Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hue Temple of Literature - A unique symbol of Vietnam’s past education

If the Temple of Literature in Hanoi is known as the first university in Vietnam and aslo called Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam in Vietnamese language, Hue Temple of Literature is regarded as a worship temple founded by the Nguyen Dynasty to dedicate to celebrated scholars of Confucianism.

During the old time, various Temples of Literature were built by the Nguyen Lords in the capital and moved to three different places: Trieu Son Village, Luong Quang Village and Long Ho Village. Hue Temple of Literature , also called Van Mieu Hue in Vietnamese language, is a worship temple founded by the Nguyen Dynasty to dedicate to celebrated scholars of Confucianism.
Hue Temple of Literature
In 1808, Gia Long and his Imperial Court decided to choose a low hill beyond the Thien Mu Pagoda, on the left bank of the Perfume River, i.e. the current position, to built a new imposing and striking Temple of Literature. The construction of the Temple of Literature was commenced on April 17th, 1808 and finished on November 12th, 1808.
The Temple of Literature faces south. All main constructive works were built on the top of the hill, three meters higher than the surrounding land. In front of it was the Perfume River, in the back was villages, hills and mounts spreading from Truong Son Range. All items of Hue Temple of Literature were erected on a square surface of 160m long on each side enclosed by La Thanh (surrounding wall). There was once a complex of 50 big and small constructions including 32 steles which bore names of doctors and four other steles.
Hue Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature was many times renovated and many sub - constructions were built, especially in Minh Mang and Thieu Tri's time. From Minh Mang's time onwards, National Examinations were held so that steles bearing the names of successful candidates were erected here. These "Tien si de danh bia" - "Steles bearing doctors' names" were gradually erected on the yard of the main temple from 1831 to 1919, the year in which the last National Examinations was held in Khai Dinh's time.
Hue Temple of literature
"Steles bearing doctors' names" in Hue Temple of Literature
As destroyed by the war and weather, the remains of the Temple of Literature are now the 34 steles of great cultural and historic value. On these steles are names, ages and places of birth of 239 successful candidates in National Examinations organized in the Nguyen Dynasty.
Today, visiting Hue Temple of Literature, tourists can see the unique symbol of Vietnam’s past eductional system. They can understand more about the tradition of knowledge appreciation, scholars administration and study encouragement of our ancestors during the feudal times.

Perfume Pagoda - Hanoi in the cold season

The Perfume Pagoda (Vietnamese: Chùa Hương) is a vast complex of Buddhist temples and shrines built into the limestone Huong Tich Mountains. The centre of the Perfume Pagoda lies in Huong Son Commune, My Duc District, former Ha Tay (now Hanoi).

When cold weather rushes and cover the pagoda, Perfume Pagoda becomes empty, quiet. In that cold weather, sometimes, the sound of boat which takes tourists in Vietnam travel to sightseeing the pagoda.

Boats are empty of people, visitors in Vietnam Tourism needn't worry about hustle, pushing or waiting. Yen Stream (Suối Yến) is peaceful, let us retreat without the grief.

Around, all things are silence and quiet. Sometimes, tourists in Vietnam travel can hear the sound of fluttering leaves, song of birds and "baah" cry of goats on mountain.

Rarely, you encounter a group of tourists visiting. So, if you have passion for taking photos, you can do comfortablely without anxiety many people obscured the beautiful landscape.

Therefore, if you have free time, traveling to Perfume Pagoda in the cold winter, discovering by yourself and enjoying particular  feeling!

Đến chùa Hương mùa giá rét
Yen Stream in the cold season becomes quiet
Đến chùa Hương mùa giá rét
Đến chùa Hương mùa giá rét
Đến chùa Hương mùa giá rét
On both sides of the stream, the plants are dormant as fighting to the cold.
Đến chùa Hương mùa giá rét
Đến chùa Hương mùa giá rét
But the cold weather doesn't still the footstep of travelers for sightseeing the pagoda. Sometimes, on Yen Stream, a small boat appears and takes travelers to visit Perfume Pagoda.

Đến chùa Hương mùa giá rét
Đến chùa Hương mùa giá rét
Đến chùa Hương mùa giá rét
Đến chùa Hương mùa giá rét
Despite of the cold, lily flowers still bloom with bright color

Đến chùa Hương mùa giá rét
Đến chùa Hương mùa giá rét
Đến chùa Hương mùa giá rét
Each spot of Perfume Pagoda is surrounded by the cold weather. So, there isn't crowed scene of travelers in spots.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Magical beauty of Paradise Cave

It's the longest dry cave in Asia with magnificent stalactites.

Paradise Cave (Thien Duong Cave) is newly-discovered cave in Quang Binh Province. Its length is 31 km. The widest spot is about 150 meters. It brings a fantastic beauty that make tourists in Vietnam Tourism praise.

It was discovered in 2005 but after five years of mining, paving the way, building the up-and-down way, Paradise Cave is opened by Truong Thinh Group in September 2011.
It's  about 60km to the northwest from Dong Hoi City, Quang Binh, lies between Phong Nha - Ke Bang Forest, belongs to Son Trach Commune, Bo Trach District. 
According to experts, Paradise is more beautiful and magnificent than Phong Nha and Tien son.
A local named Ho Khanh said that Paradise Cave was discovered and attracted the attention of many scientists, explorers, international community, tourists in Vietnam travel.
The British Cave Research Association (PCRA) organized to explore and published it. It's 31.4 km in length, width varies from 30 to 100 meters.
Thelargest spot is 150 meters height from the bottom up ceiling of about 60 meters.
Dr. Howard Limbert, a member of PCRA said that it may be the longest dry cave in Asia.
It's about 7km from Ho Chi Minh Highway (West Branch) to the Km16. Over 6km of the way is quite flat on the smooth ground land, under the canopy layer of forests with the blowing cool wind. But there is a road which far 300m from the cave, tourists in Vietnam travel must climb across the side of sharp cat-ears stones.

  Wonder structure, magical and magnificent beauty of the caves made visitors in Vietnam Tourism surprise
 Paradise has the 9m2 cave mouth. The ceilings is soaring high and spacious.
Specially, two columns of giant stalactites with 5 meters diameter rise as high as the columns of heaven, includes many various shapes.
The beginning part of the cave is an arch stone which tens of meters high, about 100 meters wide.
Paradise is really especially by "the orphaned stone columns". Tourist in Vietnam Tourisml really impress by the long stalactites which spread on background of the cave looks like a relief.

The second part of the cave with dozens of stalactites high from 30 to 60cm, lies  above the background looked like Buddha statues.

There arelarge columns with 1-2m diameter like as Guan Yin

Compared to Phong Nha Cave, stalactites in Paradise has more shapes than.

Most of background cave is soft, flat soil. The temperature in cave is always at 20 to 21 degrees Celsius . Just stand at the front door, Visitors in Vietnam travel can also feel the cool blast blowing upward.

Magical beauty of the cave  like as hidden fairies.
Come into the cave, tourists in Vietnam travel can feel each footstep or voice, laughter of  travelers. Each separate sound echoes and beats on the cliffs as hooking people talking.

A layer of stalactites brings shape Rong house of  the Highlands.
Current, the cave is just exploited and visited with more than 500 meters in length. Some inside poles have dangerous, unstable background.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Tuyen Quang - “The valley of light”

The residents in Tuyen Quang Province are proud of their native land and its development. Over the past half a century, the province where people of 22 ethnic groups live together has experienced great socio-economic changes that brought a better life to the locals and changed the thinking and working habits of the authorities and people in the new period of time.

Time has elapsed, but the contributions made by Tuyen Quang Province and its people to the cause of national liberation exist forever in the golden pages of the history. The locals are proud of their native land and they have made great strides. In recent years, this poor province has constantly achieved a two-digit growth rate in GDP (11% on average), with the industrial production value increasing by 19.6% and the export value by nearly 17%. The provincial economic structure has shifted in the direction of increasing the industrial and construction ratios and decreasing gradually the agricultural, forestry and fishery ratios.   
The story about the Province’s breakthrough in raising dairy cows remains to a topical issue. After nearly three years of implementing a dairy cow-raising programme, the Province has more than 4,000 dairy cows and 900 cows for meat of high quality (Brahman breed), which constitutes a foundation to qualitatively improve the cattle herd. More importantly, the programme has made a drastic change in the people’s perception of structural shift in crops and animal farming and gradually built the animal husbandry into goods production.

To facilitate the consumption of dairy products, the Province has established a joint-venture withVietnam Share-holding Milk Company (VINAMILK) to build Tuyen Quang Milk-processing Plant with a capacity of 40 million litters a year in Long Binh An Industrial Park. One of the strong dairy cow- raisers in Tuyen Quang Province is Phu Lam Share-holding Dairy Cow Company in Yen Son District, which raises 2,000 cows imported from Australia.
Director of the Company Phung Van Hung said: “The average temperature in this place is 23 0C, the same as in Queensland of Australia; so the cows grow well and each of them weighs 500-700 kg. Now over 1,000 cows are being milked. They have a high rate of breeding. On average, cows of the first brood give 17-18 kg of milk a day”. The Company’s production has reached a high socio-economic efficiency, not only bringing jobs to the locals, but also improving the life of people of various ethnic groups, who earn money by growing and selling maize and grass to the Company.

The year 2004 witnessed an important landmark in the activities of Tuyen Quang Cement Factory which has become Tuyen Quang Share-holding Cement Company after its 25 years of development. The Company has invested in building a production chain of new technology. Deputy Director of the Company Tran Minh Chon said: “We are trying to raise the quality of our products to compete with other cement products on the markets and increase our capacity and output with an aim to monopolize the local market and sell our products to the neighbouring provinces.” Construction of another plant in the Province, namely Trang An Cement Plant with a capacity of 910,000 tonnes per year, has just been started.

Tuyen Quang is a mountainous province with great endowed forest potential. In recent years, the areas of planted forests have increased considerably, making favourable conditions for the forestry product processing industry to develop. In January 2005, after four months of operation, Tuyen Quang Share-holding Forestry Products Processing Company exported its first batch of 4,000 out-door chairs out of 6,000 chairs ordered by the Swedish IKIA Group to the European markets. This is a good start for the Company’s bigger plans.

Like many other provinces and cities in the country, Tuyen Quang attaches special importance to the model of building industrial parks and attracting outside investments. With large land, abundant materials and rich natural resources, the Province has great potential to develop different industries. With favourable conditions in land, water way and railway transportations, ports and water supply systems and telecommunication services, together with investment-incentive policies, Long Binh An Industrial Park, more than 10 km away from Tuyen Quang provincial capital, is very attractive to investors. Right after it establishment, many investors have registered to operate in this park. Today it has become an industrial park with various forms of production involving modern and high technologies.

A modern industrial project is taking shape at the foot of Pac Ta Mountain in Na Hang District. It is Tuyen Quang Hydro-electric Power Plant with a capacity of 342 MW on the Gam River, which will generate 1.2 billion KWh of electricity per year. Its first turbo-generator unit is expected to operate in 2006, joining the national grid to provide electricity to Na Hang District and other areas. In the Tay language, Na Hang means “the terminal land” and Tuyen Quang means “the valley of light”. Great changes have brought a new image to “the terminal land”, promising a bright future for an area renowned for its revolutionary tradition.

Kim Son Sedge Fine-Arts

Sedge appeared in Kim Son two centuries ago but it has played an important role in the district’s economy. The Kim Son people have used this material to make many products like mat, carpet, baskest, trays, boxs, dishs, cups, tumblers, bags and hats.

 About sedge products, sedge-mat weaving should be mentioned first. Mat weaving is a creative, hard and careful manufacture; from the process of choosing, drying and dying sedge to have a scarlet and fast color; the jute must be small and strong for the process of weaving. 

The worker who weaves flower-patterns on the mat must be brisk, flexible, and sharp-eyed. He must have a skill of weaving to make patterns accurately without mistakes. 

The worker who “lao coi” (insert sedge) must be well-balanced with the weaving worker. There should be careful and smooth cooperation between “lao coi” worker and weaving worker.

Hanoi Chicken Vermicelli Soup

Hanoi Chicken Vermicelli Soup (Bún Thang) originally comes from North, but already found a new home in many places in South, esp. in Ho Chi Minh City where has been considered as the largest food hub.

Hanoi Chicken Vermicelli Soup (Bún Thang) originally comes from North, but already found a new home in many places in South, esp. in Ho Chi Minh City where has been considered as the largest food hub. People now consider it as the Traditional Vietnamese Food. Easy to find this dish around the city.
Hanoi capital in the old days, this dish traditionally prepared on the fourth day of our Lunar New Year (Tết), when we have a meal to see off our ancestor. All the left-overs in the kitchen from ham, chicken, shrimp, and pork to some veggie have been used for this dish. That is why everything has been cut into shreds.

Today, Hanoi Chicken Vermicelli Soup seems simplified a lot, from the ingredients to the cooking process, esp. in South where is far away from the origin place. This requires long preparation. How to keep the soups clear, how to make thin omelet, to cut it and Vietnamese pork ham into super thin shreds as you see from the photo. And also how to tear the cooked chicken meat into small strips, but we missed shrimp floss this time for Vietnam tourism.
Otherwise our color picture would look nicer with red shrimp floss, yellow egg shreds, pink pork ham strips, green Vietnamese mint and ivory chicken floss. Soup for this dish is chicken soup base; to keep it clear during cooking process would take time and patience to do so. Among different kinds of soup for rice vermicelli I probably prefer the taste of chicken soup than the others, pork or beef.
This traditional Vietnamese food is quite unique, outstanding from other dishes.  We put all items in the bowl - the mix of rice vermicelli with shreds of fried egg, pork ham strips, chicken floss, Vietnamese mint, some slices of red chili and finally the soup. Squeeze some lemon juice and a spoon of shrimp paste. They are the combination of egg, ham, chicken with sweet taste from soup and special flavor of shrimp paste. No words to describe! It is just perfect. Especially strong flavor of shrimp paste makes this dish tastier, richer.

Now you have more traditional Vietnamese food  to enjoy, come and take it if you have a chance. Make sure that you already take note this dish on your travelling book before visit Vietnam. Good Luck for your Cooking.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Traveling to An Giang

It is common knowledge in Vietnam that the Mekong Delta in Vietnam has two seasons, the “dry” one between December and April, and the “rainy” one between May and November.
But when you talk to local people, they will tell you about the “floating” – or high-tide – season when more water from the Mekong Delta River flows into its tributaries in Vietnam – the Tien and Hau rivers.
Starting in the seventh month and ending in the tenth month of the lunar calendar, the off-the-book season is marked with flooded fields, but the flooding also brings alluvium that enriches the soil, not to mention the abundance fresh water produce – read fish. That all this could be lost to upstream dams in China, Laos and Thailand, and that the delta is imperiled by climate change is a sobering thought.

Somewhat surprisingly, the “floating” season is also a favorite season for travelers, and once you are there, you understand why. Not only does nature put her liveliest foot forward at this time, the liveliness seeps into locals as well.
It is at this time that traditional songs known as vong co (literally “longing for the past”) are sung by people when rowing their boats along rivers to harvest the season’s produce, including some special ones like the dien dien (Sesbania sesban) flowers. The dishes made from the special produce, including the dien dienflowers and ca linh (a fish species under the same family with carps), are also a draw.
With the season nearing its end, I decided that I could not let it go without a visit. I picked a tour to An Giang Province, which hosts the region’s biggest lake and one of its most famous forested wetlands, for a high-tide season traveling trip.
Lake in the sky

Located among Khanh Binh, Khanh An, and Nhon Hoi communes in An Phu District, Bung Binh Thien (Lake in the sky) looked out of place when we saw it. Its clean and blue water was in contrast to the muddy look of the Binh Ghi River, which flows into the lake, caused by the increase in alluvium during the high-tide season.
Vietnam travel guide explained to us that a special kind of seaweed in the four-meter deep lake helped filter the muddy water flowing into it. 
Thanks to this facility, the lake is home to hundreds of species of freshwater fish and flowering plants commonly used in local cooking like water lilies and lotus. So, it is not rare to see local farmers fishing on small boats there, making the scene a photographer’s delight.
Another interesting aspect of this lake is that while its area is nearly 300 hectares during the dry season, it can expand by another 200 hectares during rainy season.
However, the lake’s name indicates its real character – a tranquility that locals feel makes it a transcendental place. One tends to agree, watching boats row through hanging branches of dien dien full of yellow flowers.
A mosque of the Cham people that stands near the lake adds to the sacred feeling. The Masjid Khay Ri Yah carries typical details of Islamic architecture: a dome with a white star on the top, and overturned-U-shaped doors. It has spacious interiors, numerous columns, white floors and ceilings painted blue, representing freedom and peace.

Mohammed Li, deputy chief of Bung Binh Thien Hamlet, said it is one of seven Cham hamlets in Chau Doc Town, where some 13,700 Muslims live.
After seeing the mosque, we headed for dinner at the official’s house. He explained to us about the culture of the Cham people and their religion over the past two years.
He treated us to specialties of the high-tide season, like grilled ca linh with a dip made of fish sauce and tamarind, banh xeo (rice pancake) with ca linh, and the traditional Vietnamese soup, canh chua (sour soup), modified with ca linh and dien dien flowers.
We did not have to sit on the floor and eat with our fingers as the Cham do. Li had considerately prepared spoons and chopsticks for us. He also treated us to various stories about the Cham people’s customs, as well as the daily life of people living around the lake.
Sanctuary wetland
The next day, we visited the Tra Su Cajeput Forest, which is located in Van Giao Commune, Tinh Bien District.

One of the Mekong Delta’s largest forested wetlands, the 1,500-hectare forest hosts some 140 plant species, mainly cajeput tress, 11 animal species and 23 kinds of fish. These include red-listed wading birds like oriental darters (Anhinga melanogaster), and water birds like painted storks (Mycteria leucocephala).
During the floating season, the forest’s population increases as thousands of fish and birds and many other species flock there.
When we arrived at the forest, we were in for a feast for the eyes: the fresh green of duckweed covered the water’s surface, and there were lotus leaves as well.  As we entered the forest on a motorboat, it felt as though we were riding on a flying carpet of green duckweed.
Later, we switched to a small rowboat to go deeper, so that we would not disturb the forest’s residents with the noise of the motor.  From the feeling of being on an adventure, it became a journey of peace as we slowly passed rows of century-old cajeput trees. Above our heads, birds of all kinds called to each other.
There was also a 25-meter tall tower for visitors to change their view of the forest – observing it from a height with the That Son Range in the backdrop.
Other not-to-be missed high tide season destinations in An Giang include the Vam Nao River that flows through Tan Trung Commune in Phu Tan District. Visitors also have homestay options during which they can join locals in their daily activities, rowing boats, fishing and picking dien dien flowers.


Indigenous to Vietnam, Cao Dai, is in fact a fusion of the teachings from Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, with elements of Christianity and Islam.

Founded in the 1920′s, Cai Dai was seen as the answer to the ideal religion and they also worship western icons with the like of Victor Hugo, William Shakespeare and even Joan of Arc. The religion has about three million followers, all in Southern Vietnam and there are several Cao Dai temples in the Mekong Delta too but none as grand as this.

Vietnam Cao Dai Temple
(Built between 1933 and 1955) The structure of the nine-story Cao Dai Temple is part pagoda, part cathedral, part mosque – representing the ideology behind the religion. The exterior – fluorescent shades of pinks and yellows, rococo walls and mosaic-mirrored tiles that glint in the sun seems to find their delicate balance in the chaos.
To it top off, the exterior that is already a feast for the eyes, are further ‘accessorized’ with multi-colored dragons of all shapes and sizes. Above the main entrance is the all-seeing Holy Eye, the symbol of the Cao Dai sect. The interior, needless to say, is just as engaging as statues of Jesus Christ, Buddha and the Hindu god, Brahma, stand side by side.

Vietnam Inside Cao Dai Temple
The three principal colors of Cao Dai are yellow (for Buddhism), blue (for Taoism), and red (for Christianity), and these appear in worshippers’ robes as well as the temple. The most important symbol is the Divine Eye, representing God, which also appears in followers’ homes. It is a left eye, because God is Yang, and Yang is the left side. It has a ying-yang symbol in the pupil.
Within the temple, males must enter on the right and females to the left and shoes have to be removed before entering the massive main hall. Once you step into the temple, you seem to be removed from the hassle and bustle of the outside world and placed into a world of calmness, peace and light.

Prayer session Vietnam Cao Dai Temple
Prayer Session inside Cao Dai Temple
Services are held four times a day and visitors are welcomed to watch from the balcony above which runs the entire length of the cathedral. Rows and rows of gracefully attired devotees dressed in white stroll into the hall systematically, accompanied by the sounds of the gong.
As if on cue, once inside the hall, the devotees kneel down together before the altar signaling the start of the prayers. The priests are easily identified by their white pointy hats decorated with the holy eye and are dressed in either red, blue or yellow flowing robes.
The gongs are now joined in by the string instruments and harmonious chanting of the devotees. Photography is allowed here and is an excellent opportunity not to be missed as you will never find another moment like this anywhere else.

Vietnam Cao Dai Temple Entrance
Cao Dai Temple Entrance

Getting There

The Cao Dai Temple is located just outside Tay Ninh, 60 miles northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. The easiest and most popular way to visit the Cao Dai Temple is on an organized tour from Ho Chi Minh city.
Most people visit the Cao Dai Temple together with the Cu Chi Tunnels.The bus ride takes about two hours.


Situated about 33km away from Sa Dec Town in Dong Thap Province, Dinh Yen Village has been famous nationwide for its traditional mat-making craft which has existed for nearly 100 years. The Village, near the Hau River, is now an attractive tourist address.
Coming here, tourists will have a chance to attend the village’s market where millions of products of different kinds from the Cuu Long River delta and the eastern area of Southern Vietnam are exchanged every year.

Collecting rush in Can Tho Province to supply materials to Dinh Yen mat-making village
Particularly in the last month or the first and second months of the year of the lunar calendar, mats are much sought-after. One of the most outstanding features of the market, different from those in other regions, is that buyers will stay at a  place to wait for sellers who carry products on their shoulders.

Rush threads for mat-weaving
Another unique feature of the market is that the market is held at night for two hours because the locals are busy weaving mats all day long and they only go to the market at night.

Dying rush
The market is always animated with young female sellers who enthusiastically introduce to customers various kinds of mats, diverse in colours and patterns. Prices vary widely and a lot of bartering can be seen going on.

Processing rush in Can Tho Province for mat-making
In An Le Hamlet, the family of Ho Thi Muoi has an age-old tradition of making mats. Her 70 year-old mother and daughter Vo Thi Tu Trinh, 22 years old, diligently weave mats. Muoi said: “Nobody knows when the mat-making craft was established in the village. At present, almost households in the hamlet participate in the craft after harvest time, helping to provide a stable income.”

Transporting rush by boat in the watery Cuu Long River area.
In the wharf are hundreds of boats and junks of traders from different provinces who go to the market to buy mats. Each trader buys 500 to 1,000 mats to sell all over the watery area of Cuu Long River. The market is also the place where mat-making materials from Sa Dec, Vinh Long, etc., are sold.

The mat with square patterns is the most sought-after
among products made in Dinh Yen Village.
Visiting the market, tourists will be impressed by an exciting atmosphere of the market on the yard of An Phuoc Pagoda.

Dinh Yen mats are sold at the local market and in many parts of the Cuu Long River delta.

Transporting rush for mat-making.

Bustling Dinh Yen mat market.