Hoa Lu Ancient capital
Hoa Lu was the capital of Dai Co Viet (name of Vietnam under the Dinh Dynasty ruled 968-980 and the Early Le Dynasty ruled 980-1009) nearly 10 centuries ago. The site is located in Truong Yen Commune, Hoa Lu District, Ninh Binh Province, about 100 km south of Hanoi. The ancient citadel of Hoa Lu covers an area of 300 hectares, being surrounded by arc Rocky Mountains and magnificent scenery. The space between mountainsides was covered with earth and bricks, while the foot of citadel was banked up to 8-10 meters. The imperial city of Hoa Lu comprises of outer ramparts, inner ramparts, and southern ramparts.
The outer ramparts cover an area of 140 hectares in Yen Thanh Hamlet, Truong Yen Commune. This is the main palace with Dinh temple and Le temple being center, and the location where the Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang flied national flag. In the front of the palace is Ma Yen mountain where Dinh Emperor is said to held court. The inner ramparts are situated in Chi Phong Hamlet, Truong Yen Commune or so- called Children Village, home to children and palace workers. The southern ramparts were erected in the south of Hoa Lu to protect its back because it easy to move away from here by waterway. They face and link with the outer ramparts, being encompassed with high mountains.
In the east of the capital are Cot Co (Flag-pole) Mountain where the flag of Dai Co Viet was raised on, Thap Rapids where Dinh Emperor reviewed naval troops, Tien Cave where the national treasures were kept, Thien Ton Grotto- the fortress of Hoa Lu, and tiger and panther cages used for to punish criminals. During the Le Hoan Dynasty, many magnificent shrines, such as Bach Thao Thien Tue, Phong Luu in the east, Vinh Hoa in the west, Bong Lai to the left and Cuc Lac to the right, Hoa Van castle, Truong Xuan, and Long Loc shrines roofed with silver tiles.
After more than 10 centuries, the historic sites in Hoa Lu were mostly ruined by rain and shine. Only the temples of Dinh Emperor and Le Emperor dating to the 17th Century remain today. The Temple of Dinh Emperor was built according to the style “Noi cong ngoai quoc” (internal attack with outside support) against a background of the main palace. The main palace had South Gate, lotus pond, human-made mountain, flower garden, inner triumphal arch, three sanctuaries, and a backcourt. At the sanctuaries, there are Long Sang (the stone pedestal of a royal throne) and twin whales. The sanctuaries are followed by Thieu Huong Temple to dedicate to the empire founders and heroes. The statues of Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang and his sons were erected in the backcourt. The shapes of dragon, cloud, fairy, flowers, and leaves carved out of stone and wood for decoration in the temple are highly sophisticated.
The Le Temple, around 500 meters far from the Dinh Temple, is dedicated to Emperor Le Dai Hanh. Though the Le Temple is smaller than the Dinh Temple, it has three halls, including a sanctuary, an incense burner to commemorate Pham Cu Luong who helped Emperor Le Hoan to take the throne, and main palace dedicated to Emperor Le Dai Hanh, i.e. Le Hoan, in the middle. To the right of the temple is a statue of Le Ngoa Trieu, son of the Le Emperor and to the left is a statue of Queen Duong Van Nga. Many remains of ancient architecture were discovered here, like skillful carvings. The remains of the old palace and some antique ceramic and porcelain wares were also found here. These valuable antiques are conserved in a museum to the left of the temple.
In addition, the Hoa Lu site groups some beautiful pagodas, such as Ngan Xuyen Pagoda (below Ma Yen Mountain), Nhat Tru Pagoda (about 200 meters far from Temple of Le Emperor). This is appealing destination for pilgrims and tourists. Visitors to Hoa Lu certainly will be impressed by interesting stories about the Dinh Dynasty and Le Dynasty told by local tour guides with proud and respect of young generation towards their ancestors.
Tam Coc & Bich Dong
Bich Dong Pagoda is located 11km from Ninh Binh in Ninh Binh province and can be reached by either boat or car. Bich Dong Pagoda, built on Ngu Nhac Mountain, is divided into three levels: Ha Pagoda (lower pagoda), Trung Pagoda (middle pagoda), and Thuong Pagoda (upper pagoda). On the mountain peak stands the statue of a scholar Mandarin looking at the horizon in hope of viewing the spectacular landscapes of Hoa Lu.From the upper pagoda, one has the most magnificent view of Bich Dong, which is romantically charming in terms of architecture and history.
The location for this pagoda was chosen in 1428 after two monks were charmed by the view of the river and the mountains. Later, King Le Canh Hung wrote a poem in honour of the beautiful pagoda and landscape. He was the one who said that Bich Dong Pagoda was the second nicest pagoda in Vietnam, after the Huong Pagoda, also called Perfume Pagoda, in Ha Tay province. One cannot visit Bich Dong Pagoda without visiting Tam Coc Cave, located approximately 2 km from the pagoda.
Source: Vietnam visa on arrival