Thousands of pilgrims have crowded the Huong Pagoda in My Duc District, Hanoi, as the namesake festival, among the largest of its kind in Vietnam, is just a day away.
Although the Huong Pagoda Festival starts on Thursday, the sixth day of the lunar year, a massive influx of pilgrims has already flooded the venue since Tuesday.
According to the observation of Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters, vehicles were queuing in long lines in front of parking lots around the pagoda at 9:00 am on Tuesday.
Boats taking visitors along the nearby lake were also filled with passengers, with competent agencies powerless to stop the rafts from cramming travelers.
According to a ferryman, the number of people flocking to the pagoda ahead of the festival is much higher than that of previous years.
“I had to work until 10:00 pm last night. Many pilgrims arrived in large groups, making it difficult for us to arrange them in different boats,” he continued.
Tourists who wanted to visit the Huong Tich Cave had to wait for several hours before boarding the cable cars that took them up the mountain.
Pilgrims crowd the main hall of the pagoda. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The path connecting the cable car station with the grotto was jammed with people. It took over an hour for pilgrims to walk the 500-meter journey instead of 15 minutes on normal days.
The main hall of the Trinh Shrine was also filled with pilgrims, while monks had to limit the amount of incense lit at the venue.
Admission for 21 sites within the Huong Pagoda complex this year has increased from VND49,000 (US$2.17) to VND80,000 ($3.54) per person.
Huong Pagoda comprises a complex of pagodas and Buddhist shrines built into the limestone cliffs of the Huong Mountain.
The Huong Pagoda Festival is among the greatest Buddhist festivals in the northern part of Vietnam, lasting for three months, from the first to the third month in the lunar calendar.
The pagoda is expected to welcome some 1.5 million visitors in 2017, generating about VND100 billion ($4.42 million) in donations, which will be used to re-invest in the venue.
People queue in long lines at the cable car station to the Huong Tich grotto. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Visitors gather at souvenir stalls at the pagoda. Photo: Tuoi Tre