The Fascinating Perfume Pagoda Complex in Vietnam

One of the day trips that you can take from Hanoi in Vietnam is to visit the Perfume Pagoda Complex, which is a complex of Buddhist temples and shrines that are located on the Huong Tich mountains. It is certainly worth visiting for a variety of reasons, but be aware that during the festival time, from mid-January through mid-March, hundreds of thousands of visitors make their way to Perfume Pagoda. We visited in late fall, so there weren’t many visitors although preparations for the festival were already beginning. After taking a car to the town nearby, we boarded a rowboat to make our way through the countryside, which is absolutely beautiful. About halfway through the hour-long boat ride, other boats came by to offer us food, drinks, and other items to buy.

Scenery Along the River
Temple at a Local Home on the River
Passing Other Boats
Some of the Many Hills in the Countryside

Once we docked in Ben Tro, which is really a series of restaurants along the river, we made our way to the first of the pagodas that we were to visit. We walked up the long path and stairs to reach Thien Tru Pagoda, which is over 500 years old. On either side of the path, especially as you near the pagoda, are tents selling items to use as offerings as well as restaurants. The architecture, artwork, and cultural features are amazing. We went in the different temples with the golden statues of Buddha and walked throughout the grounds. We saw a few monks on the grounds, but were mostly by ourselves with our guide as we walked among the different buildings. It was a wonderful start to our time in Perfume Pagoda.

Temple Architecture
Golden Statues of Buddha
View from the Main Temple
Standing at the Entrance to the Pagoda

After visiting Thien Thru Pagoda, we went to one of the restaurants. Normally the tours of Perfume Pagoda have large groups of people visiting together, but even though it was just the two of us, we were treated to a feast. It was way too much food, but it did give us the opportunity to try many different local dishes. We were served beef with fried potatoes, an omelet with spring onions, Bok Choy, fish from the river, fried chicken, stir fry, fresh fruit, and rice. Of course we put the spicy pepper sauce, Chin-Su, on everything. Although we couldn’t eat it all, we definitely tried a little bit of everything and also enjoyed a couple of cold beers to help cool us off on the hot day.

Fish and Other Dishes
Others Enjoying a Meal
Beautiful Vase in the Thien Tru Pagoda
View as You Pass Through the Gate to Thien Tru Pagoda

After lunch, we made our way past more of the stalls where monks were actually browsing through some of the items for sale, to get our tickets for the cable car that will take you to the top of the mountain. You can take the path to top of the mountain, and when it is busy it is pretty much the only choice, but we chose to take the cable car up and then walk down the mountainside afterwards. We had to wait a little while for the cable car as only a couple were running due to the lack of visitors, but it was well worth the wait as the cable car gets you above the trees to get wonderful views of the country.

Cable Car
Monks Browsing Items for Sale
View from the Summit
Scenery from the Cable Car Platform

Once we reached the top of the mountain, we made our way up, then down, to Huong Tich Cave. The cave itself is quite beautiful, but the reason for going there is see Chua Trong or the Inner Temple inside of the cave. After spending time walking around the cave, we started our way down the 2.5 km (1.5 mile) trail that is again lined with stalls selling items to use as souvenirs or as offerings to be left at the temple. Most of them were not open during our visit, but we can only imagine what it must be like during the height of the festival when thousands of people would line the pathway.

Offerings at the Cave Entrance
Marker Within the Cave
Temple Inside Huong Tich Cave
Exiting Huong Tich Cave

After a very full day, our boat took us back along the Song Huong River so that we could return to Hanoi. We took several tours during our time in Vietnam, including the Ninh Binh Province and Halong Bay, but going to Perfume Pagoda was definitely an incredible experience. If you have time while visiting Hanoi, we’d highly recommend taking this tour to see the various temples and beautiful countryside.

Temple Building on the Side of the Mountain
Thien Tru Temple Gate
Items for Sale in a Stall
More of the Incredible Countryside
Walking Through Thien Tru Pagoda
Heading Back from Perfume Pagoda after a Full Day

Vietnamese Egg Coffee (Café Trung)

One of the things that we enjoyed during our visit to Hanoi in Vietnam was egg coffee. We had heard and read about it prior to our trip and it was highly recommended that we gave it a try. It can be found on the menus of almost every café and we enjoyed it at a coffee shop just outside of the St. Joseph’s Cathedral. We also had it during our cooking class and we got the recipe from the class instructor. We also received some really good Vietnamese coffee as a gift before we left Vietnam, but obviously it can be made with any good coffee. Some people might find it a little sweet, but that also depends on the strength of the coffee that you make it with. This was our first attempt to make it at home and we were really pleased with how it turned out.

Egg Coffee at the Café in Hanoi


  • 4 cups Vietnamese or Robust Coffee
  • 4 Egg Yolks
  • 4 tbsp Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2 tsp Honey
  • Chocolate Shavings
Making Egg Coffee in the Cooking Class in Hanoi


Make the coffee per the directions on the package. Separate the egg yolks from the whites and place them in a bowl. Vigorously whisk the eggs until they thicken. Add the condensed milk and honey and continue to whisk vigorously until the egg mixture reaches the consistency of a custard (using an electric blender will help with this). Pour the coffee into individual cups. Using a spoon, gently poor the custard over the top of the coffee. Sprinkle with the chocolate shavings and enjoy.

Egg Custard
Vietnamese Coffee (Our Gift)
Egg Coffee at Home

Enjoying the Traditional Dish of Bún Chả in Hanoi, Vietnam

During our trip to Vietnam, we went to the same Bún Chả restaurant twice because we enjoyed it so much. Bún chả is thought to have originated in Hanoi and it is a dish made of ground pork and noodles, which typically served with egg rolls. We actually learned to cook Bún Chả during the cooking class that we took while we were in Hanoi. Many people think of Pho when they think of Vietnamese cooking, but Bún Chả is certainly just as popular, at least in the region around the capital city.

Other Guests Enjoying Bún Chả
The Pork Meatballs for Our Bún Chả
Recommended Bún Chả Restaurant in Hanoi’s Old Quarter
Our First Restaurant Version of Bún Chả

One of things that makes Bún Chả different from Pho is that Pho is a soup, but the liquid in Bún Chả is used as a dipping sauce and isn’t meant to be slurped up with a spoon. It is definitely a menu item that you will find at most of the street side restaurants where everyone gathers around in the colorful, tiny chairs. We don’t usually eat the same meal several times during a trip as we want to try as many variations of local dishes as possible so it was very unusual to actually eat Bún Chả three different times during our two week trip.

The Tiny Chairs at Street Side Restaurant
Frying the Spring Rolls at Our Cooking Class
Bún Chả on Our Last Night in Hanoi