Trang An – a scenic landscape complex in North Vietnam

Five years ago, during Tet (i.e Luna New Year in Vietnam), I came here with friend for the first time. It was wet, windy and quite foggy. Today I came back, few weeks before Tet, the weather is quite the same but without rain, so I’m happy! Trang An is not far from Hà Nội, located in Ninh Bình, 100 km away, two hours by car.

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In Vietnam or maybe somewhere else in the world, the building of temples, pagodas is a kind of big business, it may requires huge investment but it seems very “profitable” based on the people’s religious belief, especially in Asia, and  in Vietnam. The donation to the temples could bring back to the investors huge money!

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Next to the entrance to the longest cave of Route No 3

Tràng An is a part of the giant  scenic complex, including one of the largest pagodas in Asia – “Bái Đính” and another site named “Tam Cốc Bích động”, related to the very first capital of the old Vietnam – Hoa Lư. 

With hundreds of caves, many of them are still under study by the cave-experts from UK. Very few caves are open for the public, in 2014 this site was inscribed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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The entrance to 1000-m long cave –  cave of bates

In 2015 when I’ve been here, they had only one route (Route No 1) for the visitors but now three routes, route No 2 including the film location of the Hollywood monster movie – Kong Skull Island and route No 3 – visiting the 1000m-long cave. I selected route No 2 as I’m curious about the film location, but later, to be honest, I was very disappointed with what I saw.  The ticket for any route is 200.000 VND. (equally 8 USD)

During the ride, the rower told me he could take us to visit a longest cave of route No 3  for some tip. I shared that idea with my “boat mates”, a couple from Romania and a guy from Russia, we all agreed as we could cover two routes at almost 1/2 price!

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Inside the cave – some parts the ceiling is very low, we almost have to lie down on the boat…

There is a comparison between Trang An and Tam Cốc, another site with similar scenery with moutains after mountains, river and caves…Many people prefer Tràng An, partly due to the newly-built pagodas, partly due to the spacious, majestic scenery but on the other hand, people also said Tràng An lost the original beauty because many human works has involved, if compared with Tam Cốc, where the original beauty still there.

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In some caves we can witness the human work – make it larger for visitors

This time after Trang An, I came back to Tam Cốc, to me it looks worse in my eyes when I first visited the site 6 or 7 years ago. Maybe not the best time to visit Tam Cốc because the beautiful water rice fields along the river has gone, the harvest is finished so nothing left, except a very messy, dirty river.

As far as I heard from the locals, people didn’t want the investors to involve in Tam Cốc, probably due to the “unfair” financial compensation to people living in Tam Cốc? I think Tam Cốc is facing problems nowadays due to the poor management – a not very clean river, the hostels along the river, the rowers, the floating market, the unexpected photographers following visitors…

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Some stalactite visible in the cave
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The human work is visible here – to enlarge the cave for visitors
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Some stalactite left…
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The reflection in the water makes the cave like the tunnel
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The exit from another cave – the absolute peaceful place
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The reflection in the water is simply amazing, I wish I could stop the boat to admire the nature
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we continue our journey
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Last time it was very foggy so it makes the site more mysterious
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today the weather is clearer with some sunlight
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One of few stops to pagoda…

Anyway back to Trang An, when I selected the route No 2 because of my curiosity about the film location of the Hollywood movie “Kong Skull Island” by Jordan Vogt-Roberts with participation of Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson & Samuel L. Jackson…when I arrived to the set, I feel disappointed. Almost nothing except the aircraft and the village of Iwi natives, anyway maybe I expect too much?

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The aircraft with two guns – you may see it in the movie…
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The local Iwi natives as in the movie
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The simple tribe of the Iwi natives …and that’s all!

Here you go, the trailer of Kong – Skull Island, a monster film by Jordan Vogt-Roberts with participation of Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson…The film was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the 90th Academy Awards.

Anyway I did enjoy my come back to Trang An this time , not very crowded , beautiful weather, I could admire the peaceful ride along the river, among the mountains. The ride is about more than 2 hours, good time, good talk with our rower who explained why in Trang An they have to propel the boat with hands, but in Tam Cốc by feet!

Finally I found this drone video about Trang An, quite amazing short film, you may see the hundred-year old temples in the mountain in the video, and that’s the history not the newly-built pagodas that we see along our ride.

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