Visit Ninh Binh ancient capital (Part 2)
11. Visit Trang An eco-tourism area where has been ranked by Vietnam Government as a special important national monument and recognized by UNESCO the World Heritage Site since 2014. Trang An was called Southern citadel of the capital Hoa Lu, now is the ancient capital Hoa Lu.There are many controversies surrounding the famous poem: “Even though not elegant, this is Trang An” derived from here, not related to Hanoi. If any, Trang An people moved to Hanoi after the King’s immigrant.
Trang An is one of the most beautiful and charming Karst towers in the world. Covering all the landscape are forests and huge conical hills with 200m high, narrow enclosed valleys surrounded by interconnected mountain crests, intermittent swamps through the underground stream system with the length up to 1 km.
The harmony of stones, rivers, forests and sky in Trang An create a lively natural world full of charm. This is a very special place where cultures meet the wonders, the mysteries and majesty of the natural world transforming the culture.
Trang An has a beautiful nature with mountains, mysterious caves, calm water,sacred sites and the rich and rare flora and fauna, typically a limestone karst rising among the relatively flat coastal plain of North Vietnam. The rising limestone intermingled with a series of regular streams and seasonally inundated valleys. Going to Trang An, please remember to go to Thung Nang (Sunshine Swamp) in Trang An tourist complex. It is beautiful as fairy tales.
12. Tam Coc Bich Dong – a very famous place appearing on foreign newspapers: Also known for the famous names “Halong bay on land” or “Nam Thien Cave II”. The whole area includes a system of limestone caves and historical relics related to Tran Dynasty’s Vu Lam cave, which has been classified by the Prime Minister of Vietnam as a special national monument and has been classified by UNESCO the world heritage.
The scenery of Tam Coc, especially on the shores of Ngo Dong River can be changed according to rice seasons (green rice, yellow rice or silver water in the field). Bich Dong is located 2 km from Tam Coc wharf, which means “Green Cave” named by the prime minister Nguyen Nghiem, the father of the great poet Nguyen Du in 1773. This is one of the landscapes in the group was called the “The best cave in Nam Thien”, specifically Bich Dong is known as “Nam Thien Cave II” – the second most beautiful in the South [ after Huong Tich (top 1) in Huong Son and before Dich Long Cave (top 3) in Kem Trong].
Bich Dong consists of a dry cave located on the middle of the mountain (made Bich Dong Pagoda) and a water cave pierced through the mountain (called Xuyen Thuy Dong). In front of the cave is a branch of Ngo Dong River bending on the side of the mountain; on the other side of the river is the rice field.
13. While Trang An, Tam Coc – Bich Dong are popular destinations, Thung Nham still seems to be a relatively unknown name for visitors to Ninh Binh. However, if you love the natural beauty of two landscapes that have been described as “Ha Long on land” of the ancient land, surely, Thung Nham’s poetic beauty will not disappoint you.
Thung Nham is a harmony of clouds, mountains and rivers surrounded by limestone mountains covered by a green color of tropical forests. On the tranquil scenery of each boat tour in the blue water around the limestone mountains, the boat will take you hiking in the land of birds.
You will be able to see countless species of birds, most commonly the stork, heron, teal, copsychus malabaricus to sturnidae. In particular, it is home of many rare birds in the Red Book. They parked high branches, teasing, flying like dancing to attract people’s eyes.
Not only having chance to explore the wildlife of birds,when the boat rails deep into flooded forest, visitors also can feel the pristine natural beauty of Thung Nham that is hard to find out in other places. After that, you can visit the cave located in the rocky mountains: Vai Gioi Cave, But Cave, Tien Ca Cave, Thuy Cung Cave, Ba Co Cave.
Leaving the boat, you will walk to the orchard, visiting thousand-year tree, multi-hundred years banyan tree, primary forest, aquaculture area. This is also an ideal place to organize hiking, camping, weekend retreat with many activities such as fishing, camp fire, cultural exchanges.
This place is suitable for one to two days trip. If you intend to sleep overnight, you can stay in stilt houses in the beautiful valley as beautiful as dreamland and enjoy the traditional cuisine of countryside like armpit pigs, hillocks, natural lake fish, bamboo shoots, wild vegetables, and refresh your mind in the peaceful tranquil space of Doi Nham valley.
14. Do not forget to visit Mua Cave – located at the foot of Dancing mountain. It has the shape of the big bell with about 800m2 wide. From the bottom of the mountain visitors can clearly see the white stone steps leading to the top of the mountain look like a mini Great Wall. The two sides of the ladder are carefully ornamental stones with dragons or phoenixes carved right to the dragon and phoenix in Art of Tran’s Dynasty, very majestic, sharp and beautiful.
Located in the center of the monument is a large ancient green artificial lake, the two sides are shady trees creating an extremely beautiful airy space to have a panoramic view of the spiritual mountain. The green lake is characteristic of the moss, the old ficus microcarpa stretching root firmly into the lake.
At the top of the mountain, a statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva with the eyes looking down the whole ancient land in tranquility.
Road to the top of the mountain is inspired from the Great Wall of China, from the foot of the mountain, visitors will clearly see the white stairs leading to mountain peak, look like the road to dreamland. From the top of the mountain, travellers can see the panorama of Ninh Binh tourism, the surrounding areas such as Tam Coc, Bich Dong or Trang An scenic spots.
15. Thien Ha Cave is not as famous as Trang An, Bich Dong, but once you come here, you will love this sparkling and shimmering space.
From Muong Tho Ha village, a small boat sailing on the 1-km small channel of the Ben river system will be enough for you to watch the two peaceful riverside.
Not spacious and overwhelming but Thien Thai cave still draws the visitor’s eyes thanks to the art masterpieces molded under Mother Nature’s hand. Pass through the gates about 3-4 m high is a cave with 700m length including both dry and wet caves. Dry cave is not very large, only about 200m long but when stepping inside you will feel like a gold palace with stalactites shining in the sun.
This is because the cave possesses a circular hole like a well of the sky, pouring natural light to the bottom creating the open space. On sunny days, the light reflects to the stalactites, radiating out the color strings, it’s purple or gold, very eye-catching. The space in the cave is not as dark as usual caves but always airy.
Satisfying with the dry caves, you continue to the boat drifting down to the water cave. Sparkling stalactites reflect the sunlight, silver water like thousand of stars shining at night, making visitors feel like gliding between a sparkling galaxy.
According to experts, stalactites in the Thien Ha cave are still alive and in development. Especially, the cave is still intact with tens of thousands of wild bats. Archaeologists also found traces of ancient Vietnamese with mollusk shells, raw pottery pieces, animal bones, turtle shells.
16. During the tour, you should visit Van Trinh Cave – the largest and most beautiful cave of Ninh Binh Province (in Yen Hoa Commune, Nho Quan district), comparable to Thien Cung Cave in Ha Long Bay Quang Ninh).
The cave is located in a mountain higher than a hundred meters with the entrance is in the middle of the mountain, about 40 meters above the ground. Visitors will travel by boat from Hoang Long River. Travellers from Ninh Binh city can go to the cave along Trang An Avenue from Ky Lan Lake to Trang An Ecological Tourist Area, Bai Dinh Pagoda extends to the cave.
The area of Van Trinh is very large, more than 4000 m². The highest dome is above 100m, the floor has many unique flowers. Deep in the cave is a Dragon well spraying water from the bottom. There are many stalactites sparkling with many shapes and colors. The air in the cave is quite cool and pleasant. The most spiritual value in the cave is stone stalactites figuring out the “penis” of the man, located opposite to a small hole called “door of birth”. People having few children often touch and go through the door to pray for having child. That’s really miraculous.
17. You should definitely visit Phat Diem Cathedral church, this is a population of Catholic church about 22 ha, located in Phat Diem town, Kim Son district. Phat Diem cathedral is regarded by the media as one of the most beautiful churches in Vietnam as “Catholic capital” of Vietnam.
This is a large building, the cathedral church of the vast diocese of Phat Diem in northern Vietnam. The church was built entirely of stone and wood. Phat Diem Cathedral was started in 1875 and was completed in 1898. The unique feature of this project is that although it is a catholic church, it is imitated after the traditional architecture of Vietnamese temples. This architectural complex was gradually built up by Paster Phero Tran Luc (also known as Uncle Sau) – a priest in Phat Diem diocese since 1865) and Catholic people for more than 30 years.
The church was built with the technical and traffic conditions of the late nineteenth century. From the South, Phat Diem church includes lake, Phuong Temple, the Cathedral, three artificial stone caves and stone churches.
19. Brick Church known as Chau Son Monastery ( Thanh Mau Chau Son Monastery) is a unique place only Ninh Binh has. Built in 1939, Chau Son Monastery was a monastery of contemplation descended from monastic Thanh Mau Phuoc Son Monastery ( Thanh Mau Phuoc Son Monastery was founded by Father Henri-Denis Bien Duc Thuan in 1918 in Phuoc Son – Quang Tri). Bishop John Baotixita Nguyen Ba Tong – the first Vietnamese took control of Phat Diem Diocese had invited the monks of Phuoc Son to found the Order in Phat Diem diocese.
The Chau Son monastery is located in a quiet mountainous area, in the direction of the West-East axis, designed in Gothic style with a thick wall of up to 0.6 m thick, a 1.2m thick column to create warmth in winter and cool in summer. From two sides, the highlight throughout the length of 64m are the columns designed into small symmetric towers. The walls are decorated in harmony with the windows divided into two upper and lower floors, the interior is the wooden glass door, the exterior is the painting carved the image of the Saints, the person carrying the cross and praying.
Especially, Chau Son Cathedral was designed in the style of Gothic architecture with the main material is raw red brick so it has a different beauty of the truth and warmth.
Inside the church, natural light just enough to enter the two wide corridors through the big windows highlighted rows of cylindrical columns, decorative patterns and reliefs are highly generalized. The 21m high white dome is the pinnacle of architectural art in the heart of the cathedral.
20. If you love the garden, remember to visit Tam Diep farm to see a vast green fruitful farmhouse like the scenery in classic American films. Tam Diep is famous for tea, pineapple and other seasonal fruits. Coming here, you will feel like coming a fairyland without wanting to step out or just want to go on forever and ever to smell the soil, the plants, the flowers and watching the image of farmers working on the farm.
Tam Diep is an ancient land, the traces of prehistoric people in Tam Diep mountain range has shown that this place has long been a cradle of humanity. Tam Diep is located in the interference area of the North West, Red River Delta and North Central. This feature has created a relatively dynamic culture with distinct characteristics on the basis of civilization of the Red River Delta. This is the ancient alluvial land near the foot of the mountain where people have inhabited since very early.
21. After visiting Tam Diep, don’t forget to visit Tam Giao, Tra Tu Cave, climb the mountain Tam Diep – the residence of Quang Trung King during the resistance of the Tay Son Dynasty in the 18th century in the liberation of Thang Long. In the past, my couple travelled and climbed up to the place where the resistance troops lived. It’s really touching and extremely happy.
When going through Tam Diep city, you should burn incense sticks in Quan Ho Temple which is located in the center of the city. Please ask the people they will give directions, this temple is truly miracle.
22. You should also visit Yen Thang Lake, especially those who like to play golf. Yen Thang Lake is a freshwater lake – the largest lake in Ninh Binh with water surface is about 180 ha and water reserve of 6.4 million m3. This Lake is known for its large tourism projects such as Royal Golf Course, Doi Du Tourist Resort, etc. This is also a fishing lake and weekend resort in Ninh Binh.
Yen Thang is about 6 km long, with a circumference of about 15 km. There are two more big areas located in the center of Tam Diep city and Yen Thang communes, the rest of the lake running under the hills of two communes Yen Thanh and Yen Thang creating a harmonious natural landscape and fresh ecological environment.
With a system of spillways, irrigation, convenient transport system is only 15km from Ninh Binh city and the upstream in the center of Tam Diep city, Yen Thang lake becomes an ecological tourist destination, a weekend destination for entertainment for both domestic and foreign visitors.
In addition, the Royal Golf Course at Yen Thang Lake is a beautiful golf course with the largest 54 holes in Vietnam, will be a high quality tourist and entertainment destination.
23. Dong Chuong lake is also a natural fresh water lake between Phu Loc and Phu Long commune in Nho Quan district, Ninh Binh province. The lake has a water surface of about 45 hectares, bending around the pine hills and has a circumference of nearly 6km.
Dong Chuong lake is located far from the urban centers (the buffer zone of Cuc Phuong National Park), so the scenery of the lake is quite wild and quiet. Surrounding the lake are the pine bushes reflecting the shadow creating a cool and romantic space between mountains and great forests.
Near Dong Chuong lake is Ba Tua waterfall and Chin Suoi stream, around the lake is pine hill and Sky Pond – a pond is up on the hill with the blue water but never dry.
24. People are reminded us to add Dich Long Cave so we added it to the list of ” the most three caves in the South” (the third beauty in the South). The relics of the pagoda, Dich Long includes temples located in the majestic mountains in Gia Vien, Ninh Binh.
Open the door, step into the temple courtyard, you will be surprised by a series of pagodas, temples with unique architecture which have been preserved for hundreds of years. There are temples of Ly Quoc Su, Crescent Lake, 5 Towers with 3 floors and 3 downstairs. In particular, there are also three golden statues of Tam The Buddha, made dring the reign of King Thieu Tri and the statue of Buddha, Amitabha carved in monolithic green stone.
Far from the main temple 105 stone steps, there is a beautiful cave. The cave is divided into three rounds: one cave to worship the Buddha, dark caves and light caves. Inside the cave, the entire passage was made by stone steps up and down, creating magical arcs. Many stalactites made from nature, look like sacred animals such as dragon, unicorn, elephant… From the lowest part of the cave to the “sky gate” about 50m, From there, people can see the whole pagodas, Dich Long and other residential areas.
In particular, the stalactites here change with light. Sometimes it’s yellow, sometimes it’s red, very virtual. If you type in the stalactites, it will form the echoes all over the cave. Inside the dark cave, if burning an incense stick, you will have the feeling of serenity as leaving the mundane world.
25. Besides, you should once visit Non Nuoc Mountain: below the foot of the mountain is Truong Han Sieu temple and Non Nuoc Pagoda (adjacent to the river and mountain).
Ninh Binh also has beautiful sites such as Duyen Ninh Pagoda, one of the most four charming pagodas in Vietnam. Pig Mountain, Turtle Cave, Kim Ngan Pagoda have the golden pig tale. Miracal Temple, Am Tien Cave are right near the temple of Dinh Le.
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