Enjoy the Vietnamese kitchen: Hanoi Delights and Discover old temples: Hue Impressions

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Temples around West Lake in Hanoi

See the location on West Lake Google Map

Chua Phu Tay Ho: Located on a peninsula into Tay Ho Lake. It's popular among unmarried people, who pray here for good fortune during the first and fifteenth day of the lunar month. Phu Tay Ho is also known for Bun Oc (escargot vermicelli soup) and Banh Tom (shrimp cakes), sold in stalls along the way.

© marhas1

Above the door. Picture © marhas 1

On the roof. Picture © marhas1

Picture © macloo

Picture © marhas 1

Picture © marhas 1

Picture © macloo

Picture © marhas 1

See also a video by designerchau on youtube.com.

Listen to Music; Chieu Phu Tay Ho

Den Quan Thanh: It is one of the “Thang Long tu tran”, the four famous sacred temples (the other three are Bach Ma (White Horse), Voi Phuc (Kneeling Elephant) and Kim Lien). It is also known als Tran Vu Temple. It was built under the Ly Dynasty (1010-1225) and later reconstructed.

Th entrance with three doors and bell tower and four pillars in front, decorated with bas-reliefs. Picture © DucLoi

Picture © rosie.mowat

During Tet, picture © AlienCC

Inside the building: a giant black bronze statue of Huyen Thien Tran Vu, 3.72 metres high, weighing four tonnes. The statue from 1677 documents a refined bronze casting technique of Vietnamese people in the 17th century. Tran Vu was the God of the North. His attributes are a tortoise and a snake. Picture © Annie

See a video of Quan Thanh Temple

Chua Kim Lien: The Golden Lotos Pagoda, a Buddhist temple. From the lake the pagoda looks like a golden lotus, floating on the water’s surface. Unlike other pagodas Kim Lien has a wooden entrance gate of three arches. The gate, also known as cong tam quan, has two stories with eight roofs with ngoi mui hai (tiles with curved tops) and sword shapes on the edges. In the 13th century Dong Long Pagoda was built here. In 1771 it was renovated and the name was changed to Kim Lien. Kim Lien is composed of three pavilions, each has 2 roof layers and the appearance of being slightly curved and supple. They are called Ha (lower), Trung (middle) and Thuong (upper). Read more about the pagoda on vietnamnet.vn

Picture by © Thanh Tam

Picture © Thanh Tam

Picture © Maciej

Chua Tran Quoc: One of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam. The legend says it was built during the Nam De Dynasty (544-548) at the Cai River. When the river bank crumbled in the reign of King Le Kinh Tong (1600-18) the pagoda was rebuilt on Ca Vang island in the middle of West Lake. Later it became the name Tran Quoc ("Protecting the nation"). Inside the pagoda you discover the gilden statue of Sakyamouni Buddha's Parinirvana, a masterpiece of Vietnamese sculptural art.

Picture © Sean Munson

Picture © Rolfmueller

Picture © Sean Munson

Picture © Hanoi Mark

Picture © Hanoi Mark

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Phong Nha-Ke Bang Nationalpark

See the locations (caves and nearby hotels) on Phong Nha-Ké Bang Google Map

On the river from Son Trach to Phong Nha Cave, picture by © Dust Mason

Beautiful landscape along the river, picture by © 123Lphvuong

Animals and plants, that have not be known to the world, have recently been discovered in the jungle of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, that counts two dozens of limestone mountains with over 1,000 m in height. Since 2003 it's a Unesco World Heritage Site. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is situated in the oldest limestone zone in Asia, the Annamite Range, that crosses the boarder from Vietnam to Laos. In Vietnam it's part of the districts Bo Trach und Minh Hoa in Quảng Bình Province. The park is the centre of the last big tropical fortest in Vietnam and it counts 300 caves and grottoes with a length of 70 km and underground rivers.

Phong Nha Cave entrance, picture by © Dust Mason

The entrance from inside, picture by © Dust Mason

Huge cave, picture by © Dust Mason

Phong Nha Cave, nearly 8 km long, is famous for its rock formations. It has 14 grottos and a nearly 14 km long underground river. Tourists can get in to a distance of 1500 m. The Son River flows into the mouth of the Phong Nha cave and keeps on underground, where it is called Nam Aki River. It emerges 20 km to the south near Pu-Pha-Dam Mountain. The caves and grottos of Phong Nha are Phong Nha Cave (Hang Phong Nha), Dark Grotto (Hang Tối), E Grotto (Hang E), Cha An Grotto (Hang Chà An), Thung Grotto (Hang Thung), En Grotto (Hang Én), Khe Tien Grotto (Hang Khe Tiên), Khe Ry Grotto (Hang Khe Ry), and Khe Thi Grotto (Hang Khe Thi).

Tien Son Cave: Near the mouth of Phong Nha Cave you have to walk 350 steps up to a height of 135 metres above sea. it's nearly one kilometer long. Visitors can go inside for 400 metres. You see hundreds of stalagmites and stalactites of different sizes and shape.

Overview of all the caves: Document with map of the Caves of Quang Binh

Son Doong Cave (Hang Sơn Đoòng) is the largest cave of the world. It has been discovered by a British team in 2009. The biggest chamber is more than five kilometers long, 200 meters high and 150 meters wide. It contains the most beautiful and spectacular stalactites and stalagmites in the park. See a photo-gallery. And read the story of Ho Khanh, a local man, who discovered the cave first, and an article on nationalgeographic.com.

There are more attractions in the park as Gió waterfall, Madame Loan waterfall, Mọc stream erupting from a limestone mount range, and Trạ Ang stream.

In 2005, a new species of gecko (Lygosoma boehmeiwas) was discovered here by a group of Vietnamese biologists together with biologists working for the park, Cologne Zoo in Germany and the Saint Petersburg Wild Zoology Institute in Russia. In the park you find rare animals as Geckos, Macaques, White-cheeked Crested Gibbons, Black Lagurs, Giant Muntjacs, baars and more.

Tourists can enter the park in Son Trach (Quang Trach-District). The train from Hanoi to Hue stops in Dong Hoi, where there is an airport with flights from Hanoi.
From Dong Hoi you can arrive by taxi or motorbike. With dragon boats you drive for 15minutes up the river, before you enter the Phong Nha cave. Then it takes around 20 minutes, before you leave the boat and walk into the cave. Around 400 metres from the entrance of Phong Nha you find Thien Son Cave. You can also reach it by boat.

Instead of tours to the caves you can discover the flora and fauna in this national park in the Ke Bang Forest or go mountain climbing and trekking.

One of the adventure tours is boating upward on the Chay River into the forest to waterfalls and whirlpools until you arrive at Tro Mong.

Spectacular is Nước Trồi (Surfacing Stream), a stream surfacing from the ground.

The provincial Centre for Phong Nha-Ke Bang’s Ecotourism and Culture currently has 248 boats, creating jobs for 500 locals. Former loggers are also trained as photographers taking pictures for tourists.

How to go
In Dong Hoi some hotels offer tours. Or you rent a motorbike. Also from Hue you can book a tour.

Hotels in Dong Hoi
Sun Spa Resort: From 100 USD. Set amidst 29 hectares of landscaped garden along white sand Bao Ninh Beach and on the banks of the Nhat Le river. Very good reviews on tripadvisor.com

Pool at Sun Spa Resort, picture by © ePi.Longo

Saigon Quang Binh Hotel: From 60 USD.

Hotel in Son Trach:

Saigon Phongnha Hotel: Take mosquito repellent with you, Tipsytea warns on tripadvisor.com.

Dong Hoi and beaches

Read more background on vietnam-beauty.com. Read about the discovery of the worlds longest underground river. See movie by Arte.tv (text in German). And read review on tripadvisor.com. Read Tim Tompsoms blog about Dong Hoi and the caves.

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