Clinging to the flanks of a soaring, limestone escarpment around 90 minutes’ drive southwest of Hanoi, the legendary Perfume Pagoda is one of Southeast Asia’s most arresting spectacles. The complex, buried deep in the wooded slopes of Nui Huong Tich (‘Fragrant Vestige Mountain’), comprises 30 separate shrines, the most revered of them the Huong Tich Pagoda, which is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy and occupies a deep, incense-filled cavern. Visitors travel to the foot of the sacred mountain up a flooded valley in a fleet of small river boats, rowed exclusively by women – a journey through a sublime landscape of forested karst hills and waterlogged paddy fields.

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