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Vietnam Attractions | Vietnam Tourist Attraction | Hanoi & Sunrroundings

A tour in Hanoi is to steep yourself in history, tradition, and legend in a capital that has been inhabited continuously for almost a millenium.

Vietnam Attractions: Hanoi - a mixture of discreet charm and excitement

Vietnam Attractions: Hanoi A tour in Hanoi is to steep yourself in history, tradition, and legend in a capital that has been inhabited continuously for almost a millenium. Visitors often note that the city is quieter, greener, and "cooler" than other big cities of Vietnam. Indeed, Hanoi itself, and the Northern Vietnam, have quite clear four seasons, and October to March are lovely pretty cool months whilst other towns southward just have dry and rainy times. It probably influences in the mentality of the inhabitants and the city seems attract more intellectuals and artists, while Saigon is great for entrepreneurs and hustlers.

Hanoi\'s present architecture is mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries, and
Vietnam Attractions: Hanoi - a mixture the  French-built section of the town is largely intact. Yet, the city preserves many old religious temples and shrines dedicated to the nation\'s heroes or deities, who supported the farmers to cultivate and protect the fertile land on the Red River right bank and gather the first commercial guilds to form what later became an exciting urban town. Hanoi street life now is fascinating. In the early morning, you can see people both young and old practicing "tai chi quan" or martial arts in the parks and joggers along pretty lakes. Outdoor barbers with mirrors simply hung on the street walls and women selling great French baguettes and flowers are also at every street corner. If you go for a walk, the motorbikes and cyclos may make you wonder a bit which directions they move on, but as soon as you get a chance to try one of them, you could say they are not so risky like they seem to be, as the local drivers have extremely special skills to avoid one another (!). Thus a deliberate Cyclo tour for one or two hours is so far the best way to visit the Old Quarter, 90% of which are narrow and short streets.

Vietnam Attractions During the two Indochinese Wars in 20th century, Hanoi had been heavily damaged, but there is virtually no evidence that now and the particularly thin, tall, often awkward-looking buildings that you see on streets are not a result of bombing, but are created by landowners who own only a thin slice of land so build up rather than out. Hanoi has a number of lovely parks and big Lakes which inspire the ancient architects to build graceful temples nearby, and Museums with precious exhibits of Vietnam\'s Fine Arts, Ethnology, History and Recent Wars that attract not only historians but foreign visitors and local people.

Finally, the Hanoians are reckoned the warmest and most approachable in the country. Though English is not as commonly spoken as in Saigon, most of the shopkeepers have learnt English quite enough to discussion on the commodities and price, and many of the older generation have a working vocabulary of French. Regardless of language, people will attempt to chat with you irrespective of whether you can understand them. Many of the cyclo drivers speak some English and often have very interesting pasts that they are now willing to discuss with foreigners. At times in Hanoi, you could be sitting in a caf?sipping excellent coffee that Vietnam plant in the Central Highlands for domestic use and export, eating great pastries that is a pleasant trace of the French time, chatting in French to an old beret clad gentleman, whilst as you look out the window you can see posh French-style villas in the shadows of fig trees or malabar-almon trees. Then you can really wonder just what country you really are in. In a single word, Hanoi is a city to be savoured.

See also

 Hanoi & surroundings | Halong & Catba island
The Northeast| Sapa & the Northwest | DMZ | Hue | Hoian | Danang | Dalat
Coastline | Central Highlands | Saigon & the Mekong Delta

Vietnam Attractions: Bat Trang and other cottage industry villages

Vietnam Attractions: Bat Trang Separated from the Hanoi downtown by a bridge over the Red River and 15km dike in between green rice paddies and old villages, Bat Trang is worth a half-day visit not only for its wellknown cottage industry but also for the poetic surroundings.

According to historical records, the villagers have featured some kinds of excellent ceramic for domestic use and export since 15th century. From time to time, the Vietnamese overseas people and diplomatic corps have found their products ? valuable antiques now - not only in neighbouring countries like China, Korea, Cambodia but in far states including Egypt, France and Portugal. The masters of Bat Trang now are not only supplying a big deal of porcelain for Vietnam but receive numerous orders from Japan, France and USA and are proceeding to recover traditional samples that somewhat have been lost during the war time. Stop-off at the village is an interesting mixture between watching the real production of ceramics and walking around for some light but fine and sophisticated porcelain. You can find in a factory the workmen mixing clay or dipping burnt vases into glaze to highlight their crackled lines, the painting masters, usually young girls with dexterous hands drawing on raw terracotta before they are heated at 900oC to 1,700oC ovens, taking inspiring pictures of coal-dust bakes pasted on the village's walls. Daily life of the village with a small exciting market and the wharf at the Red River where the products shipped are also very fascinating. You should go with a local guide to discover the family factories behind the shops in front, as it may not easy to communicate with the villagers who speak no English.

If Bat Trang say they are proud that about 1,000 households live by traditional  Vietnam Attractions: Bat Trang 1job, other cottage industry villages surrounding Hanoi would be shy a bit. Dong Ky village ? 30km northeast of Hanoi, has only hundreds of families specialized in handmade wooden furniture with mother-of-pearl and marble inlay. Whilst local people come here for ordering cupboards, tables and wardrobes by their designs or in catalogues' styles, you would be interested in wooden statues or sophisticated utensils made of ebony, redwood, rosewood and pinewood. Another village 14 km West of Hanoi called Van Phuc is famous for the traditional silk and you can find here many families using motor looms weaving silk or washing them after completed. Villagers from Le Mat, 08 km northeast of Hanoi, catch and breed snakes for foods and wine. Serpents can be found hereabout in compounds around the house, in readiness to export or to be dipped in snake wine or traditional medicine. Different kinds of other snakes are to be cooked and served to the people mainly coming from Hanoi, especially men. In Hanoi old quarter sometimes you can also buy medicines made from Le Mat snakes. Dong Ho village along the Duong river in nearby Ha Bac province produces traditional woodblock prints. In the old time, a picture printed that way is a must to decorate a Vietnamese house in springtime of "Tet" ? the Lunar New Year. Some families in the village now change to make paper articles to burn at the Vietnam's ancestral anniversaries to send "utensils" and "money" from the alive people to their dearest dead relatives, with a hope that those things will be assisting the dead souls to "survive" well in the Hell. As the villagers' job is somewhat seasonal, a visit to Dong Ho should be combined with a sightseeing to the large But Thap pagoda nearby, which was restored in 17th century with impressive antique statues and stone-carved balconies and towers.

To the South of Hanoi there are a few interesting sights within a day-tour. If you love a visit to see magnificent limestone ranges edging a poetic river, come to the Perfume Pagoda or to Tam Coc. The trip to Tam Coc is to combined with visits to Bich Dong pagoda nearby and to the two temples which are remains of an ancient city called Hoa Lu, all belong to Ninh Binh province. Also in Ninh Binh you can visit Cuc Phuong, one of the few national parks in Vietnam. To the North of Hanoi is Tam Dao, an old French hill station with beautiful landscape from a height and to the West is a combination of several Buddhist temples, of which Thay and Tay Phuong Pagoda are most sight worthy. Please see details of them hereunder.

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Vietnam Attractions: Thay & Tay Phuong Pagodas

Vietnam Attractions: Thay & Tay Phuong PagodasFrom Hanoi travel to two different pagodas, Thay and Tay Phuong are very often combined in a day trip or half-day trip from Hanoi since their neighbouring locations. Thay pagoda, located 40km west of Hanoi in a tranquil and beautiful village, is combination of Buddhist pagodas and a Taoist Temple, which is dedicated to Tu Dao Hanh, a Taoist hermit lived in 12th century who was considered one of the karmas of king Ly Than Tong. The temple preserve many precious worshipping objects like the statues of Tu Dao Hanh describe three "karmas" of this figure, wooden and stone bas-relieves and steles, lacquered statues, thrones, bells. If you have much time, take a walk surrounding to reach the higher pagodas on the mountainside or visit the cave where they have found some skeletons and ancient coins in early 20th century.

Thay Pagoda is also known for a big pavilion in the middle of a pond facing the main temple. Water puppetry performances take place here at festival time, particularly in the third lunar month where pilgrims rush in. Two ancient roofed bridges over the pond built in 1602 increase the natural beauty of the combination.

8km away from Thay pagoda is the Tay Phuong pagoda, sited on the hilltop. Vietnam Attractions: Thay There are 239 laterite steps uphill to the pagoda, and from this height opens a wonderful aerial view of the surrounded fields, laterite mountains and villages. Most of the structure was rebuilt in the 17th and 18th century and has a big significance of classic architecture. Almost the tiles, wooden relieves, rafters are preserved well with their traditional ornaments like lotus-shape, marguerites, banyan leaves, dragon, tiger which are quite popular to Vietnamese decoration style. Inside the pagoda are 75 famous jackwood Arhat statues, which are considered the best of the plastic arts and sculpture of Vietnam. The statues either describe different legends of Buddha and his disciples, or express the meditation and will of the people to release themselves from ordinary pains and reach the enlightenment. Both Thay and Tay Phuong pagodas are easy to reach and suitable for either visit by bus or biking tours.

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Vietnam Attractions: "Chua Huong" (the Perfume Pagoda)

Best combination of boat trip, sightseeing, mountain climbing and religious pilgrimage

Vietnam Attractions: "Chua Huong""Chua Huong" - the Perfume Pagoda is the name of a collection of Buddhist temples which are very sacred to Vietnamese people of Buddhist faith, and an annual visit up here in springtime is a must to a lot of believers.

Located on the limestone rocks of Huong Son Mountain in beautiful and mystical surroundings, the pagodas are 70 km or two-hour driving out of Hanoi. Unlike other temples in Vietnam, the only way to reach this sanctuary is floating along a narrow but extremely poetic stream by rowing boats that takes 45 minutes. An iron boat can carry 3-5 people and a large wooden boat ? up to 20 locals.

The stream is edged by rice, grass, small paths, and temples here and there. A local pilgrim can spend here traditionally three days to visit entirely the area and pray at all the temples. The first temple they often stop is called Den Trinh (i.e. The Shrine for First Presenting), where Vietnamese burn the first jossticks to inform the local deities about their presence and pray for a good trip and good luck for the year ahead. If you are anxious to reach the main Wharf of Huong Son mountain to start the uphill trip to see the Main Grotto of Huong Tich, you may skip this temple, especially in the peak season between January and early April.

The uphill trip takes an hour climbing on the ancient flat and sometime slippery stones,Vietnam Attractions
which have been here thousand years ago. The road is "breathtaking" in all aspects ? you will have some exercise, and at the same time have chance to take some stops to contemplate beautiful scenery and daily life of local farmers, who plant cassava and apricots in the valleys, who run quickly on the slippery stone with their burdens of tapioca, apricots or medicinal herbs whilst you are careful with your steps. The main pagoda is set in a huge grotto containing a highly decorative shrine. Each stalactite and stalagmite inside, which are soaked by undercurrent, is combined with a legend about its miracle and good luck. Most of them became small shrines by now. Remember that the stone grotto is huge and very cool, so stop for a while at the entrance to dry your sweat before coming in.

The main festive days of Chua Huong stretches from January to early April, busy and exciting. Sometimes it's drizzling and the Vietnamese all believe that the real good things will reach you if you catch rainwater after praying in a sacred pagoda. And among all the sacred temples and pagodas in Northern Vietnam, Chua Huong is even more attractive and mysterious not only for its spectacular scenery, but for the painstaking road you passed over to reach to the top.

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Vietnam Attractions: Hoa Lu - Tam Coc - Bich Dong

Most remarkable sights of Ninh Binh Province

Vietnam Attractions: Hoa Lu Hoa Lu used to be one of the many old capitals of Vietnam before Thang Long ? presently Hanoi ? take its historical role. From an exciting town and centre of cultural and military activities of the Dai Co Viet Kingdom in 10th century, the area now is more wellknown for its landscape since almost relics of the urban excitement had been collapsed, except in the Temples of King Dinh and King Le. A trip to Hoa Lu should be started from Tam Coc ("three caves"), which takes more than two hours driving from Hanoi, and visitors may say that distance is not a matter after seating in a boat rowed by one or two local persons in Hoang Long river and see the first limestone mountains, which will run along their riverway for several kilometers. The boat will run, sorry, will be rowed, through three caves on the river, all created by wind and water from a legend time, while the sea had occupied this area. The tide-mark is still on the rock about 2m above the water, and in higher mountainwall the erosion have carved some strange shapes that now filled of green grass, delicious foods of the goats that local people breed everywhere. If you are lucky, sometimes you can see mischievous monkeys. The river trip is wonderful for photo hunters, especially when local people come to harvest the water rice planted along the river, or when they transplant some seedling for the next crops. The tourists often compare the place with Guilin ? China, or more closely, to the limestone islets of Halong Bay in the Tonkin Gulf for their similar geological structures and shapes. Thus Tam Coc is also called Halong-Bay-On-Land.

From the wharf of Tam Coc you can go further till reaching Bich Dong Pagoda, a combination of three pagodas on the Lower, Middle and Upper levels of a pretty mountain. You will need to climb a little bit till you get to the top of the Upper pagoda and your eyes catch the overall panorama of the paddy fields between Truong Yen mountain. All the pagodas, or lean upon a cliff, or simply have some statues inside a large grotto, deserve the name "Bich Dong" (emerald-like grotto). A scene of the popular French movie "Indochine" had been completed here in 1991, remarking a rush of the French-speaking tourists to Vietnam, who usually do not skip Halong Bay and Tam Coc-Bich Dong where the leading actress Catherine Deneuve left her footprints.

On the way back from Tam Coc ? Bich Dong to Hanoi you can pay a visit to Vietnam Attractions: den vua dinhthe last relics of the ancient capital Hoa Lu ? the Temples dedicated to King Dinh and King Le, the two heroes who lived in 10th century and chose Hoa Lu to build the citadel of the capital city. From time to time, archaeologists have excavated buried parts of this citadel with rusty weapons and ceramics. The temples are said to be built on the old foundation of their original palaces in 11-12th centuries and restored in 17th century. Though the temples are not maintained entirely some precious antiques are still preserved well like the whole-stone dragon thrones, wooden bas-relieves and lacquered statues of King Dinh, Kinh Le, Queen Duong Van Nga who in turn got married both of the kings, and the princes of the two dynasties.

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Vietnam Attractions: Phat Diem

Amazing Catholic Church

Vietnam Attractions: Phat DiemComing from an American or European environment, at first you may say that you're not interested in visiting a church in a far Eastern country. That is a mistake as you will miss one of the most remarkable religious architectures in Vietnam. Phat Diem Church is really a group of different churches made of stone and wood, and is the centre of Catholicism in Northern Vietnam. It is designed in Vietnamese style mixed harmoniously with European Catholic traditions. The architect, Mr. Tran Luc, a local Catholic from the late 19th century who designed the church without taking any training in architecture or painting, is buried in a grave situated on the church property. Phat Diem Church is divided into two sections: the churches and the clergy's house which were built gradually over the years. In 1875 the first Cavern was built to test the strength of the foundation. In 1889 the church of Saint Mary's Heart was erected. Then in 1891 the Big Cathedral and the Belfry were completed. And finally, the Saints' shrines of Giuse, Phero and Rocco, were finished around 1898. Traditional Vietnamese architecture is recognized in each section: the Belfry has curly tiled roof-tops with decoration of Vietnamese temples, the shrine of Jesus' Heart is made of jackwood, the Big Cathedral is designed as a grandiose Communal House with sophisticated multi-level rafters, and all the churches are decorated with lotus, lemon flowers, birds, tropical trees like apricot and bamboo, with matched inscriptions in Chinese which are popular in the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. All of the structures are admirable not only for the beauty of each individual fabric included but also for the amazingly unique co-ordination of European and Vietnamese culturess and is considered a proud example of contemporary initiative and work by Vietnamese workers..

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Vietnam Attractions: Cuc Phuong National Park

Vietnam Attractions: Cuc Phuong National ParkCuc Phuong, opened in 1962, is the first National Park opened in Vietnam. It is 140 km South of Hanoi and 55km from Ninh Binh. It covers roughly 25,000 hectares. The botanical richness of the forest is impressive as it supports a wide variety of flora species and patches of primeval forest, including ancient trees with thick clusters of roots, and parasitic plants and ligneous creepers. Tree species come from Burma, India, and Borneo. Clusters of orchards grow near cave entrances where moisture conditions and light are ideal. Varieties of trees include thousand-year dracontomelum and parashorea trees which can be visited in a one or two hour hike. You can see coral, vanilla, snow-white and butterfly orchids everywhere. The park also has a large number of animal residents including panthers and bears which are rarely seen. But you will see monkeys, gibbons, flying squirrels and pheasants. There are also over 120 species of birds and many varieties of beetles that inhabit this beautiful park. In April and May you will be able to see swarms of butterflies. At night, million of cicadas create a deafening din and millions of fireflies flicker about. Because it is situate in a limestone area, there are numerous caves in Cuc Phuong. In the "Nguoi Xua" cave (Cave of Early Man), two ancient tombs have been discovered, along with Neolithic remains and evidence of stone implements. There have been similar findings in the Trang Khuyet (Crescent Moon), Thanh Minh, and Con Mong Caves. Hang Dan Cave is well-known for its bat population. When hiking in Cuc Phuong, you walk some kilometers of a beautiful trail, passing through old-growth forest with long vines wrapped around strangled trees. You can visit the caves, waterfalls and streams in the forest or stop over at a Muong ethnic village. Since the Park is located in between three provinces, it's easy to combine a trip to Cuc Phuong with a trip to Hoa Binh or Ninh Binh province, or you can depart from Hanoi, spend the whole day exploring the forest and spend the night at the Park's guest house...

See also

Hanoi & surroundings | Halong & Catba island
The Northeast| Sapa & the Northwest | DMZ | Hue | Hoian | Danang | Dalat
Coastline | Central Highlands | Saigon & the Mekong Delta



Vietnam Attractions | Vietnam Tourist Attraction | Hanoi & Sunrroundings

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