Iron and Missy in the Valley Of The Perfume Pagoda

Trip Start Oct 02, 2012
Trip End Mar 31, 2014

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Ian awakes with the beginnings of Malaria. Possibly. Well, he is feeling a bit under the weather anyway. It could just be withdrawals from lack of Filipino San Miguel.

Today we are on a day trip to the Perfume Pagoda. Its about 60km away and we have arranged a tour through the hotel. The minibus picks us up from the hotel and off we trundle. There are 18 of us on the trip and we get talking to three Filipino men who are on a bit of a holiday. They are way into their fifties and are like a comedy act. The ring leader, Harry (or something that sounds similar) is a big time talker. His larger than life buddy, whose name we can't remember, is a gentle giant and big time eater. Our favourite of the trio though, is called Purbs. He is a small, wrinkly old man, who the other two constantly bully. He is also in charge of all the money and takes care of the other two like they are children. We later find out that Purbs nearly didn't make the trip and the other two were told by their wives, 'If Purbs doesn't go, YOU don't go'! On the bus he tells Ian the old joke about the slow baby tomato who gets squashd by traffic and his dad says, ketch-up! This 3 second joke takes Purbs well over 5 minutes to tell. Even Ian struggles to force a laugh out. They all insist on calling Ian, Iron. He doesn't correct them, it makes him feel manly.

After the bus ride it's an hour and a half boat trip up the river. It's 6 to a boat and the seats are made for children under 3. We cram in and kiss goodbye to any feeling in our legs for the forseeable future. We get the middle two seats, just behind our soon-to-be, new gay best friends. They are nice young English boys, with that aquired posh/gay accent, and we all have a good laugh as we are rowed up the river. All the boats are rowed by local women who row in a forward motion and who must eat at least 15 weetabix every morning. They row constantly. Looking across to the boat carrying our lovely giant Filipino friend, we feel for the sweating rower and hope he leaves a large tip for her.

The river is wide and the mountainous scenery either side of us is awesome. There are swarms of dragon flies darting around us and Anna almost capsizes the boat when a particularly large one lands on her leg. Ian masks his terrified girly scream with a laugh as they both try to shoo it away. The only thing spoiling the peaceful tranquility of this sleepy boat ride is the 'shop-boat' sailing alongside us for most of the way. It is a boat like ours but instead of people, the rower has a cargo of beer, water and coke. She also has a large parasol umbrella on her boat shading her from the sun. We all look at it enviously as we rub useless suncream onto our burning skin. It seems that we still haven't learnt that there is no shade out on the water. Over the next hour she constantly tries to get us to buy a drink. It would've been unbearable but she turns out to be quite funny, nicknaming everybody on the boat so we find it harder to ignore her. Anna becomes 'Missy', much to Iron's amusement. She is a bit of a liar though, as her parasol clearly states that she sells 'quality kebabs'. She doesn't have any kebabs. Or chips.

The boat docks and the paramedics arrive to remove us from the boat. After successfully restoring life to our withered dead legs, we start the steep trek up to the cable car terminal that will carry us high into the mountain. Hiding up there, somewhere above us in the jungle covered heights, is the Perfume Pagoda. The Pagoda is actually a vast complex of Buddhist temples and shrines built into the limestone mountains. The centre of the complex is the Perfume Temple which is deep within a natural cave called Huong Tich. Legend says that Bodhisatva stayed here to save souls. Well everybody needs a hobby.

Before we take the cable car it is time for lunch. We pile into a large dining hall with rows of tables and try to eat tofu and rice with chopsticks. The food is good and before long we are fed and on our way to the cable car terminal. Once on board, we set off and the cars rock scarily high above the rocky jungle below. They stop and judder every now and then to add a bit of drama to the ascent.

Escaping the terrors of the car, we then have to tackle a large number of ancient stone steps as we descend back down into the mountain. The path finally leads to the huge opening of the Perfume Temple and the unmissable tear-drop rock formation at the cave entrance. We walk deep into the holy cavern with our tour guide, who explains the mysteries of the Temple to us. It is a fantastic place and its seclusion and isolated beauty is only slightly jaded by the disneyland cable car that has been installed to ferry tourists. Ian is feeling shakey and drained of energy. He is very very glad that there was a cable car to carry him here. He only wishes that he and Anna had a 2-way ticket. It had seemed like a good idea to trek back down the mountain and through the jungle. It is not sounding like quite such a good idea now. Anna looks at him and wonders if she would be able to carry him if his legs give way...

Feeling daring, Anna decides to use the toilet before our return journey. It turns out to be a grim decision. The number of flies inside must be getting into the millions and they bounce of her face like tiny, furry hailstones. The stench is revolting and as she runs from the hell-toilet retching, a man kindly asks her to pay for the experience. Not the best 6p she has ever spent. We set off down the ancient stone steps as everybody else (bastards) climb aboard the cable car for the nice easy ride back. We take our time trekking back and the journey is ultimately rewarding and enoyable. Finally we make it to the cable car terminal and after another short walk, we arrive at another part of the Perfume Pagoda complex. We have a look around at the wonderful buildings before our energy runs out. We are tired and our legs ache. Luckily we have the return boat journey to enjoy which will remove all feeling from our lower bodies.

We get back to the bus as the light is fading. The day has been amazing and amusing . We will miss our day-trip friends and hope they haven't caught any of Ian's germs. We eat great food at a local little restaurant called Gecko before Ian starts to shiver and pine for his bed. Anna starts to believe he may be ill after all as he left a full pint of beer in the resturant. As she tucks him up in the spare bed (with an extra duvet) she looks at the clock. It is 9pm. Ian hasn't been in bed this early since he was a toddler. It's a good job we haven't booked a trip for later in the week, like mountain trekking for instance.... oh, wait a minute...
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