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Asia Trip 2011: Day 3 – Perfume Pagoda

We both decided the day before that we had had enough of the traffic and congestion and pollution within Ha Noi, so we opted for a day trip to balance off the rest of our stay. For $17 USD, we received the following:
- pick up from hotel at 8am
- drop off at hotel at 5pm
- air-conditioned bus
- English speaking tour guide
- boat ride down yen river
- entrance fee to Perfume Pagoda
- lunch

A gondola ride one way (either up or down) to the pagoda will cost an additional $5 USD, two days for $10. The bus ride out to the river drop-off was about an hour, and the boat ride (rowed by some pretty hardcore ladies) was another hour. On our tour, we met an older Vietnamese couple from Mississauga and chatted with them about Vietnamese history and culture (their English was much easier to understand in comparison to our guide). They told us that the Vietnamese used to used Chinese characters as their written language, but didn’t form sentences the same way as the Chinese. This is the most likely explanation for why A’s translations around the city weren’t very good. His hurt ego returned to normal after hearing that news!

Overall, a day trip to the perfume pagoda is fairly fun. It’s a lot of sitting around though – 1.5 hours by van followed by 1 hour sitting on a boat. The boat ride itself is very relaxing and the scenery is beautiful. We had a slightly heavier boat so the majority of the trip was spent not being able to move very much and I ended up getting numb in one leg trying to ensure the boat stayed upright (I’m sure the five other people felt the same way).

Another interesting thing to note is that I read several reviews saying that people were hassled for money throughout the whole trip. I should be wary of thieves, of scams, of pushy sales people. I experienced none of that, and thought it was very odd. Actually, the trip seemed extremely quiet (very few tourists), and the entire walk up to the pagoda was completely deserted except for two or three stores, where the owners didn’t even bother asking you more than once if you wanted to buy a water. It was completely dead. The empty stalls covered up with tarps were a sad sight to what could’ve been a very lively area.

On the way back, the boat ladies hassled us for tips, but left us alone when we told them no. It didn’t seem at all as bad as I had read in reviews. The only awkward moment was when the Vietnamese couple from Canada asked the entire bus to tip our guide. Several people said that they would tip on their own as they see fit, but the couple continued to remind people (and us) as we got into the city.

If you have a free day and are done with exploring Ha Noi, I suggest that this go into your itinerary. If you’re fit, you can certainly walk both up and down to the pagoda (they say it’s 45 minutes but it didn’t take us more than 30).

After being dropped off at our hotel, we asked the receptionist downstairs to order us some bun cha. She got us our dinner at the local rate, and we gladly ate it in the comfort of our hotel dining area. The day ended here, and we went to sleep excited for our Halong Bay trip the next day.

One Response to “Asia Trip 2011: Day 3 – Perfume Pagoda”

  1. November 14th, 2011 at 3:55 am

    Dan says:

    That’s really cool that you met someone from Mississauga half way around the world! :)

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