From Tran Hung Dao two roads wiggle south, offering pleasant detours out into the countryside – the half-day bike ride outlined below will put a little definition on your calves. Khe Sanh branches south off Tran Hung Dao, opposite Pham Hong Thai, and further south leads back to Highway 20. The focus of this detour is Thien Vuong Pagoda, remarkable for its trio of four-metre-tall sandalwood statues (Sakyamuni, in the centre, rubs shoulders with the Goddess of Mercy and the God of Power), imported from Hong Kong in 1958, and for the huge statue of Buddha seated on a lotus, 100m up the hill above the pagoda. Stalls in front of Thien Vuong hawk the usual candied strawberries, artichoke tea and cu ly to the Vietnamese tourists who flock here, many of whom are young girls who come from all over Vietnam to pray for good fortune and a successful marriage.

Further east, Hoang Hoa Tham leads to colourful Linh Phong Pagoda, which is fronted by a gateway bearing a fierce, panting dragon face with protruding eyes. Behind its gaudy yellow doors, the pagoda exudes a peaceful aura. Its resident nuns are very friendly and the remote location affords peerless views of the cultivated and wooded valley below.

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