Stunning limestone outcrops loom up from the emerald green paddy fields and clinging to the cliffs are these two pagodas, about 20 minutes apart from each other by road.
Thay Pagoda (Master’s Pagoda; admission 5000d), also known as Thien Phuc (Heavenly Blessing), is dedicated to Thich Ca Buddha (Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha). To the left of the main altar is a statue of the 12th-century monk Tu Dao Hanh, the master in whose honour the pagoda is named. To the right is a statue of King Ly Nhan Tong, who is believed to have been a reincarnation of Tu Dao Hanh.
In front of the pagoda is a small stage built on stilts in the middle of a pond; water-puppet shows are staged here during festivals. Follow the path around the outside of the main pagoda building, and take a steep 10-minute climb up to a beautiful smaller pagoda perched high on the rock. Thay Pagoda is a big and confusing complex for non-Buddhists – consider hiring a pagoda guide to get the most from a visit.
The pagoda’s annual festival is held from the fifth to the seventh days of the third lunar month. Pilgrims and other visitors enjoy watching water-puppet shows, hiking and exploring caves in the area.
Tay Phuong Pagoda (Pagoda of the West; admission 5000d), also known as Sung Phuc Pagoda, consists of three single-level structures built in descending order on a hillock said to resemble a buffalo. The figures representing ‘the conditions of man’ are carved from jackfruit wood, many dating from the 18th century, and are the pagoda’s most celebrated feature. The earliest construction here dates from the 8th century. Take the steep steps up to the main pagoda building, then find a path at the back that loops down past the other two pagodas and wanders through the hillside village that surrounds the complex.