September 23, 2016

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A place of fantastic creatures and fanciful creations

Nwe Nwe Tun

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Our group began the second day with a pick up from the hotel we stayed at in Hanoi to visit Bai Dinh pagoda and Trang an, eco-tourism attraction area in Ninh Binh 120kms away from south of Hanoi. The province is surrounded by Hoa Binh and Ha Nam to the North; Nam Dinh to the East and Thanh Hoa to the West and South.
This province is surrounded by rocky mountains in the West and Northwest with coastal areas in the East and South. This is a tropical region with monsoon climate. The best time to visit Binh Ninh falls between November and April of a year which is the dry season. It is worth mentioning that Ninh Binh was the ancient capital of Viet Nam in the 10th century and it is also a venue of sacred relics of Buddha that date back to 1000 years.
First, we visited Bai Dinh Pagoda, the bearing magnificent massive architecture, and a deep traditional identity, which has emerged as a must-see destination of Ninh Binh province in Viet Nam. Bai Dinh Pagoda is also one of the places of tourist attraction, and is located on an area of 539 hectares. In fact, it is a religious complex of both ancient and new pagodas with a wonderful panoramic view.

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Buddha Sanctuary place of Bai Dinh Pagoda is a large temple complex which is known for many ancient Asian cultural heritages, and also for the Asia’s largest gilded bronze statue of Buddha inside the temple. There are more than 1,000 steps to the temple on the top, and on the platforms between the stairs lie there the statues of 500 Arahats. The corridor to the temple on the top of the mountain is said to be the longest in Asia.
We paid homage to Lord Buddha and made an earnest wish we were be here the next time. The gilded bronze Buddha statue is 10 metres tall and weighs 100 tonnes. This statue was cast by the pure bronze bought from Russia. It is said to have been cast and installed by the famous artisans of Y Yen, Nam Dinh. Moreover, there are several national handicrafts in this temple such as three largest horizontal lacquered boards (hoành phi) and three biggest “Cua Vong” (a kind of door which is sophisticatedly sculpted and engraved). In Tam The Temple, there are three Tam The statues representing the past, the present and the future. Each statue is 12 metres high and weighs 100 tonnes.
Another special feature in Bai Dinh pagoda is “Great Bell” which weighs 36 tonnes and is located in Bell Tower. In addition, there is a 70-tonne bronze drum on the floor of the Tower. What’s more, coming to Bai Dinh pagoda, visitors have a chance to see the biggest Arimetteyya Bodhisatta statue in Bodhisatta Temple. This statue looks so marvelous with thousand hands and eyes to present the protection and universal salvation for common people.
Furthermore, visitors will be surprised at the collection of 500 Arahat statues on the hill on the right-hand side of Phap Chu Temple. The 500 Arahat statues made of marbles are placed along the two sides of the corridors leading up to other structures of the pagoda complex. Each statue, from 2 to 2.5 metres in height, 2 to 2.5 tonnes in weight, renders unique facial expression and posture that is not expressed by the other. No doubt, Bai Dinh pagoda is a masterpiece of both nature and men and it is the pride of Vietnamese people in terms of unique architecture, culture and historical value.
Bai Dinh Pagoda Mountain is 200m high. It lies between a mountain and a plain with an area of nearly 150,000 square metres. Bai Dinh Pagoda complex was arranged in five layers upward, including a temple’s inner Three-Entrance Gate, a bell tower, a temple dedicated to Bodhisatta Arimetteyya, Phap Chu Temple devoted to the Sakyamuni Buddha, and Tam The Temple dedicated to Buddha. The Three-Entrance Gate is followed by the bell tower, built in the octagonal shape with three-layer curved roof.
Bai Dinh Pagoda is famous for holding several records. So far, it has had eight records recognized as follows: Biggest gilt Buddha Sakyamuni statue in Asia : the 100-tonne statue of Sakyamuni Buddha in Phap Chu Temple; Biggest bronze statue of Buddha in Southeast Asia: the 100-tonne statue of Arimetteyya Bodhisatta; Biggest bronze bell in Viet Nam: the 36-tonne bronze bell in the bell tower; Largest pagoda area in Viet Nam: 539 hectres; Longest corridor with 500 Arahat statues: two wooden corridors with a total length of 3,400 metres; Largest number of Arahat statues in Viet Nam: 500 marble Arahat statues; Largest Ngoc (pearl) Well in Viet Nam: 30 metres in diameter, 6 metres in depth; Largest number of Bodhi trees in Viet Nam: 100 Bodhi trees.
What makes Bai Dinh pagoda different is its architecture of the dark brown, dome-shaped, curved tail of a phoenix. The architecture is not like rough straight strokes of the Chinese pagodas. Detailed, decorated pagoda is unique in architecture bearing the stamp of the famous traditional villages in Viet Nam.
Upon return from Bai Dinh Pagoda, we had lunch with some special dishes. Among those specialties, Ninh Binh’s chamois meat (lamb) is the most famous and unique that gourmets may find no other place offering more delicious dishes made from goat in this country. The reason is all goats are fed naturally on limestone mountains that make their meat more firm than goats in other regions. Those dishes are at their best taste when eating with the local fresh leafs like đing lăng leaf, mo leaf or sung leaf as additional ingredients.
After lunch, we left for the Trang An Grottoes to take an amazing boat trip along the romantic riverside. Trang An, a place of eco tourism attraction, located in the eastern Ninh Binh, features many beautiful caves and great scenery of mountains and rivers.

Covering an area of nearly 2,000 hectares, the Trang An beautiful landscape site is scattered with karst topography such as limestone mountains, caves and lakes. Particularly, the Trang An complex is one of the province’s most attractive destinations. It is a UNESCO recognized world natural heritage.
You will be amazed by a neglected area while having sampan boat trip through cave chains such as Sang Cave, Toi Cave, Ba Giot Cave, Sinh Cave, etc. You will have mysterious views of the so-called “inland version of Halong Bay.” So, Trang An is also known as Ha Long on the land around the many countries in the world.
Trang An is compounded with 31 valleys and 50 cross-water caves. Trang An is also home to 600 different species of flora and over 200 species of fauna, many of them being rare and endangered. If you are lucky enough, you can sometimes see mischievous monkeys. Rowing through Trang An Grottoes is one kind of experience. The thunderous silence of the highlands is broken only by the sound of birds chirping and the oars stirring the clear water. Look closely as you float to see the wild white goats grazing on the forested mountains that rise up from the water. The tide-mark is still on the rocks about 2m above the water, and on the higher mountain walls the erosion has carved some strange shapes in the caves. Trang An Grottoes is truly one of the most beautiful sights in Viet Nam.
This place is wonderful! We conducted the boat trip around 3 pm. There were still many other tourists from different countries. You will get a 3 hour boat trip for that. Just four persons can ride on the boats. During the trip, there are several temples and stops; you can choose if you want to get out around there. The scenery of Trang An is stunning, with lots of caves. Definitely a place worth visiting! After the boat trip, we returned to hotel in Ninh Binh.

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