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» » » » » Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex

DESTINATIONAfter millions of years of geological tectonics, nature has endowed Ninh Binh with a magnificent natural wonder of green mountains and blue water. It is the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex.

 A beautiful landscape

Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex covers an area of 10,000ha in Hoa Lu, Gia Vien and Nho Quan Districts and Ninh Binh City. It includes the Trang An Eco-tourist Site, Tam Coc- Bich Dong Landscape and Hoa Lu Ancient Citadel.

From the Trang An wharf we took a boat ride to visit a complex of 51 grottos which is called a “Ha Long Bay on land”. On both sides of the river there are mountain ranges. Sometimes drops from a light rain fell on the clear, blue water, making the scene more beautiful.

A part of the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex. Photo: Trang An’s Management Board

Trang An Ferry Wharf. Photo: Trang An's Management Board

Yellow rice fields on the way to Tam Coc - Bich Dong Landscape. Photo: Dinh Cong Hoan (VNP's file)

After millions of years of geological tectonics, nature has created primitive caves with wonderful stalactites.
Photo: Cong Dat

A mountain in the shape of an eagle’s beak on the way to Tam Coc - Bich Dong Landscape. Photo: Trang Linh

Our boat passed through the Toi (dark), Sang (bright), Seo and Nau Ruou (wine-making) Grottos to reach Ba Giot (three drops) Grotto. Inside the caves the stalactites and stalagmites have diverse shapes which stimulate the imaginations of visitors.

According to researchers, Trang An area was formerly the “Hoa Lu ancient bay”. After 250 million years, limestone mountains with characteristics of karst tectonics have been formed here. They are weathered limestone mountains eroded by water. In addition, the ancient Vietnamese built dykes to prevent floods and the encroachment of the sea, giving this area the appearance it has today.

The traces in the “core area” show the researchers’ evaluations are completely reasonable. Although the sea receded a very long time ago, there are still sink holes and karst islands with imprints of the sea at the foot of the limestone mountains. That may be the reason why experts consider Trang An an “outdoor geological museum”.

During our trip, we were lucky to meet a team of experts from the Vietnam Institute of Archaeology who were doing scientific research at Trang An Eco-tourist Site. We followed the experts to visit the Moi and Sinh Caves and the watery areas of Binh 1, 2 and 3. In these caves, traces of the sea are clearly seen in the layers of freshwater or sea mollusk shells. There are also many relics, such as animal remains, kitchens, tombs, human remains and working tools made of stone, bones and ceramics. These show that Trang An might have been the home of Vietnamese people about 10,000-20,000 years ago.

A delegation of researchers conducts a survey in Sinh Cave, one of the new caves in Trang An. Photo: Cong Dat

Some of the specimens excavated from new caves in Trang An. Photo: Cong Dat

Experts from the University of Cambridge (UK) survey one of the new caves in Trang An. Photo: Trang An's Management Board

According to Associate Professor, Dr. Nguyen Khac Su at the Vietnam Institute of Archaeology, the excavated archaeological relics have created the unique features of the prehistoric caves in Trang An.

Dr. Ryan Rabett from the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research of the University of Cambridge (UK) who had similar ideas as Prof. Su, said: “Trang An is a very unique example of human history, not only for Vietnam but also for the region. It has a combination of both natural and cultural values.”

After visiting the caves we continued our journey to Tam Coc-Bich Dong Landscape which is considered “Vietnam’s second nicest grotto”. During summer days in June, Tam Coc-Bich Dong area seemed more beautiful with its yellow rice fields at the foot of the limestone mountains. While sitting in a boat that ran along the Ngo Dong River we enjoyed the mountain scenery. Boats loaded with yellow rice ran up and down the river.

At Tam Coc-Bich Dong area there is Thai Vi Temple which is famous at home and abroad. The temple has unique architecture with all of its big and tall columns made of green monolith. In front of the temple there is a well built with green stone. The old bell in the yard was cast in the 19th Chinh Hoa year (1689). Bich Dong Pagoda on Truong Yen limestone mountains is an ancient pagoda of oriental style. Looking down from this pagoda people can see the boundless beauty that nature has bestowed on the area.

A thousand-year-old ancient capital

To visit the ancient capital of Hoa Lu we returned to Trang An Eco-tourist Site. Near the wharf of the tourist site there is Trinh Temple honoring two mandarins who were credited with safeguarding this area. We also visited Khong Temple which is also called Cay Thi (persimmon tree) Temple because there are two ancient persimmon trees with two types of fruit, round and flat. The temple honors seven loyal mandarins of the court (968-980).

Situated on a high mountain, Tran Temple is known as a very sacred ancient temple. The way to the temple is long and steep but the more people go up the more they are interested in the beautiful scenery and feel comfortable in the fresh and cool air. Legend has it that the temple was built by King Dinh Tien Hoang during the time the Hung Kings’ Temple was built in Phu Tho. Later, King Tran Thai Tong (1218 –1277) came to this area to establish Vu Lam royal step-over place and improved the temple, hence the temple was called Tran Temple. It honors the Quy Minh Genie who defended the southern gate of Hoa Lu Capital. Every year, on the 18th of March according to the lunar calendar, many visitors from all parts of the country come to attend the Tran Temple festival and visit Trang An area. More than 10 centuries have passed but the images of dragons, unicorns, tortoises and a phoenix delicately carved on the stone pillars of the temple are still intact.

Noi Lam or Tran Temple. Photo: Cong Dat

The dragon yard at King Le’s Temple in the relic complex of the ancient capital of Hoa Lu. Photo: Cong Dat

The dragon yard at King Dinh Tien Hoang’s Temple in the relic complex of the Ancient Capital of Hoa Lu. Photo: Cong Dat

The Thai Vi Temple Festival in the ancient capital of Hoa Lu. Photo: Duong Duy Khang

Dinh and Le Kings’ Temple seen from the Truong Yen Mountain. Photo: Trang Linh

Some of patterns and specimens are found in the relic complex of Hoa Lu. Photo: Cong Dat

Spanish tourists visit Thai Vi Temple. Photo: Trang Linh

Bich Dong, a beautiful landscape, attracts a large number of tourists. Photo: Trang Linh

Historians say that Trang An is associated with the historical and cultural values of the ancient capital of Hoa Lu. According to old historical books, in 968, after defeating twelve armies of aggressors and unifying the country, Dinh Tien Hoang became a king. He set up the capital in Hoa Lu and named the country Dai Co Viet. From 968 to 1009, six kings of the Dinh, Le and Ly Dynasties set up the capital there. In 1010, King Ly Thai To moved the capital from Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh) to Thang Long (Hanoi). Since then Hoa Lu has remained the ancient capital.

Dao Thi My Dung, a tourist guide of the ancient capital of Hoa Lu tourist site led us to visit the architectural structures of the dynasties of Dinh and Le kings. These places still preserve many historical imprints showing the golden era of the nation that built the capital and protected the independence and sovereignty of the nation over a thousand years ago.

Every year, from the 6th - 8th of March according to the lunar calendar, the residents in Ninh Binh Province organize the festival of the ancient capital of Hoa Lu to commemorate Kings Dinh Tien Hoang and Le Dai Hanh. Recently, Hoa Lu has been recognized as a special national relic by the Government. With the approval of the Government, Ninh Binh Province is preparing a file to submit to UNESCO for its recognition of Trang An as a World Natural Heritage.

Talking with us, Nguyen Cao Tan, Deputy Director of the Management Board of the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex said that the data on the values of the landscape, geology, geomorphology, relics, cultures and activities of the people which were collected in Trang An from March 2012 to May 2012 has been highly appreciated by New Zealander expert Paul Dingwall. The management board will continue coordinating with the Vietnam Institute of Archaeology, the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources and the Tradition and Development Research Institute to collect more data to send to domestic and foreign experts for their consultancy. Then they will select the outstanding criteria to complete the file to submit to UNESCO in September 2012.

They will also promote activities to call on international organizations and diplomatic missions to support and assist Ninh Binh Province during UNESCO’s consideration process to recognize Trang An as a world heritage site.

Source:Vietnam Pictorial

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