The Huong Pagoda (the Perfume Pagoda) is located in Huong Son district, Hanoi. This is a complex of pagodas, set amidst mountains, forests, lakes and caves and surrounded by vast green rice-growing plains.
The Yen Stream flows between two mountains for 3 km. However, sitting on the boat and enjoying the surrounding landscape, visitors may feel that this stream is endless. During the festive season, the stream is full of boats carrying pilgrims who have come to enjoy the landscape of Huong Son.
Traveling along the Yen Stream, visitors pass by landscapes, many of which are named according to their forms. On the left is Phoenix Mountain; there is also Doi Cheo Mountain, which looks like an Indian python. Also on the left are Bung and Voi, two mountains having interesting legends. On the right is Ngu Nhac Mountain with the Trinh Temple where visitors stop and burn incense for the God of the Mountain. Before reaching Tro Wharf, the boat also passes by the Deo and Phong Su Mountains, Son Thuy Huu Tinh Cave, Trau Cave, Hoi Bridge, and Dau Valley.
The boat then stops at Ben Tro where the brook seems to be expanded, as if embracing an earth-cum-limestone mount topped by the Thien Tru Pagoda. The Thien Tru Pagoda (built at the end of 17th century) has a number of stelaes and poems inscribed on the stone walls. Seen from bottom up, the bell tower (8,2m high, 7,8m wide and 9,2m large) is shaped as a lotus flower.
To reach the Tien Son Pagoda and the Giai Oan Pagoda from Thien Tru Pagoda, visitors follow a small path, turn right, and then continue for about 1 km. The Giai Oan Pagoda is a small one to worship Bodhisattva Quan Am, located on a high mountain in Nui Tien Grotto. Inside the pagoda and grotto there are multi-forms of stalactites. Music can be made by knocking on several of these stalactites.
Visitors keep going to the Huong Tich Pagoda and Grotto, about 1.5 km from the Giai Oan Pagoda. The Huong Tich Cave is considered as the most picturesque cave in Vietnam. The cave is located deep into a mountain, 120 steps from the gate which looks like the mouth of a dragon and its upper part is inscribed in stone “Nam Thien De Nhat Dong” (the most beautiful cave in the South) reportedly written by Trinh Sam Lord (1767-1782). Inside the Huong Tich Cave, there are statues of Lord Buddha, of Bodhisatva (the Goddess of Mercy) and of others. The statues of Lord Buddha and Bodhisatva are made of green stone. A big bell, still in existence, was also cast in 1793.
The cave also contains many stalactites and stalagmites of various forms which scintillate in the light, and bear such names as: the heap of rice, the heap of coins, the Gold Tree, the Silver Tree, the Basket of Silkworms, the Cocoon, the Girl, the Boy… There is also a group of stone drops similar to nine dragons.
The legend says that Bodhisatva went to the South and stayed at Huong Tich Pagoda in order to help save human souls. The legend and the history book of the Huong Pagoda also say that the Huong Tich cave became a well-known place of worship over one thousand years ago.
In addition to the Huong Tich Cave, the visitors can also see the Tuyet Son Mountain and from there have a full panorama of Huong Son area with rivers and brooks crossing the landscape, stone walls following one another like a long rampart, and valleys where grow apricot-trees which blossom in spring time and decorate mountains by their white flowers.
Especially, the Huong Pagoda Festival takes place in spring every year and attracts tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims coming to implore the spirits for good luck, wealth, and happiness, and also to admire the beautiful landscapes of the area.
The Huong Pagoda has a long history in Vietnamese literature. This pagoda, its name, has been a theme of many songs, topic of poetry, used in literary works as well as backdrops for paintings. The scenery of Huong Son is that the mountains, river and forest and appears like an oasis for buddhists in the middle of the great plains of northern Vietnam.