Four Reasons To Take A Tour To The Perfume Pagoda
The Perfume Pagoda is one of Vietnam’s most beautiful holy sites. Located deep in the jungle-blanketed Huong Tich mountains, it can only be accessed by a boat trip down the idyllic Perfume River. Once there you will climb four kilometers up the limestone mountain, by foot or by cable-car, before reaching the great cave that is known as Chua Trong, or the Inner Temple.
Each year, thousands of Vietnamese make a pilgrimage to Chua Trong, and the river is crowded by hundreds of long wooden boats making their way towards the cave. As a tourist, it is better to go during the summer months, when the river is tranquil and you can enjoy the peaceful scenery surrounding the river.
My family and I traveled there recently, having heard that the Perfume Pagoda was well worth seeing. Although we usually avoid taking tours due to the cost and restrictions, we decided it was necessary this one time. As it turned out, taking a tour to the temples was a wonderful experience! We would gladly do it again.
Here are a few reasons why you should take a tour instead of trying to reach the Perfume Pagoda without assistance.
1: Transportation is taken care of!
This is the big reason a tour can be preferable to managing on your own, especially when trying to see somewhere as isolated as Perfume Pagoda. It’s a few hours drive from Hanoi, then there’s the boat ride and hike up the mountain. It’s easy to get ripped off by locals trying to make a few extra bucks. Not only does taking a tour provide you with better information, it allows you to simply sit back and relax as transportation and meals are taken care of. There’s no searching for hours for a bus or taxi to take you to your destination for an exorbitant fee. No haggling with the boatsman for a ride up the river. No panicking when you realize he’s gone back without you! In my opinion, it’s worth a few extra bucks to be sure you’ll get there and back again without incident.
2: Information is easily accessible.
One advantage to taking a tour is that you are more likely to learn details you wouldn’t otherwise. Tour guides are trained in their particular area, and are able to answer questions you wouldn’t have been able to learn the answers to on your own. They also know the history of the Perfume Pagoda, which can be extremely helpful when trying to understand the roots of why the Perfume Pagoda is so important to the Vietnamese people and how it came about.
3. A chance to experience Vietnamese culture firsthand!
On our tour, we were delighted to find that the guide was eager to share stories of her childhood, as well as legends that surround the Perfume Pagoda. For example, as we rowed down the tranquil river, she showed us how all of the surrounding mountains were shaped like elephants. “You see how the elephants bow to the Buddha of Perfume Pagoda? Well, up ahead you will see one elephant who refused to bow. As punishment, his back was cut off, and his tears and blood flow constantly, making the Perfume River.” Up ahead, we saw how the mountain resembled an elephant, with the cliff his sheared off back. We wouldn’t have been able to learn this legend without the tour guide’s help.
4. Tours are a great way to meet other travelers.
During the course of our tour to the Perfume Pagoda, we were able to meet a few other travelers who we continued to see even after the tour. My younger brothers hiked up the mountain with a group of Belgian women and soon became fast friends with them! I practiced my spanish with a couple from Spain, and enjoyed being able to meet some fellow travelers! When on the road, it’s sometimes hard to meet other globetrotters, and a tour is the perfect way to get connected. Sometimes life-long friendships are created.
Although unguided travel has its' advantages, it can often be worthwhile to take the tour, no matter where you are. Not only are food and transportation taken care of, but friends can be made, and a tour can bring you closer to the culture of the country. Tours open up a world of possibilities for every traveler. Both seasoned backpackers and newbie travelers can learn from tours, and I would highly recommend taking the tour to the Perfume Pagoda!
Hannah Miller is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program
All photos courtesy and copyright Hannah Miller