Around Ha Noi
1: Co Loa Citadel & An Duong Vuong Temple
Co Loa Citadel is perhaps the most ancient citadel in Viet Nam. It was built by Thuc An Duong Vuong in the 3rd century BC to be the capital of Au Lac Kingdom (the name of Viet Nam at the time). It was built according to a helical design and was surrounded by three ramparts and a deep moat.
The remains of the citadel are located on the same site where archaeologists have found tens of thousands of bronze arrowheads, iron axes, and animal bones. Close to the citadel are the remains of Co Loa Communal House, a temple devoted to the cult of Princess Wly Chau and An Duong Vuong, a King who loved his daughter with all his heart but, lacking vigilance, left Co Loa and lost both his family and his country.
Co Loa Citadel is located 18km north of the centre of Ha Noi in Co Loa Village, Dong Anh District.
2: Perfume Pagoda (Chua Huong)
The Perfume Pagoda is situated in My Due District, approximately 70km south-west of Ha Noi. To go there, travellers must cross Ha Dong, then Van Dinh, to reach Ben Due Wharf. From there, a boat takes them for a scenic 3km ride on the Yen Vy Stream. The landscape displays high mountains, deep forests and streams that harmoniously intermingle with the rice fields.
Huong Tich Grotto is the most beautiful and famous of the grottoes in the area. It was discovered more than 2,000 years ago. When Lord Trinh Sam visited the grotto in the 18 century, he wrote five Chinese characters on the entrance in calligraphy: Nam Thien De Nhat Dong, meaning "the most beautiful grotto under the Southern skies". In the middle of the grotto is a statue of Bodhisattva Kuanin. Surrounding the statue are stalagmites resembling golden trees, silver trees, cocoons, hillocks, and a group of nine dragons.
Many Vietnamese visit the Perfume Pagoda to implore Buddha for happiness and good luck, as well as to immerse themselves in the beauties of nature. The Perfume Pagoda Festival begins after the New Year's festivities and lasts until the 3rti lunar month. During that period, between three and four hundred thousand people, from children to 60 and 70 year old pilgrims, visit the Perfume Pagoda.
3: Thay and Tay Phuong Pagodas
Thay Pagoda belongs to Sai Son Village in Quoc Oai District, 25km south-west of Ha Noi. The pagoda was built on the slopes of Sai Son Mountain. Water puppet shows are held on Long Tri Lake, where a bridge with a tile roof built in 1602 remains.
As for Tay Phuong Pagoda, it was built in the № century and it is located on Cau Lau Mountain, about 35km south west of Ha Noi. More ™ than 200 stone steps must be climbed before reaching the pagoda where one can admire hundreds of large statues made of lacquered and gilded wood, featuring among the best specimens of Vietnamese traditional statuary art.
Visiting both sites by car or motorbike requires one whole day. It is best to leave Ha Noi early in the morning to go first to Thay Pagoda. After climbing the mountain, visitors
stop in the grotto for lunch, which can not be purchased on site. They can go and visit Tay Phuong Pagoda in the afternoon in order to be back in Ha Noi before night.
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4: Tram Gian Pagoda
Tram Gian Pagoda, also known as Tien Lu (fairy guests) Pagoda, is located in Tien Lu Village, Tien Phuong Commune, Hoai Due District.
The pagoda was built during the Ly Dynasty and has since been restored several times. There are one hundred sections in the pagoda. The three-entrance gate has eight roofs standing majestically on the top of a hundred brick steps. Many valuable relics are pre¬served in the pagoda. In the upper hall, there is a rectangular pedestal. Also in the pagoda is a statue of Tuyet Son Buddha carved out of black jack-tree wood. In the yard, stands a two-story bell tower with eight roofs built in 1693. It contains a 1.42m-wide copper bell cast in 1749. Surrounding the pagoda, there are old coniferous trees and solidly built towers.
5: Tram Pagoda
Tram Pagoda, also called the Long Tien (Dragon Fairy) Pagoda, is situated in the area“ of Tram Mountain in Long Chau Village, PI Phung Chau Commune, Chuong My District. The pagoda was built in the year 1669, the seventh year of the reign of King Canh Tri. Despite being renovated on several occasions, the pagoda still retains its original artistic style of the 18th and 19th centuries, including its sophisticated engravings. The middle stone of the pagoda's three levels is beauti¬fully engraved with the images of two lizards.
6: Dau Pagoda
Dau Pagoda with the old name Thanh Dao Tu, located at the end of Gia Phuc Village, Nguyen Trai Commune, Thuong Tin District, about 24km south of Ha Noi. The pagoda worships Phap Vu, one of the four Goddesses who are worshipped in the region.
A visit to Dau Pagoda helps visitors to see rare and precious exhibits of stone pedestals from Ly Dynasty decorated with lotus flowers. On staircases of the main hall, there are two stone dragons created during the Tran Dynasty in round bodies, winding as waves on blocks of stone. Visitors will be deeply interested in the ancient traditional architectures, the sculpture on beams, columns or panels... all depict legendary traditions: fairies on dragons, boys fighting tigers, or four sacred animals: dragon, lion, turtle and phoenix (long, ly, quy, phuong). Of particular note are the mummified bodies of two monks, Vu Khac Minh and Vu Khac Truong, who died meditating in the mid 17*h century. Their bodies underwent extensive restoration by the Institute of Archaeology in 2003. This is the most special culture heritage in Dau Pagoda.
7: Son Tay Ancient Citadel Located in Son Tay Town, 42km from centre of Ha Noi, the citadel was built in 1822 in a square shape.
The wall of the citadel is constructed of laterite, an extremely strong type of stone. It has four gates, the east (Dong), the west (Tay), the front (Tien) and the back (Hau) gates, where watch guards used to stand. Surrounding the 2,000m perimeter of the citadel is a moat, which is 3m deep and 20m wide. Inside, there are four cannons standing by the four corners. There is also the Kinh Thien Hall (a place for the king to relax during his inspection days in the locality), the villas and court hall of the provincial mandarins, and the food stocks and camps for the soldiers.
Time and war have destroyed many areas inside the ancient citadel. Nowadays, only some sections of the citadel walls, some gates and some other architectural works remain. The whole historical site is now being preserved and restored.
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