The Perfume Pagodas

Trip Start Jan 21, 2009
Trip End Mar 20, 2009

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Perfume Pagoda, North Vietnam

We had booked a countryside tour for our first full day in North Vietnam.  We had chosen the tour to the Perfume Pagodas, a complex of 20 temples accessible only by sampan (a small rowboat) for about 2 km, nearly an hour, and then walking and climbing on foot.  The tour description sounded romantic and relaxing.

Our amazing day, was one few westerners can imagine or will ever experience; it was anything but relaxing!  It was the middle of the Tet holiday in Vietnam.  That is the Spring Festival which begins with the Chinese New Year and is celebrated by all Vietnamese quite like it is in China.  During Tet there is a Buddhist Pilgrimage to the Perfume Pagodas by Vietnamese people from all over the country.  Families come to make offerings to the Buddha images and to the "Goddess of Mercy" to insure good luck, health and wealth for the coming year.

Instead of a few Sampans meandering up the scenic river, we found ourselves in the midst nearly three thousand sampans filled with Vietnamese families, many of whom had never seen a westerner (white person).  Instead of us taking photos of them, we became their photo subjects.:)

When we arrived at the Temple complex there were more thousands of people, literally, as the people come to stay overnight or for a few days.
You cannot imagine this scene.  Don't worry, I have many photos.
they should probably go to "National Geographic" as I am certain few westerners have experienced a day like this.  The many steps to the top of the mountain (Mark says there were more than 1000,) are lined with shops and "hotels."  The hotels consist of a tarp with Mats to rent to sleep upon. The air smelled fragrant with many odors, (not all of them nice).  People were cooking food everywhere and selling everything imaginable to create the infrasructure for the 25,000 plus "Pilgrims."

We returned back to our car, the way we came, by foot and sampan, for the 2 !/2 hour thrilling journey back to Hanoi.  I kept saying that this day was a once in a lifetime experience.  Mark likes to remind me, "yes, it is, for most people, but you have one every year!" And yes, for that, I am truly grateful!

Photos will be added soon, I promise!

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