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Thay & Tay Phuong Pagodas

From Hanoi travel to two different pagodas, Thay and Tay Phuong are very often combined in a day trip or half-day trip from Hanoi since their neighbouring locations. Thay pagoda, located 40km west of Hanoi in a tranquil and beautiful village, is combination of Buddhist pagodas and a Taoist Temple, which is dedicated to Tu Dao Hanh, a Taoist hermit lived in 12th century who was considered one of the karmas of king Ly Than Tong. The temple preserve many precious worshipping objects like the statues of Tu Dao Hanh describe three "karmas" of this figure, wooden and stone bas-relieves and steles, lacquered statues, thrones, bells. If you have much time, take a walk surrounding to reach the higher pagodas on the mountainside or visit the cave where they have found some skeletons and ancient coins in early 20th century. 

Thay Pagoda is also known for a big pavilion in the middle of a pond facing the main temple. Water puppetry performances take place here at festival time, particularly in the third lunar month where pilgrims rush in. Two ancient roofed bridges over the pond built in 1602 increase the natural beauty of the combination. 

8km away from Thay pagoda is the Tay Phuong pagoda, sited on the hilltop. There are 239 laterite steps uphill to the pagoda, and from this height opens a wonderful aerial view of the surrounded fields, laterite mountains and villages. Most of the structure was rebuilt in the 17th and 18th century and has a big significance of classic architecture. Almost the tiles, wooden relieves, rafters are preserved well with their traditional ornaments like lotus-shape, marguerites, banyan leaves, dragon, tiger which are quite popular to Vietnamese decoration style. Inside the pagoda are 75 famous jackwood Arhat statues, which are considered the best of the plastic arts and sculpture of Vietnam. The statues either describe different legends of Buddha and his disciples, or express the meditation and will of the people to release themselves from ordinary pains and reach the enlightenment. Both Thay and Tay Phuong pagodas are easy to reach and suitable for either visit by bus or biking tours. 
"Chua Huong" (the Perfume Pagoda). 
Best combination of boat trip, sightseeing, mountain climbing and religious pilgrimage

"Chua Huong" - the Perfume Pagoda is the name of a collection of Buddhist temples which are very sacred to Vietnamese people of Buddhist faith, and an annual visit up here in springtime is a must to a lot of believers.

Located on the limestone rocks of Huong Son Mountain in beautiful and mystical surroundings, the pagodas are 70 km or two-hour driving out of Hanoi. Unlike other temples in Vietnam, the only way to reach this sanctuary is floating along a narrow but extremely poetic stream by rowing boats that takes 45 minutes. An iron boat can carry 3-5 people and a large wooden boat - up to 20 locals. 

The stream is edged by rice, grass, small paths, and temples here and there. A local pilgrim can spend here traditionally three days to visit entirely the area and pray at all the temples. The first temple they often stop is called Den Trinh (i.e. The Shrine for First Presenting), where Vietnamese burn the first jossticks to inform the local deities about their presence and pray for a good trip and good luck for the year ahead. If you are anxious to reach the main Wharf of Huong Son mountain to start the uphill trip to see the Main Grotto of Huong Tich, you may skip this temple, especially in the peak season between January and early April. 

The uphill trip takes an hour climbing on the ancient flat and sometime slippery stones, which have been here thousand years ago. The road is "breathtaking" in all aspects - you will have some exercise, and at the same time have chance to take some stops to contemplate beautiful scenery and daily life of local farmers, who plant cassava and apricots in the valleys, who run quickly on the slippery stone with their burdens of tapioca, apricots or medicinal herbs whilst you are careful with your steps. The main pagoda is set in a huge grotto containing a highly decorative shrine. Each stalactite and stalagmite inside, which are soaked by undercurrent, is combined with a legend about its miracle and good luck. Most of them became small shrines by now. Remember that the stone grotto is huge and very cool, so stop for a while at the entrance to dry your sweat before coming in. 
The main festive days of Chua Huong stretches from January to early April, busy and exciting. Sometimes it's drizzling and the Vietnamese all believe that the real good things will reach you if you catch rainwater after praying in a sacred pagoda. And among all the sacred temples and pagodas in Northern Vietnam, Chua Huong is even more attractive and mysterious not only for its spectacular scenery, but for the painstaking road you passed over to reach to the top.