Tràng An – the UNESCO World’s Heritage Site in Ninh Bình (North Vietnam)

Before our Lunar New Year, I got a suggestion to accompany some friends to travel along Vietnam by car, starting from Sài Gòn up to Quảng Ninh (North Vietnam). I was very excited, surely, a big “Yes” from me! My friend’s purpose was to climb up the Yên Tử mountain, but to me – just to see Vietnam along its beautiful coasts.

When the departure date approached, most of my supposed-travel-mates quietly disappeared. The only one guy left and I named him “The leader” because he was a key person behind this trip, even if no one goes, he has to go anyway, due to his inner religious commitment – to climb up to some famous “Chùa Đồng” (Copper Pagoda) on the top of the Yên Tử mountain. And he keeps doing that for almost 10 years.

2b7a8-trangan_33Tràng An – one of my destinations in the North during this Lunar New Year. 

The departure has been delayed for one more day due to an “unclear confirmation” from another friend in the last minute, but then we both decided to go without waiting. My preparations for an exciting adventure throughout Vietnam by car now magically became an “online-air-ticket-to-Hà-Nội”, that I booked just a day before the departure.

Anyway, my opportunity to see Vietnam along its coasts from South to North has gone,  but I will have more time to see the North – from the Yên Tử mountain in a windy cloudy rainy day, to the spectacular Hạ Long Bay in a sunny day and especially the majestic foggy Sapa! But for this post I want to share my first trip to Tràng An, the scenic landscape area which is considered as the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

e2323-trangan_20The beginning of the river route to Tràng An…

Originally we planned to visit the largest Pagoda in the North – Bái Đính first, then come back to Tràng An later, as they are next to each other. But we were terribly disappointed upon our arrival to Bái Đính, partly due to the rain, made the ground very muddy, but mostly due to the huge crowd of thousands of pilgrims visiting Pagoda during Lunar New Year. And it seemed badly over control, right from the main entrance.

My friend was very upset when seeing the big mess at a such holy place. At the end we all learnt a lesson of today life: many people consider the religious sites just like a place where they go to pray only for the fortune, for more money despite any sanctuaries, any religious respect. But even to the temple’s founders – like any other profitable business because building the temples, they consider to get back from the offerings as the incomes. And it’s huge!

beb5d-trangan_9Mountains after mountains in a foggy day made the place more mysterious 

We quickly left Bái Đính, without seeing the Pagoda, with no regret and arrived to Tràng An in 15′ ride on taxi, we saw another big crowd but luckily we managed to get the tickets without problem. We were struggling a bit while getting on the boat due to the long queue ! I had to follow my friend so failed to get a front seat for better view!

de4b3-trangan_8Tràng An much larger than “Tam Cốc Bích Động” where I’ve been 2 years ago 

With more than 30 lakes, 40 caves, many of them – water caves, surrounded by million-years-old mountains, mountains after mountains, all of it made Tràng An a terrific scenic landscape that I really wish to come back someday in a sunny day, to take another route, as the rower told us, to discover the area.

37a08-tranganBut I also found Tràng An strangely beautiful in fog and rain… 

31682-trangan_1The colourful umbrellas, raincoats made the river more lively in rain.  

cb4e0-trangan_2Unlike Tam Cốc Bích Động, here we go one way and come back by another way…

58389-trangan_16All boats can only go around, one after another, one security boat supervised…

3e2f4-trangan_31The security guy on the boat with red speaker, kept saying “Go slowly and in order!”

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The mountains, the lakes, the stones, the green and those temples all blend together beautifully, like the below photo, sitting on the boat I greatly admired the scenic beauty of Tràng An.             

80842-trangan_5           All boats strictly followed the route so I failed to admire the site from another angle 

86695-trangan_32One of many splendid views in Tràng An 

b920f-trangan_23

I decided to stay on the boat as our taxi driver told me he could “ride” the boat around near by when the security guy didn’t pay attention to us…but I quickly realized  that the driver was not really at rowing the boat, he hardly controlled it…

81b4a-trangan_17I stayed on the boat with our taxi driver who tried to row the boat around…

16a88-trangan_3but finally we stuck in here, another rower tried to get a nap while waiting for guests

After the temple we continued to discover the site. As far I remember we passed through 3 or 4 caves, the first cave was large and it seemed that human involved too much…in creating a passage but the other caves, some very low, dark, impressive with the stalactites…

6f161-trangan_37One of the caves that we visited on that day, it was surely not the first one…

c11ba-trangan_36Some caves very narrow, natural…

d36b5-trangan_38some spacious, but obviously the human involved too much… 

a4090-trangan_6

5eddf-trangan_13Boat after boat no any boat was allowed to stop for long…

07d9c-trangan_14   The caves in Tràng An more impressive than in Tam Cốc Bích Động  

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all the boats went slowly through the cave…be careful with the stalactites because some of them are quite long, if we don’t pay attention we could hit it…

aa3a2-trangan_19

In the dark when I tried to get some shots my head was almost to be hit by the stalactite…luckily our rower kept reminding us…

b1107-trangan_25Finally we got out the caves …

36f59-trangan_30on the way back to the quayside…

c72e3-trangan_12The scenery with fog, rain, mountains made me feel like we were lost in the unreal world…

ebe15-trangan_11

The cold weather with light rain, the breeze, the fog, the water sounds and especially the bird’s songs coming from the trees over our heads…my mind seemed stop working as I was so focusing in looking around, admiring the beauty of the nature. I wish we could stop the time or to hold it for longer…

df489-trangan_40

1bb73-trangan_34

524a7-trangan_42Arriving to the quay…our journey in Tràng An was over but I was overwhelmed with the beauty of Trang An… 

Late afternoon we left Tràng An, back to Hà Nội. In the morning we got some bad luck : from a big chaos at Bái Đính, to our hired taxi, the car ran out of oil, we had to wait in the middle of nowhere for our taxi driver to fix it, then the bad weather in Tràng An, but at the end I feel happy for the whole trip.

Trang An looks amazing even in a rainy, foggy weather like this…it made the site more mysterious and to be honest I got some special feelings, simply indescribable. I really wish to come back to Tràng An another time!

 

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