By: Parallels and Meridians
It is said that a visit to Hue isn’t complete without a boat excursion on the stunning Perfume River. Sông Hương, as it is known is Vietnam, crosses the central province of Thua Thien Hue and gets its name from the fact that the river flows thorough many forests filled with aromatic plants which brings a fresh and pure aroma to Hue.
Source and flow of inspiration
The perfume river has 2 sources: both of the sources meet at Bang Lang Fork and meet at Truong Son mountain range. The left tributary called as Ta Trach starts in the Truong Dong Mountains and flows towards Bang Lang Fork and the right and shorter tributary known as Huu Trach flows to the same point but through the Tuan ferry.
Its flow then goes in the south-north direction and passes the temples of Ngoc Tran and Hon Chen before turning north west and flowing through the Luong Quan plains and Nguyet Bieu. Then the river flows continuously into the north-east direction and passes through the resting spot of Nguyen emperors. The river then continues its path and passes various villages before finally emptying into the Tam Giang Lagoon.
From Bang Lang to Thuan, the river is about 30 kms long and flows at a very slow pace and has served as a source of inspiration for several composers, artists and poets. ‘Who comes to Hue’ is a beautiful song written by Duy Khanh describing the perfume river’s beauty.
During the autumn season, flowers from orchards upriver fall into the river and give it a beautiful aroma which is why artists and poets have fallen in love with the river and the inspiration it provides.
Travelers who have been to Hue have admitted that the Perfume River is one of the most splendid and stunning riverside landscapes they have ever seen, especially at night when all the lights are on. When night comes, the river water glistens under the moonlight and songs from boat rowers breaks the silence and the atmosphere, filled with beauty and romance.
This popular attraction also houses another sacred attraction: Thien Mu Pagoda, situated on the north bank of the river, a few miles away from central Hue.
The sacred spot
This sacred spot is located on the Ha Khe hill on the bank of the Perfume River. The temple complex is spread across the riverbanks in 7 successive tiers (each one representing a step to enlightenment or the 7 human forms taken by Buddha).
The complex of monastic buildings is in the center and it is where the monks are involved in their routine of stacking wood, cooking and whacking weeds. Novice monks can also be seen practicing calligraphy. A building near the complex contains a national relic: Monk Thich Quang Duc’s car which he rode to Saigon from his temple on the 11th of June 1963. He is said to have gotten out the car at an intersection and then went on to sit down in a lotus position and set himself on fire to protest against the violation of religious freedom by the regime.
Tourists from all over come to this sacred spot on the Hue River and observe the praying rituals of the monks here and it is said to be one of the most hauntingly beautiful experiences in Vietnam.