involved. It reminded me of the way Central and South Americans do Catholicism - very flashy. Check out the photos.
The walk down was much more pleasant. We saw 20 guys moving what appeared to be an insanely heavy casket up the mountain. It was tied to tree branches, which they supported on their shoulders. It didn't look like a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. It turns out they have to do this annually
The tour included lunch, which wasn't awful. It was served family style and I got to show off my mad chopstick skills for strangers. I bet they're still talking about it.
The boat ride back to the bus was stunning. The sun was dropping in the sky and the surrounding mountains came alive with color. Almost all the colors were green, but in every shade imaginable. The clouds had burned away and the afternoon light carved out for our eyes every blade of grass, every flower, every tree branch and leaf. The water rippled with the gentle oar strokes of the dozens of boats returning to the village. As the sun fell behind the horizon, the grass and trees lost their individuality, and the sides of the mountains turned into sheets of melted crayons, swirling and cascading down toward the water. It was the kind of view that sits on your eyelids long after you've closed them.