Category Archives: Vietnam Destinations

Enjoy peace, flora and fauna at Vân Long Nature Reserve

The rowers cleave the water leading our wooden boat to graze along the river. Rowing between mountains, we suddenly heard whooping, chattering sounds. There they are. Delacour’s langurs are looming in the leaves above us.

How lucky we are.

The langurs “with white trousers,” as local people call them, are a critically endangered animal on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Many people flock to Vân Long Nature Reserve, an area of 2,600ha comprised of a lagoon surrounded by mountains and forests. They come to see one of the rarest and most endangered primates in the world, but only a few lucky tourists get the chance to see them, according to Nguyễn Thị Lý, our boat-woman.

After leading us to visit some caves and enjoy the spectacular view of Vân Long Nature Reserve in the morning, she suggested that we row along another route to find the langurs. They are not easy to spot, but the chances are higher in the afternoon. This time, our experienced boat-woman was right.

Our one-day trip to Vân Long Nature Reserve, which is 80km from Hà Nội, was well worth while and unforgettable.

Set amid glorious limestone pinnacles, this tranquil reserve’s reedy wetlands are popular with bird-watchers. Among the bird species that have been spotted here are the rare black-faced spoonbill, the cotton pygmy goose and the white-browed crake.

The water is transparent and we can see straight down to water plants and algae at the bottom. The mountains are reflected endlessly in the water, creating a picturesque landscape and a rich ecological system. It’s not hard to understand why the film crew for Kong: Skull Island selected Vân Long Nature Reserve as one of several sites to shoot the film in Việt Nam.

Director Jordan Vogt Robert visited the site and was immediately and totally charmed. He decided to shoot the blockbuster movie at the Vân Long Nature Reserve in the northern province of Ninh Bình, as well as at the nearby Tràng An Complex and Tam Cốc – Bích Động site.

A tourist from Ipswich, England who gave his name as Treens, said Vân Long is a great place to visit, and a must-see if you are interested in the critically endangered Delacour’s Langur. He talked about his boat trip to see the langurs.

The boat sat close to the waterline unladen, and by the time two large Westerners and one small Vietnamese had boarded, the water was literally 1cm from the lip of the boat. No-one seemed overly concerned though, and off they went onto the lake. They were the only tourists on site at the time.

“The day was very misty and it was really atmospheric out on the lake with the limestone hills rising up in the background. After half an hour we caught sight of what we had hoped to see – a group of Delacour’s Langurs come down to the lakeside to drink.”

“We watched them and took photographs for 15 minutes before heading back to the landing stage,” he said.

Vân Long Nature Reserve is a legendary land and has amazingly beautiful scenery for tourism, while at the same time, it contains the largest mangrove nature reserve in the northern delta.

Along with Tràng An Complex and Tam Cốc-Bích Động National Park in the province, Vân Long Nature Reserve is considered an overland equivalent of Hạ Long Bay, with imposing cliffs and mountains and vast lakes that form stunning scenes.

In my opinion, each location has its own attraction. At the Vân Long Nature Reserve, it’s the rich ecosystem. Rowing the boat for over two hours to explore the site and visit the caves, we saw many birds.

A sightseeing trip by boat costs VNĐ75,000 (nearly US$3.5) per adult. Tourists should take the tour early in the morning to see nature at dawn, or late in the afternoon to admire the breathtaking view of flocks of storks returning to their nests at sunset.

Vân Long has 33 caves of different sizes, but only some of them are open to tourists. The caves are named after the beautiful grottoes that can be found inside, such as Fish, Tortoise, Book Box, Stone Table and Fairy.

On the way to enter the caves, tourists can see Mèo Cào (Cat Scratching) Mountain, which displays natural formations that make it look like a giant cat scratched upon its slopes centuries ago.

The site is a place where tourists can find peace in a tranquil atmosphere. Although opened for tourism in 1998, it’s still as primitive as it ever was. There are no vendors or shops around, so the touristy vibe is missing. It remains an attractive destination for local and foreign visitors. — VNS


Tram Gian Pagoda




A visit demands a degree of effort: a climb of several hundred steps, a walk down an alley paved with bricks and stone, reveals a two-storey bell tower of eight elegantly corner-curved roofs. Known as the Bell Tower of Tram Gian, it still preserves its detailed art work, its supporting columns carved with intricate lotus shape, the wood panels in the shape of dragons, flowers and leaves, clouds and the sky. Under the roof hangs a 1.4m tall bell, made in 1794 on which is also carved a literary work by Tran Ba Hien from nearby Van Canh Village.

Tram Gian Pagoda, also called Tien Lu Pagoda, is situated in Tien Lu Village, Hoai Duc District, Ha Noi city.
The pagoda was was probably originally built in 1185 during the reign of King Ly Cao Tong on its present site at the top of the low Tien Lu, or Ma Hill. It nestles snugly on that hill in a natural cushion of mature trac, or kingwood and tram, or canari trees, and watched over by giant pines. It’s impressive construction and history immerse the visitor immediately: its multi-pillared temples, ornate altars, leisure areas, where mandarins would play chess with live human pieces.

At festivals the separate pavilions were given over to all-consuming and lavish praise, no more so than the Gia Ngu where the statue of Buddha was paraded during water puppet performances on the semi-circular lotus lake.

A visit demands a degree of effort: a climb of several hundred steps, a walk down an alley paved with bricks and stone, reveals a two-storey bell tower of eight elegantly corner-curved roofs. Known as the Bell Tower of Tram Gian, it still preserves its detailed art work, its supporting columns carved with intricate lotus shape, the wood panels in the shape of dragons, flowers and leaves, clouds and the sky. Under the roof hangs a 1.4m tall bell, made in 1794 on which is also carved a literary work by Tran Ba Hien from nearby Van Canh Village.

Then, and another healthy flight of stairs on, there’s the main pagoda – the legacy of the Tran Dynasty in the 14th Century but largely destroyed by the Ming invaders in the 15th and rebuilt probably during the Le Dynasty, as much as a tribute to those times.

The Pagoda is built in the architectural style, the favoured style of the Cong Chinese character in the inner part and the Quoc Chinese character in the outer. There the statues of two Guardian Spirits, the Good-encouraging Spirit and the Bad-punishing Spirit, preside and the Thien Huong, or Celestial Perfume)Seat, and in the inner part of the second house two Thuong Dien , or Upper Altars, for the praise of Buddha. A four curved-cornered and columned roof shelters a 1-metre wide drum, and an equally large gong, both dating from the 10th Year of Canh Hung (1750).

Tram Gian Pagoda is architecturally and spiritually unique – as much a place of pilgrimage for design students captured by its design and construction.

It can variously, and depending on your point of view, be seen as one entity or 100 smaller ones. It houses 153 statues mostly made of wood, some of clay red lacquered and trimmed with gold, all to the greater glory of Tam The, the Past, Present and Future Lives. A large terracotta platform supports an ornately carved altar bearing lotus flower, legends, and dragon, tiger, horse, and elephant reliefs. Nearby stands the black-lacquer jackfruit-tree wood statue of Tuyet Son styled on one found in the Himalayas. The imagery goes on at every turn: arranged and ornate altars to worship 18 Arhats and the Ruler of Hell in the Ten Great Halls, a separate pagoda and altar to worship Saint Boi or Monk Nguyen Lu also known as Binh Yen. Legend has it the statue is actually his rattan preserved body covered by an oil cloth.


Tay Phuong pagoda

Tay Phuong pagoda

Tay Phuong pagoda

Location: In Yen Village, Thach That District, Hanoi.

Characteristics:It is also an exposition gallery for many national engraving and sculpture masterpieces. The pagoda was built in the 8th century and has been restored several times since. In 1632, the pagoda was rebuilt according to the Sino-Vietnamese character Tam (three), featuring three sections: the upper sanctuary, back palace, and lobby rooms.

After climbing 239 stone steps bearing the signs of the passage of time and sheltered by the shade of age-old trees one reaches a gate. The gate carries the name of the structure: Tay Phuong Co Tu (Ancient Pagoda of the West). According to the inscription on a 17th century stone stele it also has two other names: Sung Phuc Tu and Hoang Son Thieu Lam Tu.

In 1794 under the Tay Son regime, it was completely renewed, hence its present design. It comprises three successive constructions: the Hall of Prostration, the Main Shrine, and the Sanctuary, all with doubletiered roofs. It seems that this architectural arrangement is inspired by Buddhist and Confucianist thought: the three constructions symbolize the three forces governing the world.

The central construction has a directing role and is consequently raised higher than the others. It symbolizes Heaven. The construction at the rear plays the role of a foundation: it symbolizes the earth. The construction closest to the world of man stands in front. The whole structure is the symbol of Thai Cuc (the Prime Principle, from which the whole world derives). The double tier of the roof symbolizes the double principle, Luong Nghi, yin and yang. The slopes, the roof on the four sides symbolize the four elements of heaven, Tu Tuong; the sun, moon, stars and deities, while the slopes on the eight sides stand for the Eight Signs of the Sacred Octagon (Bat Quai).

All the wooden parts of the pagoda are beautifully sculpted following folk motifs:mulberry leat Ficus leat lotus flower, chrysanthemum; dragon, phoenix, etc. But the Tay Phuong Pagoda is mostly famous for the statues it contains, magnificent wooden sculptures representing Buddhas as well as Vajrapanis (Kim Cuong) and Arhats (La Han) who are middle-ranking Buddhist deities. One in particular portrays Sakyamuni in meditation at the foot of Tuyet Son (Snow Mountain). He was then leading a life of extremely severe ascetics, and his emaciated body, as represented by the statue, shows good knowledge by the artist of human anatomy. The figures of the Arhats each bear distinctive features which depict meditation in original aspects. All are impressive works of art.

A festival is held in the grounds of the Tay Phuong Pagoda in early spring each year. It features many games and entertainment: marionette performances, tug-of-war, cock fighting, chess with human chess pieces… The central piece of the festival is the Sam Hoi (Expiation) ceremony, held on the 6th day of the 3rd lunar month, which calls on all men to practise compassion and charity, to avoid wrong doing, and aim for serenity and quietude.


Yen Tu – the home of Vietnam’s hero king-turned-Buddha

The Yen Tu historical relic occupies nearly 20 kilometers of Quang Ninh Province’s Uong Bi District. It was listed as national relic in 1974 and as special national relic in 2012. Most of pagodas, temples and towers are located on nearly 2,800 hectares in the Yen Tu Forest Natural Reserve which boasts a diverse tropical ecosystem.

The Yen Tu Mount is located 1,068 meters above sea level (the highest in northeastern Vietnam) and was founded by King Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308). After successfully leading the Tran Dynasty to it final victories over two Mongol invasions, King Tran Nhan Tong gave the throne to his son and went to Yen Tu in 1299 to create the Truc Lam Buddhism Zen Sect, which had a significant impact on the development of Vietnamese Buddhism.

The Hue Quang Kim Tower is located near the Hoa Yen Pagoda. The tower was built in 1309 to store King Tran Nhan Tong’s sarira – the crystal-like bead-shaped objects that are purportedly found among the cremated ashes of Buddhist masters.
The Hue Quang Kim Tower also features a statue of King Tran Nhan Tong which crafted, following his ordination, during the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400).

Hoa Yen is the main pagoda of Yen Tu Pagoda Complex and is surrounded by three ancient trees, each more than 700 years old. Followers of the sect believe they were planted by the three patriarchs of the Truc Lam Buddhism Zen Sect, including King Tran Nhan Tong.

Situated at more than 1,000 meter above sea level you’ll find a massive bronze statue of King Tran Nhan Tong. It is believed to weigh 138 tons.

At the cloudy peak of Yen Tu Mountains sits the Dong (Thien Truc) Pagoda which was built in 2007 out of bronze. The pagoda weighs 70 tons and is shaped like a blooming lotus. It is the largest bronze pagoda ever built in Vietnam.

Legend has its that the Giai Oan Stream was where King Tran Nhan Tong’s wives committed suicide after failing to convince him to return to the throne.

The stream flows under the Giai Oan Bridge, which leads to the Giai Oan Pagoda.

The Giai Oan Pagoda is said to be the place that King Tran Nhan Tong built to pray for the souls of his deceased wives.
The Truc Lam Yen Tu Monastery is the largest in Yen Tu and considered the headquarters of Truc Lam Zen Buddhism Sect in Vietnam.
In Yen Tu, tourists can hike 6 kilometers to the peak, which takes about 6 hours. Two cable car systems half the distance. Accommodation is available at the foot of the mountain foot along with a restaurant that plays traditional Vietnamese music.


Cat Ba National Park

Cat Ba national park

Cat Ba national park

Cat Ba Island is situated in Ha Long Bay, 50 km to the east of Hai Phong City, in Northern Vietnam. It is the largest of 366 islands in the Cat Ba Archipelago, and has a surface area of about 140 square km. The Cat Ba Archipelago shares the distinctive rugged appearance and scenic beauty of the Ha Long Bay Area that was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, in 1994. The area is one of the best examples in the world of a Karst landscape invaded by the sea. Some 1500-2000 large and small islands and cliffs rise steeply from the shallow marine waters. Many of these islands reach towering heights of 50 to 100m with sheer vertical cliffs on all sides. Spectacular rock relief and bizarre rock formations provide evidence of a long history of erosion and landscape evolution through the sculpturing power of water. The greatest part of the islands’ mountain range like most of the smaller offshore islands of the Archipelago, are covered by tropical moist limestone forest. Cat Ba Island also has coral terraces, sandy beaches, freshwater wetland areas, tidal flats, mangrove forests and willow swamp. Spectacular scenery and a high diversity of landscapes make Cat Ba a special place and it has become a main destination for national and international tourists.

The National Park and Biodiversity Conservation

Cat Ba National Park was established in 1986. After a re-arrangement of the park boundaries in 2006, the park now comprises 109 square km of land area and an additional 52 square km of inshore waters and mangrove covered tidal zones. Cat Ba National Park was Vietnam’s first national park to include both terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

Cat Ba Island, its national park and the surrounding area are nationally and internationally recognized for their importance to biodiversity conservation, exemplified through the recognition of the Cat Ba Archipelago as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve, in 2004.This is not only because the area has a high number of different ecosystem and habitat types, but also because it possesses a great variety of plant and animal species, many of which, like the Cat Ba langur, are now rare and endangered.

About 1400 vascular plants, including 23 Endangered and Critically Endangered species (Red Data Book of Vietnam; IUCN Red List) have so far been recorded. Large and partly endangered mammals include the Cat Ba langur, the Southern Serow (Naemorhaedus sumatraensis), Rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), black giant squirrel (Ratufa bicolor), and civet cats (Viverricula indica, Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). The cave, land snail and butterfly fauna is rich including the most northerly cave-adapted crab species, plus four species of true cave snails. The region is considered a hotspot for land snail diversity and might also be conserving a considerable number of bat species including rare ones.



Duong Lam ancient village

Located in Son Tay Town, 40 km to the west of Hanoi, Duong Lam village is a very popular tourist destination at the weekends. The village attracts visitors because of its ancient houses and the architectural features of a typical old Vietnamese village with banyan trees and a wharf on the river. After the recognition of Hoi An ancient town, Hanoi old quarter, Duong Lam village is the first ancient village recognized as a national relic by the Ministry of Culture and Information.

Two of Vietnam’s kings, Phung Hung (761-802) and Ngo Quyen (896-944) were born in Duong Lam, giving the village its prestige. Both men led resistance wars against northern invasion and after winning national independence, were crowned kings. After their deaths, the local people built temples in their honor.

The ancient village has a history of about 1,200 years with many houses dating back up to 400 years. One special thing about the village is that most of the buildings here are made of laterite and mud, two materials that are abundant in the area. Laterite is used on house walls, gates, wells, temple walls, and so forth. The mud is taken from ponds. Apart from its historical and tourism values, Duong Lam ancient village is an important place for scientists to study resident communities in ancient agriculture. The village gate, banyan, well, communal house are important factors in classifying Duong Lam ancient village.


The common well was built in every hamlet in Duong Lam village. The well brings the name of the hamlet it is located. At present, each family possesses its own well but the common well has been protected because it maintains many imprints of the villagers.

Communal house

The communal house is a worshipping place of the god – founder of the village. The ancient village consists of 5 villages so it has 5 communal houses. Doai Giap and Cam Lam communal houses dedicate to Phung Hung – the national hero who won the victory against invaders under Duong Dynasty; Cam Thinh communal house dedicates both the founder of the village and great mandarin Cao Phuc Dien – the hero under Le Dynasty. Dong Sang communal house worships the God but it was destroyed by fire and was restored by financial support from people. The god Tan Vien Son was dedicated in Mong Phu communal house. So far, Mong Phu communal house is a gathering place of the villagers for cultural activities. The communal house was made carefully with sophisticated decoration details. It is considered as a flower of unique sculptural architecture.

Architecture of the house

Tiny alleys in Duong Lam Village

           Tiny alleys in Duong Lam Village

The wooden house mainly has 5 or 7 spans with 2 wings. It has 5 rows of columns, sometime 1 row disappears. The house has specialized by sophisticatedly carved details in the form of flowers, leaves, clouds.

A system of wooden doors is very firm. Each span has 4 leaves of the door with upper and lower joints. Thresholds were made of firm wood above 40-50cm from the ground and 10cm from the floor. This distance helps to ventilate well, avoid humidity for the thresholds. The whole system of the thresholds is the tie system linking all spans together.

For tangible culture relic, Duong Lam has 21 relic sites, consisting of temples, pagodas and tombs and ten of which have been classified as national and provincial relics. For intangible cultural relic, Duong Lam has preserved various festivals, customs and literature on the people and land of Duong Lam through different period of time. For ecological environment, Duong Lam has many beautiful scenes linked with legendary stories such as Guom Hill, Ho Gam Hill and tales on the two kings Phuong Hung and Ngo Quyen.

In recent years, many relics in the villages such as Mia Pagoda, Phung Hung Temple, Ngo Quyen Temple and Mong Phu communal house have been restored. However, it is important to preserve not only the tangible cultural relics, but also intangible cultural relics and ecological environment and they should be carried out synchronously.

The construction of new cultural buildings which aims to honor the history, national heroes and boost tourism activity should be ensured the harmony between traditional and modern cultural values and the relations between preservation and development.

Nowadays, preserving, restoring and developing the value of Duong Lam ancient village are very important, since it contributes to preservation of the national cultural heritage.





Bat Trang Pottery Village

bat Trang Pottery VillageSituated on the left bank of the Red River, about 10km away from the center of Hanoi is the pottery village of Bat Trang. Bat Trang village, the most ancient and famous pottery village of Vietnam, continues to work today and is constantly developing. It is said that, the village took its first name from Bach Thu guild (a guild of Kaolin potters) and then it became Bat Trang guild (a guild of bowls and kilns). According to the legend, pottery production began in Bat Trang in the Ly Dynasty. Previous to this the villagers remember that their native village was in Bo Bat (or Bach Bat), in Yen Mo district, Ninh Binh province. What happened was that some people from Bo Bat village took a boat trip on the Red River to trade. When they arrived at the nearby capital of Thang Long, they found some waste but fertile land and stayed there for a night. That night, one of them had a dream of being invited by Neptune to visit the water palace. Understanding the poor circumstances of the man, Neptune sent some workers to build him a splendid house of clay. Long afterwards, also in his dream, his children used to eat the clay, but the wall never collapsed. This man told his dream to the group, who considering it to be a good omen, decided to settle on this land and establish a new village. Although this legend is not convincing evidence for the date of establishment of Bat Trang village, some archeological data shows that many of the Ly Dynasty’s relics are decorated with blue enamel pottery. Perhaps a more reliable document is the “Du Dia Chi “of Nguyen Trai, compiled in early Le Dynasty, which stated that in each tribute to the Chinese Dynasty, Bat Trang had to provide 70 sets of dishes and bowls, which indicates that by that time, the Bat Trang pottery was quite sophisticated.

Bat TrangNowadays many temples and pagodas still preserve lamps and incense burners, with dragons and phoenix, clouds and flowers decorated in blue, with the name, address and date of production in Bat Trang in the XVI century, for example in Boi Khe Pagoda in Ha Tay province. There are also other foreign documents giving information about Bat Trang pottery in the XVI to XVII centuries, for example Ancient Asian Pottery by Pujio Koiama. Anyway all information considered, we can estimate that Bat Trang village existed, as a suburb of Thang Long capital, as a handicraft village some 500 years ago. Bat Trang pottery has been distributed to every region of Vietnam and even to foreign countries, it is valued as typical pottery of Vietnam and has become well-known nationally and internationally. There are various kinds of pottery, for example jade enamel (under the Ly-Tran Dynasties), brown flower or brown enamel (under the late Tran to early Le Dynasties), cracked enamel (under the late Le Dynasty) and royal blue enameled items (under the late Le to Nguyen Dynasties). It is known that all these valuable potteries were produced in Bat Trang, except for the brown enameled pottery which was produced mainly in the Tho Ha pottery village (Ha Bac province). The pottery and village of Bat Trang have been expressed in literature as a pride of the Vietnamese people. Such examples are: – Wish that I can marry you I will buy Bat Trang brick to build… (Folk verse) – Nga Son’s mat, Bat Trang’s brick Nam Dinh’s silk, Ha Dong’s silk. (To Huu) Over the centuries, Bat Trang pottery has maintained a high quality and has produced mostly items for worship, such as lamps, incense burners and vases. Gradually, with market demand, house utensils appeared, mostly bowls, dishes and vases. Nowadays, Bat Trang produces many different types and designs of items, including decorative items, such as hanging dishes, vases, toy animals and reproduction statues using sophisticated techniques and technology. The Bat Trang art and craft of pottery gives us astonishing admiration for the talent of the village’s artists, they have created, from clay and fire, jade enamel for life.



Temple of literature

Temple of literature is the first national university of Vietnam. it is on top of the historical and beautiful sightseeings of the beautiful capital of Vietnam.

The very first stop-over of any foreign tourist in Hanoi is always Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam (translated as Temple of Literature), which reveals the Hanoians’ spirit of study in the past!

Situated at the south of Thang Long citadel, is on top of the historical and beautiful sightseeings of the beautiful capital of Vietnam. Please follow us in a brief tour of exploring his beauty and deep values.

Constellation of Literature pavilion

      Constellation of Literature pavilion

Tourists, particularly the foreign ones, now flock to the site for taking a look into its profound traditional meanings of both a Confucian temple and the first university of Vietnam. Văn Mieu or Temple of Literature, known as “pagode des Corbeaux” during the period of French colonization, was founded as a Confucian temple in 1070.

Only parts of the Văn Mieu complex date back to the earliest period, although much of the architecture dates to the Ly (1010 – 1225) and Tran (1225 – 1400) Dynasties. In 1076, Vietnam’s first university, the Quoc Tu Giam (or National University), was established within this temple to educate Vietnam’s mandarin class. The university functioned for more than 700 years, from 1076 to 1779, during which, 2,313 doctors graduated. Hence, the complex has been attached to the name of Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam up to now.

A beauty-spot of architectural values

This ancient Confucian sanctuary is now considered one of Hanoi’s finest historical and cultural sites. “The ever special architetural style of Van Mieu dates back to the 11th century, evoking an inspiration of classical creativeness of many of us”, one of my tourists remarked. Just take a look into the art of architecture, you will share the feeling! The temple is based on Confucius’ birthplace at Qufu in the Chinese province of Shandong. It consists of five courtyards lined out in order, entrance to the first, via the impressive twin-tiered Van Mieu gate leads to three pathways that run through the length of the complex. The centre path was reserved for the King only, the one to its left for administrative Mandarins and the one to its right for military Mandarins.

The first two courtyards are peaceful havens of ancient trees and well-trimmed lawns where the scholars could relax away from the bustle of the city outside the thick stone walls. Entrance to the third courtyard is through the dominating Khue Van Cac (constellation of literature), a large pavilion built in 1802. Central to the this courtyard is the Thien Quang Tinh (“Well Of Heavenly Clarity”), either side of which stand two great halls which house the true treasures of the temple. These are 82 stone steles. Another 34 are believed to have been lost over the years. They sit upon stone tortoises and are inscribed with the names and birth places of 1306 men who were awarded doctorates from the triennial examinations held here at the Quoc Tu Giam (“National University”) between 1484 and 1780, when the capital was moved to Hue.

The fourth courtyard is bordered on either side by great pavilions which once contained alters of 72 of Confucius greatest students but which now contain offices, a gift shop and a small museum which contains ink wells, pens, books and personal artifacts belonging to some of the students that have studied here through the years. At the far end of the courtyard is the altar with statues of Confucius and his four closest disciples. The fifth courtyard contained the Quoc Tu Giam, Vietnam’s first university founded in 1076 King Ly Can Duc, but this was destroyed by French bombing in 1947.

Though having gone through lots of restoration work, the temple still retains its very first original shape, to be one of the visit-worthy sightseeing of Hanoi, captivating to a huge number of tourists elsewhere.

In the run-up to the Vietnamese New Year celebration, calligraphist tend to assemble outside the temple and write wishes in Hán tự, which are popular amongst Vietnamese as gifts or to be used as decoration at home for auspicious occasions.

A space of peace, green trees and solemnity covers the whole temple of historical and traditional love for study, making tourists feel like they were lost in a land of Confucion and traditional values. If you are in Hanoi, you should really come and explore it yourself!


Hanoi Old Quarters

Although the Old Quarter is often called “the 36 old streets”, there may have actually been more streets (see my list below). Most of the street names start with “Hàng”, which means “shop”, and the next word after “Hàng” would be a name of some product for sale. For example, “Hàng Bạc” (a street where silver products were sold), “Hàng Bông” (cotton products) etc.

Old quarters in Hanoi

Old quarters in Hanoi

At present, the land in Hanoi’s Old Quarter is the most expensive land in Vietnam. Any front side shops on such major streets like Hàng Đào or Hàng Gai can offer an unimaginable price. There are some old houses which were built in the late 19th century, are still preserved until today. You can see in this blog some photos that
One of the gates into the old citadel, which still remains up to now, is the “Ô Quan Chưởng” gate. It was built in 1744 and located at the end of Hàng Chiếu street. It’s also the first image in this blog.

Hanoi’s Old Quarter is challenged by rapid changes. There are many travel agencies and new hotels as well as restaurants for tourists on some streets of the Old Quarter. Night markets are open at every weekend along Hàng Đào street to Đồng Xuân market. I wish, someday in the future, only bicycles would be allowed to go inside the Old Quarter. Then it would be fun walking down the narrow and winding streets in Hanoi’s Old Quarter and thinking about how Hanoi was like in the old days.

Below is the meaning of the streets in Hanoi’s Old Quarter which was published in the Timeout Guide of Vietnam Investment

Some streets have changed their names or products for sale:

Bát Đàn (wooden bowls), Bát Sứ (china bowls), Chả Cá (roasted fish), Chân Cầm (string instruments), Chợ Gạo (rice market), Gia Ngư (fisherman), Hài Tượng (sandals), Hàng Bạc (silversmiths), Hàng Bè (rafts), Hàng Bồ (baskets), Hàng Bông (cottons), Hàng Buồm (sails), Hàng Bút (brushes), Hàng Cá (fish), Hàng Cân (scales), Hàng Chai (bottles), Hàng Chỉ (threads), Hàng Chiếu (mats), Hàng Chĩnh (jars), Hàng Cót (bamboo latices), Hàng Da (leather), Hàng Đào (silk dyes), Hàng Đậu (beans), Hàng Dầu (oil), Hàng Điếu (pipes), Hàng Đồng (copper), Hàng Đường (sugar), Hàng Gà (chicken), Hàng Gai (hemp), Hàng Giấy (paper), Hàng Giầy (shoes), Hàng Hành (onions), Hàng Hòm (cases), Hàng Hương (incense), Hàng Khay (trays), Hàng Khoai (sweet potato), Hàng Lược (comb), Hàng Mã (votive papers), Hàng Mắm (pickled fish), Hàng Mành (bamboo screens), Hàng Muối (salt), Hàng Ngang (transversal street), Hàng Nón (hats), Hàng Phèn (alums), Hàng Quạt (fans), Hàng Rươi (clam worms), Hàng Than (charcoal), Hàng Thiếc (tin), Hàng Thùng (barrels), Hàng Tre (bamboo), Hàng Trống (drums), Hàng Vải (cloths), Lò Rèn (blacksmiths), Lò Sũ (coffins), Mã Mây (rattans), Ngõ Gạch (bricks), Thuốc Bắc (herbal medicines).


But Thap pagoda

Situated on the dike south of the Duong River in Thuan Thanh District, Bac Ninh Province is But Thap (pen stupa), one of the finest pagodas in the country’s north and known as Vietnam’s first Buddhist center.

Pen Stupa Papoda

But Thap Pagoda

The pagoda was built under the dynasty of King Tran Thanh Tong (1258-1278) and rebuilt in 1647 in the Le Dynasty by Chinese Zen Buddhist priest Zhus Zhus, known as Chuyet Chuyet in Vietnamese. Legend has it that when leaving his former pagoda on the northern bank of the Duong River, priest Chuyet Chuyet saw a flock of flying swallows suddenly swooping down and perching on the ground on the southern bank, he decided to rebuild the pagoda there and named it Ninh Phuc Tu, which means peace and bless.

The pagoda’s history is also connected with Queen Trinh Thi Ngoc Truc, a daughter of Lord Trinh Trang. After her husband died, her father forced her to marry King Le Than Tong (1619-1643). The Queen then devoted herself to the Buddhism religion and raised money to restore the Ninh Phuc Tu. During this time she wrote Ngoc Am Chi Nam, considered as Vietnam’s first Han-Nom (Chinese-Vietnamese) dictionary.The pagoda was built according to Noi Cong Ngoai Quoc (Nei Kung Wai Kwo) architectural style, that means it has the shape of the Chinese script Kung inside and the script Kwo outside. With more than 100 compartments, But Thap is larger than many other pagodas in the north. Passing through its three-entrance gate, then a bell tower with eight roofs, visitors reach the main temple complex. The main entrance of the temple is open on big holidays only while on normal days visitors have to enter the temple through the small side entrances.

Inside the temple are more than 50 statues of different sizes including the Triad Buddha, Manjusri (Van Thu) on a blue lion and Samantabhadra (Pho Hien) on a white elephant. The most remarkable is a thousand-handed and thousand-eyed Guanyin, which is described as a sculptural masterpiece of Vietnam. Work on the statue began in 1656 and took several years for completion. The statue is 2.5 meters tall, excluding its pedestal, with 11 heads and 14 layers of 789 arms with an eye in each palm forming a circle 2.2 m in diameter. Forty-two more arms encircle the waist, making various gestures of the hands. The goddess is sitting on a lotus lifted up by dragons. Passing through a small stone bridge visitor reach Am Tich Duc (accumulated good deeds sanctum), then the Middle Hall (nha trung), followed by the Worship Palace (phu tho) where statues of Queen Trinh Thi Ngoc Truc and her children can be found. Behind the backyard garden stand two stone stupas, both some 20 meters tall, used to contain remains of priest Chuyet Chuyet and the pagoda’s second priest Minh Hanh.The name But Thap was given by King Tu Duc in 1876 when, on a field research tour of Kinh Bac, or the former northern citadel, he saw the beautiful stone stupa shaped like a pen at this pagoda. The literary name of the stupa was Bao Nghiem, which means to pay a debt of gratitude to the master for his strict teaching.

Being recognized as the country’s cultural historic relic, But Thap Pagoda is not only an important place for pilgrims but also a tourist attraction.  From Hanoi downtown, drive along National Highway 5 some 15 kilometers to Sui region, then turn left and go straight around five kilometers you will reach But Thap Pagoda. Or you can take a boat ride up the Red River. Where the Red River meets the Duong River, the boat turns on the latter going downstream some 20 kilometers to reach But Thap Pagoda.