The Gems of Ninh Binh Province
06.12.2015 - 06.12.2015
Hanoi is a capital of Vietnam strategically located in the north of Vietnam, not only due to its proximity with China but the city is also easily connected to various provinces in Northern Vietnam that offers some of the most spectacular natural landscapes. Halong Bay was listed under the UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the most visited place by travellers to Vietnam all due to the reputation of being one of the selected natural wonders in the world. In fact, if you visited Vietnam but missed out on a day tour out of Hanoi to get a glimpse of Halong Bay that would be tantamount to being not having visited Vietnam! There of course have been many nice and wonderful things said about Halong Bay since this is a UNESCO recognised area as world's unique landscapes but in fact, greater Hanoi has more to offer than just Halong Bay. Tam Coc is another great natural landscapes that Northern Vietnam has to offer to visitors, which was dubbed as the inland Halong Bay. Tam Coc literally means three caves has very similar landscapes structures as that of Halong Bay but the limestone or the karst hills were naturally developed on lakes rather than the sea. Tam Coc was located in Ninh Binh province close to Hanoi and normally a tour here would include visit to the Hoa Lu province, the ancient city of Vietnam which main highlights to access to the temple of one of the ancient Vietnamese king, Dinh Tien Hoang. I visited Hoa Lu an Tam Coc back in early 2010, in which after a visit to the Dinh Tien Hoang Temple, cycled with fellow tour individuals and couples to Tam Coc. The view surrounding the areas between the 2 locations can be summed up simply as breathtaking. Tam Coc was blessed with yet another fabulous landscapes and in my opinion was much more astounding in comparison to Halong Bay. Cruising along the lakes on the backdrop of the karst hills brought one so close to the nature and the air and view were so fresh and incredible.
The huge concourse at Bai Dinh Pagoda
The signboard that marks the name of Bai Dinh Pagoda at the concourse area
The main entrance gate to Bai Dinh Pagoda. On the background is the almost completed multi-storey pagoda structure
The entrance gate to Bai Dinh Pagoda
SAMPAN CRUISE AT TRANG AN
In Ninh Binh province, such karst hills landscapes were abundant and not only specifically in Tam Coc but in surrounding areas including Trang An (pronounced as Chang An). This trip to Hanoi, I had the opportunity to visit Trang An, which offers very similar natural landscapes experience as that in Tam Coc but yet, this tour was a total different eye opening experience that brought visitors through a sampan cruise on a massive lake surrounded by multiple limestone hills. What was different between Tam Coc and Trang An? Trang An sampan cruise will bring visitors through 9 caves throughout the journey while admiring the natural scenery while Tam Coc was more of open sampan cruise but offers much spectacular view and beautiful landscapes. The caves located in Trang An offers some of the most remarkable tour experience and brought my mind back to my visit to Trang province in Thailand when touring the Le Khaokob cave and the Konglor cave in Thakhek, Laos.
Included in the Trang An tour is the Bai Dinh Pagoda, which is a sprawling temple or shrine dedicated to the Goddess of Kuan In, Lord Buddha and the notable Vietnamese monks whom had contributed greatly in religion education within Vietnam. Bai Dinh Pagoda complex was a massive shrine, grand as well as majestic to describe the structure in totality. It resembles a huge citadel and makes one feel like touring a royal palace when visiting Bai Dinh Pagoda. The pagoda boundary starts with an extensive concourse which overlook a grand entrance gate and wall, which structures were mostly made from wood. The doors and the windows of the entrance gate and walls were built with very strong traditional and ancient Vietnamese architectures. On the frontage of the main gate was the huge structures of the shrine guard Lords. On the left and right of main entrance gate there was a see through straight and long walkways, which also formed the main entrance wall from the outside. Walking through this walkways will lead visitors through multiple monks sculptures with name embedded on each of them. These monks were noted to had contributed greatly in developing religious awareness in Vietnam, in particular Northern Vietnam. Continuing the walk from the main gate entrance, passing through the many sculptures of monks and Buddha figurines on the wall, visitors will arrived at a mid-sized lake. From here, there are staircase to walk up to the main Bai Dinh Pagoda shrine. The walk finally brought visitors to the ultimate shrine building which houses the golden Lord Buddha sculpture, a Kuan In sculpture and few other combination sculptures of notable monk, lords and guards. From outside the shrine, a multiple storey pagoda can be seen here which has yet to be completed. Trang and and Bai Dinh Pagoda tours offers great tour experience while visiting Hanoi and definitely worth the time and money spent.
THE SPRAWLING BAI DINH PAGODA IN NINH BINH