Ninh Binh

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Located as far as 100 kilometers south of Hanoi is Ninh Binh province, the south extreme of the Red River delta. Inside the province is the grandiose Tam Diep Mountain, connecting the North and the South. The province stretches from the Northwest mountainous area to the delta, thus being called a half mountain half plain area. In particular, Ninh Binh contains 3 main kinds of topography: limestone mountains with fascinating caves & grottoes, the delta raised by Red River Silt, and a coastline with the length of 18 kilometers, enlarging the province area by 100m2 per year.
Besides limestone caves and grottoes, Ninh Binh is also popular for the first imperial capital of Vietnam, from 968 to 1010 under Dinh, Le and Ly dynasties, which has resulted in its cultural tourism potential. Also, Tam Coc-Bich Dong and Cuc Phuong national park within the province are desirable destinations for tourists.

 

Hoa Lu ancient citadel

The very first meaningful stop-over in Ninh Binh should be Hoa Lu, the capital of Vietnam from 968 until 1010. In 968, Dinh Bo Linh defeated 12 lords of the district (former Vietnam) and proclaimed to be Emperor. He was the first King of Dinh dynasty (King Dinh Tien Hoang), and named the country Dai Co Viet. Then he set up Hoa Lu, his home country, as the capital of Dai Co Viet. His meaningful success was a great landmark of Vietnam as transferring from a thousand years under the rule of China into an truly independent nation.

Hoa Lu was an ideal place for a capital city because of both its distance from China and the natural protection provided by the region's landscape. Dinh dynasty lasted 12 years. Then Le Hoan started 29 years of Le dynasty. In 1009, when Ly Cong Uan became the King, he found an area which had an excellent site and topography, therefore decided to move the capital from Hoa Lu to Dai La citadel, former Hanoi. In 1910, Hoa Lu ended its honored role of being the Nation’s Capital after 42 years.

There are two sanctuaries, each of them devoted to the emperors of these two dynasties. They are set into a landscape of limestone mountains. This place is worth a visit if you are itching to get out of Hanoi to  witness rural village life, admire a beautiful landscape and enjoy a very tranquil feel.

Tam Coc Caves

Tam Coc, which literally means three caves, is known to travelers as Vietnam's "Inland Halong Bay" with limestone mountains set amongst rice paddy fields. This area used to be under sea level some million years ago. Vestiges of the ocean still remain through the erosion of the mounts-Caves. In Tam Coc, you will be offered a leisurely sampan cruise on a creek across three vast stretches of rice field.

Phat Diem cathedral

If you are a Catholic, a famous Cathedral for visiting in Ninh Binh is Phat Diem Cathedral, which was built between 1875 and 1899 with four roofs and six sets of iron wooden pillars, and consists of a network of ponds, lakes, churches, and artificial caves. On both sides of the church are four smaller churches of different styles. In the area, the rice paddies are peppered with stone churches. But, unlike these structures, as built by Europeans and resembling typical churches of the era, Phat Diem Cathedral was designed by a Vietnamese priest, known as Father Sau. Father Sau rallied the local population to build the cathedral, five side chapels, three artificial grottoes, an artificial lake and a bell tower. Phat Diem Cathedral seems to have changed very little since Graham Greene described its gigantic pillars formed out of single trees and the scarlet lacquer work of the altar. Indeed, with its multi tiered, curling roofs and its 48 lime-wood columns - (the largest of which weigh seven tones), Phat Diem is a far cry from a European cathedral. Stone relief angels overlook carved dragons and the cathedral's two-tone bell is accompanied by a giant brass gong.
Whoever spending a few minutes inside the Cathedral, particularly the Stone Church, can easily feel the specially cool atmosphere and a classical religious space!

 

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