Huong Pagoda is located in Huong Son commune, My Duc district, Hanoi city, about sixty two kilometers southwest of Hanoi. Huong Son’s mountains, rivers and forests make it unique the great plains of northern Vietnam. This complex of pagodas is set amidst mountains, forests, lakes and cakes surrounded by vast green plains of rice. Yen Stream flows between two mountains only for about three kilometers; however, visitors enjoying a boat ride through the surrounding landscape may feel that this stream is endless.
Small boats carrying pilgrims crowd the stream during the festival season. Visitors pass karst forms, many of which are named for animals such as Nui Phuong Hoang (Phoenix Mountain), Nui Cheo (Cheo Mountain) which resembles an Indian python. Ngu Nhac Mountain houses Trinh temple, where visitors can stop and burn incense for the God of the mountain. Before reaching Tro Wharf, the boats pass by Chieng and Ong Su Mountains, Son Thuy Huu Tinh Cave, Trau Cave, Hoi Bridge and Dau Valley.
The boat then stops at Tro Wharf, where the brook seems to expand, as if embracing an earth-cum-limestone mount topped by Thien Tru Pagoda. Built at the end of seventeenth century, Thien Tru Pagoda has many poems inscribed on its stone walls. Its bell tower, which is 8.2 meters tall, is shaped like a lotus flower.
Visitors can follow a small path from Thien Tru Pagoda, turn right, and then continue for about a kilometer to Thien Son Pagoda and Giai Oan Pagoda. Giai Oan Pagoda, which was built to worship Bodhisattva Quan Am and is on a high mountain in Nui Tien Grotto, has stalactites than can be tapped to make musical sounds.
Visitors can continue along the path to the Huong Tich Pagoda and Grotto, about kilometer and a half from Giai Oan Pagoda. Many consider Huong Tich to be Vietnam’s most picturesque cave; it is deep within a mountain and about 120 steps from the opening, which looks like the mouth of a dragon. Inscribed on the gate is Nam Thien De Nhat Dong (the most beautiful cave in the South), reportedly written by Lord Trinh Sam (1767-1782). Inside Huong Tich cave are statues of Buddha and the Bodhisattva Goddess of Mercy made of green stone as well as a big bell, which was cast in 1793.
The cave’s many stalactites and stalagmites bear names such as: “Heap of Rice”, “Heaps of Coins”, “Silver Tree”, “Gold Tree”, “Basket of Silkworms”, “Cocoon”, “Boy”. One group of stone drops resembles nine dragons. Legend has it that Bodhisattva Quan Am travelled to the South and stayed at Huong Tich Pagoda to help save human souls. Such legends and Huong Pagoda’s historical records indicate that Huong Tich cave was a well-known place of worship over a thousand years ago.
Visitors can also see Tuyet Son Mountain and, from its summit, take a panorama of the Huong Son area with its many rivers and brooks crossing the landscape and view the stone walls that follow one another like a long rampart. In spring, the apricot trees thriving in valley’s bloom, adorning the landscape in white. Huong Son and Huong Pagoda has been the subject of many songs, poems, and paintings. The Huong Pagoda’s Spring Festival attracts tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims, who come to admire the area’s beautiful landscape and implore the spirits of good luck, wealth and happiness.