A Travellerspoint blog

Saigon

storms and palaces

Saigon 19th August

We left Vientiane mid morning (VN921 11.35) and flew over Thailand and Cambodia low enough to see Angkor, Tonle Sap lake and river before landing briefly in Phnom Penh. Interestingly it was clearly the wet season and we had a great view of the flooded fields, villages, stilt houses etc. We transferred directly to a flight for Ho Chi Minh (arrive 14.45). Again it was a low flight, so we could see a magnificent view of the Mekong Delta as we spiralled in.
As we started down we could see a huge thunderstorm- lightning, thunder, the lot. When we landed it was torrential rain, and the car had to drive through over a metre of water on its way to the city. However, by the time we got there the rain had finished and the pavements were half dry. We passed by the yellow and cream Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee building, formerly the Hotel de Ville (1, Nguyen Hue). The building dates to 1908 and was based on the Paris original. It now has a statue of "Uncle Ho" outside. On the roof we could see the bell tower.
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We drove straight down the Nam Khoi Nghia to the Reunification (Independence) Palace as time for it was short (it closes early). We just got in on time and saw the famous tank and plane in the grounds and the red flag flying above. The F5E fighter plane bombed the palace on 8th April 1975 and tank 843 led the final assault through the palace gate at 11.30AM on 30th April 1975. After demolishing the iron gates the Việt Cong tank operator ran into the building and hung a flag on the balcony. General Minh, head of South Vietnam for all of 43 hours, said he was ready to transfer power, but the VC officer replied that he could not transfer what he didn't have.
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We went across the lawns and straight into the palace. The whole frontage of floor to ceiling glass covered balconies and large entrance porch invited us in. Much of it was available to visit and we saw some beautiful rooms- a conference room with a lovely table, beautiful carpets, paintings and chairs. The ground floor is the State rooms, the first floor is reception rooms. The Credentials Room right in the centre was especially impressive. On the second floor we visited the presidential private rooms and gardens.
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After this we headed below the palace to the bunkers. This was fascinating. The rooms below contained maps and plans from the American/ Vietnam War, the president’s rooms, the radio rooms, computer rooms etc. Our guide showed us the room where his grandfather (who worked for the south) was a radio operator. Interestingly he said his family had been mainly supporters of the US/South Vietnam. His grandfather and father worked for the U.S. but his sister was married early to a North Vietnamese communist supporter, just to hedge their bets.
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The palace was built in 1868 for the Gouvernor-General de Cochinchina and later became Norodom Palace. After the French left in 1954, Ngo Dinh Diem commandeered this building as his presidential palace. However Diem was so corrupt and unpopular his own Air Force bombed him and after extensive damage in the 1962 assassination attempt by two disaffected Southern pilots, the place was condemned and demolished. He ordered a new residence with a bomb shelter, but was assassinated by his own men in 1963, to be replaced by Nguyen Van Thieu. The present building, by architect Ngo Viet Thu, was named Independence Palace (Dinh Doc Lap) on its completion in 1966, then renamed Reunification Hall (Hoi Truong Thong Nhat) when the South fell in 1975. Our guide took us through the many chambers, proudly pointing out every piece of porcelain, lacquerwork, rosewood and silk on display. Most of the interior is a time capsule of 60s and 70s kitsch in various banqueting rooms, conference halls and reception areas. Most interesting is the third floor, where, as well as the presidential library, there is a curtained projection room, and entertainment lounge complete with tacky circular sofa, hubcap lights, kitschy stools and a barrel-shaped bar. Nearby, a set of sawn-off elephant’s feet and horse tails add an Austin Powers touch to the decor. Above we could see the rooftop nightclub and helipad. The most interesting part of the building is the basement and former command centre, where wood-panelled combat staff quarters yield archaic radio equipment and vast wall maps. Ngo Viet Thu designed the Palace to reflect Eastern philosophy and Western style. Various parts of the building form the Chinese characters for good luck, free speech, democracy, sovereignty and prosperity. The Palace stone floral curtains in the form of bamboo surrounds the 2nd floor and are based on doors in the palace at Hue. The front of the Palace is a grass carpet in an oval shape with Half Moon Lake with lotus and giant water lilies. This place has 3 floors, 2 mezzanines, 1 terrace, 1 ground floor and 1 basement, totalling 95 rooms. Beside the building, is an octagonal house of 4m in diameter, built on a high earth mound, with a curved roof, for relaxation.

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We decided to move on, so we carried on down Le Duan road (tree lined with Royal Palms) to the Old Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral (right next to each other). Our guide was a catholic and often went to the cathedral which had separate services in English and Vietnamese language. He said that in his teenage years he would go out as a choir member singing around his village, then later went to do the equivalent of VSO in a Philippines orphanage. The cathedral was very french gothic but more interesting was the lovely Mary statue outside the front. The cathedral is right in the centre of Saigon's Government quarter facing Ð Dong Khoi. It was built between 1863-1880 by the French in Romanesque style with two 40m square campaniles with iron spires. Officially it is the Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception. The first church on this site was built by Bishop Lefevre on top of a derelict pagoda, but it rapidly proved to be too small. It was replaced by a wooden structure but when termites ate it this brick church was built instead. At first there was a bronze statue of Pigneau de Behaine leading Prince Cảnh, but it was removed in 1945 and replaced by a granite Regina Pacis (Mary as Queen of Peace) from Rome. In 2005 the statue was rumoured to cry, but the Catholic Church of Vietnam refuted this.

The Post Office was amazing- like a French railway station. It still had the old telegraphs maps up and phone booths. Well worth a visit. The Saigon Central Post Office was designed in 1886 by Gustave Eiffel and completed in 1891. The beautiful maps on each side were hand painted in 1892 to show the area around Saigon and the telegraph lines of Cochinchina. It's still a working post office.
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Bitexco Financial Tower skyscraper is owned by Bitexco Group, a Vietnamese company. With 68 floors and three basements, the building has a height of 262.5 metres, making it the 124th tallest building in the world. The tower’s were architects J.M. Duthilleul, E. Tricaud and Carlos Zapata, who drew inspiration for the shape from Vietnam’s national flower, the Lotus. The tower was the tallest building in Vietnam from 2010 to early 2011

We passed the Jade Emperor Pagoda (Chua Ngoc Hoang/ Phuc Hai Tu) but the government is currently restoring it and we had no access. It would have been interesting as the oldest Chinese temple in (1909) with its associated turtle sanctuary.
We then drove to see Ben Thanh Market, then to Chinatown (Cholon) with its central Binh Tay market, but it was too wet to get out. The area was established by Chinese traders in 1778 and over time subsumed into Saigon. We headed towards the Exchange Mart Shopping Centre. This very, very busy place was being shut next week and all the concessions told to move out so it was one huge closing down sale! Everything you could want was there- down to moving eyes Buddha pictures.
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Ben Thanh Market, District 1. The market developed from informal markets created by early 17th century street vendors gathering together near the Saigon River. The market was formally established by the French colonial powers after taking over the Gia Định citadel in 1859. This market was destroyed by fire in 1870 and rebuilt to become Saigon's largest market. In 1912 the market was moved to a new building and called the New Bến Thành Market to distinguish over its predecessor. The building was renovated in 1985.

We were hungry now, so our guide took us to KOTO charity restaurant for a nice dinner. Hard to find behind an alley, but nice food. http://www.koto.com.au/about- koto/koto-enterprise/koto-saigon-restaurant. Our guide came from the mountains nearby. He’d just had a baby- shockingly there are 2 maternity hospitals in Saigon- one for rich notables & another for everyone else. The everyone else one was a bit dumpy, but the rich one looked super. The dumpy one had rooms which you paid for but were pushed several people into each room (and not even nec with a bed) or even onto the balcony! Complications got worse because people couldn’t get doctors service or even info (eg. our guide’s baby had jaundice but struggled to get help or info). After dinner we had a little free time so we asked if we could go via the tallest tower in Vietnam, and we drove around the block. Then we drove to the airport for our flight home.

Bảo Đại (1925 – 45) was the final emperor of Vietnam (Annam). Annam was a protectorate in French Indochina. Bảo Đại was born Prince Nguyễn Phúc Vĩnh Thụy, son of Emperor Khải Định. The French government had split Vietnam into three: the protectorates of Annam (under the Nguyễn), Tonkin and the colony of Cochinchina. Bảo Đại married Marie-Thérèse Nguyễn Hữu Thị Lan, a commoner from a wealthy Vietnamese Roman Catholic family. They had five children: Crown Prince Bảo Long (1936 – 2007), Princesses Phương Mai (1937-), Phương Liên (1938-), Phuong Dung (1942-), and Prince Bảo Thắng (1943-). Bảo Đại had four other wives, Phu Ánh (a cousin), Hoang (a Chinese woman), Bùi Mộng Điệp and Monique Baudot (a French woman renamed Monique Vĩnh Thụy). In 1945, Japan threw out the Vichy French and persuaded Bảo Đại to declare Vietnamese independence as a member of Japan's "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere". Japan had a Vietnamese pretender, Prince Cường Để, in case the new emperor's "elimination" was required. Japan surrendered 1945, and the Viet Minh under Hồ Chí Minh aimed to take power. Hồ persuaded Bảo Đại to abdicate, handing power to the Việt Minh. Bảo Đại was appointed "supreme advisor" to Hồ's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi, which was ousted by the French in 1946. As Vietnam descended into armed conflict Bảo Đại left Vietnam, living in Hong Kong and China. The French persuaded him to return in 1949 as head of state. The communist victory in China (1949) led to a revival of the fortunes of the Việt Minh. The war between the French and Việt Minh continued, ending in 1954 with victory for the Việt Minh at Điện Biên Phủ. The Geneva Accords between the French and Việt Minh partitioned the country into north and south. Bảo Đại moved to Paris, but remained "Head of State" for South Vietnam, appointing Ngô Đình Diệm as prime minister. 1955 Diệm called for a referendum to remove Bảo Đại and establish a republic with Diệm as president. The October 13 referendum was fraudulent, with an implausible 98% in favour of a republic- the number of votes exceeded the number of voters. The Communist government of North Vietnam hoped Bảo Đại would become a member of a coalition government to reunite Vietnam, particularly when Bảo Đại spoke against the Americans and President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu's regime in South Vietnam. Bảo Đại was unpopular among the Vietnamese. He died in Paris, 1997. His eldest son, Crown Prince Nguyễn Phúc Bảo Long (1936 – 2007) headed the former ruling house 1997-2007. Bảo Long was born at Huế 1936. In 1947, Empress Nam Phuong left Vietnam with him to live at Chateau Thorenz, France, and he grew up a Roman Catholic. He served in the French Foreign Legion in the Algerian War before returning to Paris, where he worked as a banker. He died in Paris 2007, with his brother, Bảo Thang, succeeding him as head of the Nguyen family. Nguyễn Phúc Bảo Thắng (b 1943, DaLat) the youngest son of Emperor Bảo Đại, is head of the Nguyễn Dynasty and sovereign of the Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam.

Posted by PetersF 12:36 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam saigon Comments (0)

Vietnam Hoa Lu and Tam Coc

ancient capitals and beautiful rivers

Hoa Lu and Tam Coc 11th August

We had an excellent night’s sleep. We breakfasted on the patio by the main pool and the food was lovely. We packed our bags and then called the taxi to take us to main reception to catch our car. Again it was only a short drive (30km NE) to Hoa Lu, the ancient 10/11th century capital of Dai Co Viet (therefore before the addition of the Champa Kingdom). We drove to Truong Yen Thuong village (Hoau Lu, Ninh Binh), parked in an entrance and took the causeway across to the ancient buildings. The town was highly defensible as it surrounded by limestone mountains with a navigable river, partly diverted to be a moat.. Much of the site by the river is just flat- they know it is part of the capital, but there are few structures left. The area was originally 3km2 with an Inner (3km2) and Outer Citadel (14km2), little of which has survived (much of it 3m below ground). The earth walls are only slight bumps. However, the temples/shrines to the kings and queens were in an excellent condition, so we were able to visit these. The first one was heavily influenced by Chinese feng shui principles, with precisely placed ponds, hedges etc. The main shrine to the King had a stone tomb in front, but he was actually buried in the mountain behind. As with many tombs, incense and offerings were still being done.

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We visited 1. Emperor Dinh Tien Hoang temple (whose actual tomb was visible above us in Ma Yen mountain) 2. Queen Dương Vân Nga (wife of Dien Tien Hoang AND Le Dai Hanh) 3. Emperor Le Dai Hanh (and his sons Lê Long Đĩnh and Lê Long Việt) temple 4. Emperor Ly Thai To temple. There is also a temple to Princess Phat Kim (daughter of Dien Tiên Hoang and wife to Ly Thai To) and a modern (2010) temple to Ly Thai To.
Hoa Lu was the native land of warlord Đinh Bộ Lĩnh (posthumously known as Đinh Tiên Hoàng, or "First Dinh Emperor") who freed Vietnam from Chinese (Southern Han) domination in 968 AD. The Dinh dynasty he founded retained Hoa Lu, as did the succeeding Early Lê founded by Lê Đại Hành (who also came from the local area). However in 1010, Lý Công Uẩn, founder of the Lý Dynasty, transferred the capital to Thăng Long (Hanoi).
Hoa Lu has the four sacred temples (Hoa Lu Tu Tran) to worship the Gods of four directions: Quy Minh, Thien Ton, Cao Son and Nguyen. Hoa Lu also has a 1000-year-old One Pillar Pagoda with a Buddha in front. Along with these temples and pagodas, plenty of monuments, tombs, and shrines to worship other famous people and Gods.
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Tomb of Dinh Tien Hoang
Our guide explained a little of the history of the dynasties that ruled from here. Most interesting was the story of Dương Vân Nga (died 1000). She was married to Đinh Tiên Hoàng (therefore Empress) but he was assassinated in 979. She then became Empress Dowager of the Đinh Dynasty under her very young son Đinh Phế Đế. During the short-lived reign of Đinh Phế Đế, Dương Vân Nga and the general Lê Hoàn jointly held the regency for the 6-year-old emperor. It was not a good time for a young ruler as the Chinese were attacking and a strong military commander was needed. Dương Vân Nga and general Phạm Cự Lượng decided to cede the Đinh Dynasty's throne to Lê Hoàn in 980 so that Đại Cồ Việt could stand the Song Dynasty's invasion with a capable ruler. Subsequently, Lê Hoàn married Dương Vân Nga, so she became Empress for a second time. Dương Vân Nga and Lê Đại Hành's only known daughter, Princess Lê Thị Phất Ngân married Lý Công Uẩn, who became Emperor Lý Thái Tổ. Their son was Emperor Lý Thái Tông. Obviously the whole issue of her first husband's murder and her subsequent second marriage raises questions and conspiracy theories. It's possible Le Hoan was her lover, but she may also have been looking out for her son.
The area was dry and hot with the outlines of the inner citadel walls visible. After a good look around we drove through Ninh Binh to get to Tam Cốc-Bích Động for our river cruise on the River Boi. As we drove we noticed an albino buffalo. We asked if they were common and our guide said roughly 1 in 50.
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Tomb of Duong Van Nga (left) and Le Dai Hanh (right)

Tam Coc and Boi River Cruise
Tam Coc is often called Inland Halong. It means Three Caves, these being Ca Cave, Ba Cave and Hai Cave. The Ngo Dong River winds along through limestone karst hills.
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At Van Lam Wharf our guide sorted a boat. The boats operate on a rota system so that everyone has a chance to earn some money. As we set off rowing through the lilies in the basin area lots of small fish shoals darted through the reeds. The local, who rowed like many of the people on the river, with his feet, quietly took us down the beautiful river. We passed quite few duck and fish farms. I asked who owned them and our guide said they locals usually had a dry land field (or paddy) and a river front area, both accessible only by water. Our guide pointed out the yellow (Chinese) river snails that were becoming a real issue in Vietnam. They had been introduced from China originally as an edible snail, but bred fast and furious. They had out-competed the local snails and were voracious eaters consuming immature rice and killing other snails. They were becoming a problem in many areas and locals were now organising student days where the local college students would go out and collect as many as they could and burn them. It turned out that no-one liked the taste of these snails anyway (our guide said darkly that the Chinese had done this deliberately, but they were having a spat with them over a oil rig China had put into Vietnamese waters). We went through three short caves. The first was Ca Cave, 127m long and 20m wide with a low, dripping roof. Another km on we went through Hai Cave, 60m log and 18m wide, followed soon after by Ba Cave, 50m long and 18m wide. They all had stalactites of varying sizes. The river winds beautifully through the cliffs and paddy fields before terminating at the tourist end of the river at a wharf. The river from then on was for locals only. As we headed back we saw a “fisherman” catching his fish by (illegally) electrocuting them in the water and a young man washing his motorcycle in the river. yet another man was diving into the river to cut and bring up mud to turn into bricks. A small temple on a corner completed the scene. It was extremely hot on the river but luckily we had hats. Some other people did not so the rower cut lily pads + palm leaf to make them into hats (with a stalk top). The most enormous dragonflies (probably hawkers/ darners) buzzed us and our guide told us that they had quite vicious bites.

The guide told us the story of Chu Cuoi (Moon Man).
During Mid-Autumn Moon time period, children hear about Chu Cuoi, the Moon Man. Chu Cuoi was a tricksy woodcutter who found a tiger cub in the forest one day. He followed the baby cub because he wanted to catch it and raise it. He grabbed the baby tiger and suddenly the mother tiger came out of nowhere, searching for her baby. Chu Cuoi was afraid and began to climb a tree with the cub in his arms. He accidentally dropped the cub and it fell onto its head. Chu Cuoi felt bad about the death of the baby cub but he watched the mother tiger walk towards a tall banyan. She ripped off some leaves and brought them back to her cub. When she rubbed the leaves onto his head, the cub was healed! Chu Cuoi became determined to get the magical tree for himself. He dug up the tree and took it back to his home. Chu Cuoi told his wife to water the tree every day with clean water from the well (not old washing water), as the tree was special. One day she forgot to water the tree when she saw her husband coming home from work. She had no time so she watered it with her urine. The magical tree became angry and began to fly away. Chu Cuoi saw the tree ascending into the sky and grabbed it by the roots to hold it back. The magical tree pulled Chu Cuoi right up to the moon. It is said that his image holding onto the root of the tree on the moon can be seen still.
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At the end of our cruise we walked opposite to the Anz Dzũng Hotel-Restaurant, Tam Cốc, Bích Động, Hoa Lư, Ninh Bình, tel-0303618020 email- anhdzung_tamcoc@yahoo.com. The food, which we ate inside was hearty and very typically Vietnamese provincial fare. Then it was time to head off back to Hanoi airport. We drove back to Hanoi after lunch, as the weather got hotter and hotter, finally reaching 42 degrees!! We went past the monumental gate of the posh community area again, by the nearly completed bridge being built over the river to connect the airport and on to the airport. Again we noticed all the young ladies with their sleeves pulled over their hands and their masks and hoods on (even while on a motorbike) just so they didn’t get a tan (Steve’s tailor in Hoi An said she valued this above all other beauty products). Our guide was amazed at the speed of the journey, so we had time to have an iced Hinh Binh coffee while we waited.
We made brilliant time and arrived early enough to sit and have a Ninh Binh coffee. Then through security to wait for the Luang Prabang flight.

Đinh Dynasty 968- 980
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1. Đinh Bộ Lĩnh/ Đinh Tiên Hòang Đế 968-79 Đinh Bộ Lĩnh set out in his own right, but joined Trần Lãm who adopted him. He succeeded Lãm after his death in 968. Đinh Bộ Lĩnh suppressed 11 lords to become Vạn Thắng Vương (King of 10000 victories).
1. Phạm Bạch Hổ discharged his army and followed Đinh Bộ Lĩnh.
2. Ngô Xương Xí and Ngô Nhật Khánh surrendered.
3. Nguyễn Siêu, Nguyễn Thủ Tiệp, Kiều Công Hãn, Lã Đường, Kiều Thuận, Đỗ Cảnh Thạc withstood to the last and were killed.
4. The armies of Nguyễn Khoan, Lý Khuê disintegrated.
He ascended the throne as Đinh Tiên Hòang Đế, establishing Đinh Dynasty, and renamed the country Đại Cồ Việt. He moved the capital to Hoa Lư (Ninh Bình). He married into the Ngô family, adopted the title Emperor (Hoàng Đế) and declared independence from China.
When the Song Dynasty took Southern Han (971), Đinh Bộ Lĩnh sent tribute and Emperor Taizu of Song recognised him as Giao Chỉ Quận Vương (King of Giao Chi). Đinh Bộ Lĩnh’s justice system made treason punishable by being cooked in boiling oil or fed to a tiger. In 979, a palace official, Đỗ Thích, inspired by a dream saying he would be emperor, killed Đinh Bộ Lĩnh and his eldest son Đinh Liễn while they were sleeping in the palace courtyard. The killer was executed by general Nguyễn Bặc. Bộ Lĩnh was succeeded by his 6-year old son Dinh Phe De. The Song Emperor sent an army to invade. Lê Hoàn, commander-in-chief of the army, stepped into the power vacuum, dispossessing the child emperor and marrying Empress Dowager Dương Vân Nga. Lê Hoàn defeated the Song, proclaimed himself King, and founded Early Lê Dynasty, returning the country name to Đại Cồ Việt.
2. Đinh Phế Đế (974–980 d1001) was the second son of Đinh Tiên Hoàng and empress Dương Vân Nga. When Đinh Bộ Lĩnh gave Crown prince status to a younger brother, Đinh Hạng Lang, Đinh Liễn killed him. Đinh Toàn was only 6 so power was wielded by Lê Hoàn. The Song emperor dispatched his army to defeat Đại Cồ Việt (Vietnam). Dowager Empress Dương Vân Nga and the court enthroned Lê Hoàn as King Lê Đại Hành) and Đinh Toàn became Lord Vệ Vương.
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Anterior (Early) Lê Dynasty 980-1009
Lê Hoàn/ Lê Đại Hành 980-1005 retained the imperial capital at Hoa Lư. The Chinese ambassador demanded submission to the Song so Lê Hoàn sent an emissary back pretending Dinh Toan was still king and offered submission in his name, which the Emperor of Song accepted. Lê Hoàn booby-trapped the river with long sharpened stakes beneath the surface of the water at high tide 891AD. The Chinese sea army made its way up Bạch Đằng River but it ran into the stakes. The second Battle of Bạch Đằng ended in Chinese defeat. 982 Lê Hoàn sacked the capital of Champa. He asked a learned monk to impersonate a servant to impress a Chinese diplomat with his literary acumen. New temples/ palaces were built in Hoa Lư. Nhất Trụ Pagoda still stands at Hoa Lư. Though Lê Hoàn designated his eldest son Le Long Viet as successor, the other sons, each with an army, disputed the succession.
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Lê Trung Tông/ Lê Long Việt (1005) After Crown Prince Long Thâu died, he was chosen as Crown Prince. In 1005, Lê Đại Hành died and the princes contested the throne, leading to 8 months of civil war, mainly between Le Trung him and his brother Long Ngân. Long Ngân was defeated and killed. Long Việt took the throne but 3 days later was killed by an assassin sent by another brother, Lê Long Đĩnh.
Lê Ngọa Triều 1005-9 Lê Long Đĩnh. After killing his brother Lê Long Việt, he took the throne. He was brutal and sadistic, reigning with terror. He executed innocent people for entertainment, crammed into cages along riverbanks to drown slowly. He held the throne for 4 years, until 1009, when he died. His son Sạ was so young an official named Đào Cam Mộc ensured Lý Công Uẩn was swiftly enthroned instead.

Legend of Son Tinh (Mountain Spirit) and Thuy Tinh (Sea Spirit)
Son Tinh was the spirit of the Mountain and Thuy Tinh the spirit of the Waters. King Hunh Vuong VI had a beautiful daughter that he did not wish to marry just any prince. He sent a proclamation far and wide that he was seeking a suitable match for his daughter. Princes came from far and wide but none was considered good enough. Finally, two handsome young noblemen arrived at the same time asking for the princess’ hand. Upon inquiry, they turned out to be equally distinguished, talented, and powerful. The king was in a quandary. He decided to send them away, saying that whoever turned up first the next day with the proper wedding gifts would be given the princess in marriage. Son Tinh arrived the next day with jewels from the mountains and was given the hand of the princess. Barely had the wedding been completed when Thuy Tinh turned up with his gifts. Being of a fiery disposition, Thuy Tinh could not accept defeat. He challenged Son Tinh but Son Tinh ignored him. Furious, Thuy Tinh called on the waters of the rivers to flood the land. But Son Tinh was imperturbable in his palace in the mountains; all he did was to get his mountains to rise a bit higher than the flood. After weeks of trying to overcome his rival, Thuy Tinh conceded defeat and order the waters to withdraw. Thuy Tinh was never fully reconciled to the loss of the beautiful princess. Every year he tries to re-enact the battle and that was how monsoons came to Vietnam.

Posted by PetersF 12:07 Archived in Vietnam Tagged history river vietnam forest ancient ninh_binh tam_coc cuc_phuong hoa_lu Comments (0)

Vietnam Cuc Phuong

into the forest; apes, turtles, butterflies and ancient man

Cuc Phuong 9th August

We drove back off the island and away from Halong. We stopped at a roadside pineapple seller to watch how they cut pineapples- delicious too (and about 7p). We went through Quang Trung town, turning onto Route 10, bypassing Hai Phong town and on through the large town of Nam Dinh.
We noticed a lot of rather incongruous European style churches with steeples and were surprised to learn how much of an inroad Christianity had made in Vietnam. It was introduced in 1627 and had a chequered history in the country.
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Roman Catholicism entered Vietnam in the 16th century and strengthened its influence when Vietnam was a French colony. The most active missionaries were Jesuits; Franciscans and Dominicans never had the same influence. Having arrived 1627, they developed their activities including printing the Bible in 1651. Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes created an alphabet for Vietnamese in the 17th century from the Latin script. Today it is the official writing system Quốc Ngữ (national language). Catholicism came to prominence when the French missionary priest and Bishop of Adran, Pigneau de Behaine played a key role helping Nguyễn Ánh, the last Nguyễn Lord, and afterwards Emperor Gia Long. Later, 2,000 Vietnamese Catholic troops fought under Father Nguyễn Văn Tâm to depose Minh Mạng and install a Catholic emperor. The revolt was put down, and restrictions placed on Catholicism. Persistent rebellions occurred throughout the Nguyễn Dynasty, often led by Catholic priests wanting a Christian monarch. During the French campaign against Vietnam 1858-83, many Vietnamese Catholics joined the French. Once colonial rule was established the Catholics were rewarded with preferential treatment in government posts, education, and the church was given vast tracts of royal land. At the end of French rule mid-1950s, Catholicism declined in the North, where the communists regarded it as a reactionary force. In the South, by contrast, Catholicism expanded under the presidency of Ngo Dinh Diem, whose brother was Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc. He gave extra rights to the Catholic Church, promoted Catholics, restricted Buddhism and allowed Catholic paramilitaries to demolish temples and pagodas. By 1975 Vietnam was unified and the Communist authorities, claimed there was no religious persecution. Many Vietnamese Roman Catholics, however, remain opposed to communist authority. 1988 all Vietnamese Catholics, who died for their faith from 1533-1988 were canonised by Pope John Paul II as Vietnamese Martyrs. 7% of Vietnam is Catholic. Protestantism was introduced 1911 at DaNang by the Canadian missionary Robert A. Jaffray. By 1967 Protestant communities were represented mainly within South Vietnam to 1% of the total population. Protestants are mostly located in the Montagnard communities in the southern Vietnam highlands. By some estimates, the growth of Protestants in Vietnam has been as much as 600% over 10 years. Some new converts belong to unregistered evangelical house churches. Roughly 2⁄3 of Protestants are members of ethnic minorities, including Hmong, Dzao, Thai, Ede, Jarai, Bahnar, and Koho. Hmong and H're tribals suffer more from persecution.
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Common Tiger, Swallowtail
We stopped at a small hamlet at a very large shop (ground floor) and restaurant (first floor) for lunch. The place, suitable for 100, had, well, us. We had a real pho eaten with the proper sauces and condiments, then went to buy a small snake wine (fingers crossed to bring home). Then it was a short drive to the town of Ninh Binh- the capital of the Ninh Binh province. Our guide’s brother lived here, working for a petrol company, and thought it was a much nicer lifestyle than Hanoi. His other brother had been killed in the American War and his cousin was still officially MIA (probably by the Cambodian border).
We asked about weddings- he said it was traditional (though dying out) for a husband-to-be’s family to pay for taking a wife (because she could no longer do any work for her family). He had paid for both his brother and his own wedding (2 buffalo) because his parents were too poor. In both Vietnam and Laos there is no tradition of taking the same surname- both husband and wife keep their own.
As we drove into Ninh Binh province we saw quite a lot of trucks/ lorries taking coal and food north (probably illegally to China). Our guide spent a while explaining the agriculture rationale of North Vietnam. They were very keen to develop/ improve food quality and food security. Many of their officials went to visit other countries and collect information and samples to try growing in Vietnam. For example- they now had a good banana industry from nothing. They were beginning to work on growing grape varieties, coffee beans, etc.

We saw the double magnificent limestone mountain ranges rise up covered in dense forest from quite a distance. Some land was being worked (or mined) but the forest itself is the habitat for some of Asia's rarest animal and plant species. The ancient forest harbours over 2234 vascular and non-vascular plants, 122 species of reptiles and amphibians, 308 bird species and 135 mammals, including the Clouded Leopard, Delacour's Langur, Owston's Civet and Asian Black Bear.
We left the main road and tried to find our way to the park, but the GPS kept sending us down tiny roads. The roads were all rutted and mud covered (a saloon was not the best car!) but we finally were on the correct road. We passed Bac Son (Tay minority) and Tay Son (Muong minority) villages with their traditional houses, waterwheel and large looms, and arrived at the park entrance. The Tay house (left) was amongst the village’s more modern houses. The Muong house we saw (right) was their traditional stilted one and above were their terraced dry rice terraces. Our room was huge and right inside the park itself at the Headquarter block. Our guide went to have a beer and we went for a walk. We saw loads of huge colourful butterflies and a giant stick insect. As usual the jungle was noisy with cicadas and giant insects of all types.

A note on the local ethnic minorities-

  • Kinh (Jing) or Viet(namese)- the majority in Vietnam at 86%. They originated in North Vietnam/ South China and although they are SE Asian their long periods of Chinese domination means they have adopted many Chinese customs. Their earliest reference was as the Lac tribe(s). Việt shortened from Bách Việt, used in ancient times. Nam means "south".
  • Tay (Tai, T'o, Tho, Ngan, Phen, Thu Lac, Pa Di)- the 2nd largest group in Vietnam and Tai speaking. They live in the valleys and lower hills by rivers. They grow rice, maize and sweet potato. Villages of 20 households are named after the river or mountain. Sarong wearing.
  • Muong- the 3rd largest group and especially in this area. Closely related to the Kinh, but whilst the Kinh were influenced by the Chinese, the Muong were influenced by the Tai.

As it grew dark we went back to the dinner hall for a tasty dinner and some interesting fruit juices (lychee). A gecko chittered as it hunted along the ceiling and we spotted a number of other lizards. The beer was fresh and deliciously cool.
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As the oldest national park of Vietnam, Cuc Phuong has a long history. The park is 120km SW of Hanoi nestled between the provinces of Ninh Binh, Hoa Binh and Thanh Hoa- very much Viet heartlands. In 1960, Cuc Phuong was turned into a forest reserve, and then granted “National Park” status 1962 by President Ho Chi Minh to remind people of the environment’s core role in their life. Yet there had already been some relationship between mankind and Cuc Phuong before this event. The remains of prehistoric men dating 7,000-12,000 years ago have been found in the numerous caves in the park.

Cuc Phuong 10th August

We woke early to the sounds of the jungle with birdcalls. As usual in the forest breakfast was early, so after a hearty eggy breakfast we grabbed our bags and water for an all day trek.
First we collected the official park guide to take us to the Primate Centre down a short path. The centre was founded when a Delacour Langur and a Hatinh Langur were rescued from an illegal trader. It now has nearly 150 primates of 15 species, 6 unique to this centre. We could hear them all screeching as we approached- apparently it was their breakfast time as well! Some off the monkeys were in managed enclosures (where they could be half in the forest, but still access the centre’s food. Some beautiful gibbons watched us from the trees. Other monkeys, especially the more rare breeds or those with babies, were in large fully enclosed area. We saw gibbons, langurs (including the douc group) and loris. In various areas we spotted several Langur types: including Delacours Langur which until recently was thought to be extinct; Hatinh Langur, Black Langur, Lao langur, Cat Be langur and the Grey-shanked Douc, Red-shanked Douc and Black-shanked Douc langur.
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Gibbon, Silky sifaka, Hatinh langur, Red-shanked Douc, Grey-shanked Douc
In one we saw a tiny 1-week old baby feeding from his mother. Some primates’ males and females were very different colours and originally had been classified as separate species. After a lovely walk watching the primates we crossed directly opposite to the Turtle Rescue Centre. This interesting area had a small house and many ponds filled with many types of turtle and some smaller tortoise varieties. All the turtles and tortoises here were saved from illegal traders or are their offspring.
http://176.28.48.76/primatencenter/center.htm http://www.asianturtleprogram.org
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We now followed our guide down to the left and along a track teeming with butterflies and other insects (cicada, grasshopper, mantis, locusts) to the lake. Our guide had planted the trees around the lake some 5 years earlier and wanted to know how they were doing, especially a banyan tree whose roots were beginning to spread quite wide.
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A Banyan is a fig that starts life as an epiphyte when its seeds germinate in the crevices of a host tree. Like other fig species, banyans bear multiple fruit in structures called syncarps. The Ficus syncarp supplies shelter and food for fig wasps and in turn, is dependent on them for pollination. The seeds are dispersed by fruit-eating birds. When the seeds germinate they send roots down towards the ground, and may envelop part of the host tree, giving banyans the name of "strangler fig". The leaves are large, leathery, glossy green. Older banyan trees have aerial prop roots that grow into thick woody trunks which, with age, become indistinguishable from the main trunk. Old trees spread out laterally, using prop roots to cover a wide area. In some species the props look like a sort of forest covering a considerable area, every trunk connected directly or indirectly to the central trunk. This structure of interconnection inspired the name of the hierarchical computer network operating system Banyan VINES. A banyan will envelop a support tree with the mesh of roots growing with such pressure that it usually kills the tree, which will rot away leaving the banyan has a hollow central core.
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This whole area was filled with the most beautiful butterflies. A short drive then took us to the entrance path to Dong Nguoi Xua (Cave of Prehistoric Man). We walked across the bridge, admiring the insect life (especially the bright coloured centipedes), then up the rock- tumbled path up to the cave. In the cave entrance was a very modern shrine with offerings and smouldering incense- nice to see the connection they still feel. Luckily for us the cave was empty of people so we turned on our torches (no lights) and wandered through the cave complex.
Exploration of Cuc Phuong's many limestone caves makes a rewarding excursion. The caves include Thang Khuyet Cave, Con Moong Cave, Pho Ma Cave, and Nguoi Xua Cave and the Cave of Prehistoric Man (Dong Nguoi Xua). The Cave of Prehistoric man, a multi chambered cave is the site of the one of the earliest discoveries of human habitation in Vietnam. Excavated in 1966, the cave revealed human graves, stone axes, pointed bone spears, oyster shell knives, and tools for grinding dating back 7,500 years ago. These artefacts have long been removed and the cave is open to tourists. The entrance to the cave is littered with spent incense sticks, but duck under the first crevice to the right to find a stairway that takes you 10 m up for further exploration. Make sure to bring a torch!. The rocky outcrops of Cuc Phuong contain valuable evidence of prehistoric people, who lived in the forest some 7500 years ago. These prehistoric remains show humans living in caves in the park 7,000-12,000 years ago. As the oldest national park of Vietnam, Cuc Phuong has a long history. In 1960, Cuc Phuong was turned into a forest reserve, and granted “National Park” status 1962 by President Ho Chi Minh.
As we went back down we realised we were lucky as they were hordes of people coming up- the cave is a popular Sunday outing and several coaches bring people from the town. It was mid morning and our car took off towards the top end of the park. Luckily we were driving carefully because other cars came careering around corners towards us as well as 2 buses, forcing us into the edge of the track.
We parked in the car park and set off towards the Fossil and Ancient Tree Trail (9km). Up and down and up and down- a fun walk but tiring in the heat. We spotted lots of butterflies, some wild gibbons, plenty of spiders and insects. After 11⁄2 hours we arrived at the ancient tree. It looked a bit worse for wear and was coming to the natural end of its extremely long life. We stopped for a drink and a photo opportunity before setting off to complete the loop, with its fossilised sea reptile, 200 - 230 million years old. The second half was quite wet and muddy so we were pleased we’d got sensible shoes. We completed our loop by an abandoned swimming pool frequented by a multitude of butterflies seeking water. Then we had a quick drink in the beer “tent” before driving back for a late lunch at the park.

After lunch we said goodbye to the park and drove some 20 minutes down the road to the Emeralda Resort. Wow- what a contrast! This was a 5* (genuinely) resort complete with electric taxis and private swimming pools. It felt like real luxury to sit beside the warm pool relaxing and occasionally slipping in to cool off. The marbled rooms were perfect.
As dusk fell we strolled back to the main complex for pre dinner cocktails. The meal was pleasant, but the best part was our discovery of iced Ninh Binh coffee (heaven in a glass). The waiter and chef were delighted (and surprised) that we liked it so much we had seconds. After the meal we strolled back looking at the gorgeous moon in this quiet resort with the forest insects. Cà phê sữa nóng/ đá coffee with condensed milk. Hot (nong) or ice cold (da). Xôi warm sticky rice topped with lotus root, roasted garlic and meat or fish. http://www.emeraldaresort.com
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Early Lý Dynasty AD 544-602
Lý Nam Đế I (544– 548) 1st emperor of Vietnam and founder of the Early (Anterior) Lý Dynasty. Ly was the magistrate of Giao Chau (Hanoi). He was of Chinese descent and had fled China when Wang Mang seized power (Western and Eastern Han Dynasties). He was disenchanted with government corruption, so he collected the Red River valley tribes to force the Liang Dynasty out, declaring himself Emperor of Vạn Xuân. He repelled Champa and established a new capital at Long Bien. He established a university. The Liang emperor Wu, attacked and in 545 Long Bien was captured. Ly Nam Da fled to Laos, ill and defeated. He was too sick to command, so he transferred power to his older brother Lý Thiên Bảo (co- ruler 548-555) and Triệu Quang Phục (548–571). Neither Ly had children, so Trieu would become sole ruler. Ly was assassinated shortly after by Laotians hoping to curry Liang favour.
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Common Jester, Common Cruiser, Common Sailor, Limenitinae
Triệu Quang Phục 548-571 took the title Triệu Việt Vương (Trieu Viet King) and continued a guerrilla war against the Liang. Although the army/government accepted Trieu, the Ly family disputed it. The Southern and Northern Dynasties in China erupted into civil war. Ly Phat Tu (Ly Nam De II) claimed the throne of Vietnam and civil war broke out. With China vulnerable, Trieu felt it was an inappropriate time and negotiated a truce. South of Long Bien was Trieu and north was Ly. But in 1571 Lý Nam Đế II (571–602) attacked Long Bien and Trieu committed suicide. In China the new Sui Dynasty defeated the Liang and Emperor Sui Wendi sent his army to reclaim Van Xuan. With an army
attacking and mandarins keen to avoid warfare, Ly abdicated and sued for peace.
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Third Chinese Domination AD602-939
The Sui Dynasty lasted until 618. It was replaced by the Tang who held Vietnam until 939, when Ngô Quyền drove them out. During this period Vietnam was known as Giao Chau (Jiaozhou) 602-79, An Nam 679-757 & 766-866, Tran Nam 757-66, Tinh Hai quan 866-967. They had many rebellions- Lê Ngọc (early 7thC), Lý Tự Tiên/ Đinh Kiến 687, Mai Hắc Đế/ Mai Thúc Loan, Mai Thiếu Đế, Bố Cái Đại Vương of Phùng Hưng, Phùng An 799–802 - son of Bố Cái Đại Vương, Vương Quý Nguyên 803, Dương Thanh 819/20. The Tang were ruthless when punishing rebels- once they decapitated, scalped, flayed and stacked 80,000 men. At other times, local chiefs would exercise de facto independence.
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Mai Thúc Loan/Mai Huyền Thàn/ Mai Hắc Đế (lit Mai the Black Emperor) 722/23, rose against the Tang 722. Regarded as the major rebellion during the period, Mai Thúc Loan became Mai Hắc Đế (de/di is Chinese for emperor) before being defeated by Emperor XuanZong Tang . He is a hero in Vietnam, but not an “official” Emperor. His name appears to have been a reference to his dark skin. A son, Mai Thiếu Đế 722/3? (Juvenile Emperor) briefly succeeded. His daughter, Mai Thi Cau, and son, Mai Ky Son, continued a guerrilla war after his death.
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Small Staff-Sergeant, Euthalia, Grass Yellow, Chocolate Pansy
Phùng Hưng (Bố Cái Đại Vương/ Great King) 791-802 was born in Duong Lam (Ha Tay) to a rich family. He and his brother, Phung Hai rebelled against a corrupt official, Cao Chinh Binh. Phung seized his position as ruler of Annam Protectorate. Phung was succeeded by his son, Phùng An.
Khúc Thừa Dụ (880–907)/ Khúc Tiên was head of the powerful Khúc family in Cuc Bo/ Hải Dương. The Tang Dynasty was failing and the Chinese Jiedushi, Tsang Kun abandoned Vietnam. Khúc Thừa Dụ made himself Governor (Jiedushi) in 905. The Tang accepted and he was de facto independent. When he died in 907, his son Khúc Hạo (907-917) took over, strengthening the country. He was succeeded by his son, Khúc Thừa Mỹ (917-923 or 930). When he refused to acknowledge the new Southern Han Dynasty they sent an army, ending the period of native rule. Khuc Thua was arrested. A subordinate of the Khuc family, Dương Đình Nghệ, retook control briefly in 931 but was murdered by his subordinate, Kieu Cong Tien.
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Katydid, moth, fly, cricket
Ngô Dynasty (939–967AD) By 930 northern Vietnam was a semi autonomous province of China known as Tĩnh Hải quân. Every year the Jiedushi (Governor) paid tribute . Early 10th century China was weakened by civil war (Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period). Vietnam proclaimed independence. Lord Protector Dương Đình Nghệ began a military campaign for independence.
Previous- Dương Đình (Diên) Nghệ 930-38 (see previous)
1. Ngô Vương reign: 939–944
2. Dương Tam Kha reign: 944–950
3. Hậu Ngô Vương: Nam Tấn Vương & Thiên Sách Vương co-reign: 950–954
4. Thiên Sách Vương reign: 954–965
5. Ngô Sứ Quân reign: 965–968
6. "The Anarchy of the 12 Warlords" or "Thập Nhị Sứ Quân Rebellion" (966–968)
Dương Đình (Dien) Nghệ 937–938 self-appointed Jiedushi c930 was a talented general under Khúc Hạo. He campaigned for independence but was assassinated by a subordinate warlord Kiều Công Tiễn who negotiated with the Southern Han as a puppet ruler.
Ngô Vương 939–944 was born Ngô Quyền in Hanoi. He joined Dương Đình Nghệ as general and son- in-law. When his father-in-law was killed, Ngô Quyền defeated Kiều Công Tiễn. The Chinese sent an army to assist Kiều in 938. Ngô Quyền planted iron and wood spikes underneath the high tide of Bạch Đằng River. The attack began during high tide, which concealed the spikes beneath the water. He used shallow draft Vietnamese boats to lure Chinese boats as the tides receded and the spikes impaled the Chinese armada. The Southern Han navy was destroyed at the Battle of Bạch Đằng River. Ngô Quyền became Ngô Vương (King Ngô)/ Tiền Ngô Vương. He moved the capital back to Cổ Loa Thành (old Au Lac capital) and renamed the country Đại Việt. The Chinese recognised his independence in 939.
Dương Binh Tam Kha 944-950. When Ngo Quyen died he asked his friend/ brother-in-law, Duong-Binh Vuong Tam-Kha to be Regent for his young son. Instead Duong usurped the throne as Duong Binh Vuong and adopted Ngo Quyen’s younger son, Ngô Xương Văn, as crown prince. The legitimate king, Ngô Xương Ngập fled. Dương Tam Kha, a son of Dương Đình Nghệ felt he too had a claim to the throne. Ngo Xuong Ngap launched a guerrilla war and Duong-Binh sent his adopted son, Ngo Xuong Van to quell his brother. Instead, Xuong Van used the troops to dethrone Duong-Binh and replace him with his brother. Duong Binh was made Envoy of Chuong Duong. He was the father of Duong Van Nga who in 966 married Dinh Tien Hoang/ Đinh Bộ Lĩnh/ Vạn Thắng Vương of the short-lived Đinh Dynasty.
Hậu Ngô Vương: Nam Tấn Vương & Thiên Sách Vương co-reign: 950–954 until Xuong Van death. Ngô Xương Ngập styled himself Thiên Sách Vương. Ngô Quyền's two sons, Ngô Nam-Tan Vuong Xuong-Van and Ngô Thien-Sach Vuong Xuong-Ngap, established joint rule.
Thiên Sách Vương sole reign: 954–965. After his brother’s death, Ngô Xương Ngập began to rule as a dictator. He was killed in a rebellion.
Ngô Sứ Quân/ Ngô Xương Xí 965–968. After Ngô Xương Ngập died, his son Ngô Xương Xí succeeded. He was faced with 12 lords vying for control. The country was thrown into a chaotic period- Thập Nhị Sứ Quân Rebellion. He retreated to Bình Kiều, where he became a lord there.
6. Anarchy of the 12 Warlords/ Thập Nhị Sứ Quân Rebellion (966–968)
● Ngô Xương Xí (nominal emperor whose rule was contested) held Bình Kiều, now Khoái Châu, Hưng Yên Province.
● Đỗ Cảnh Thạc/ Duke Đỗ Cảnh, held Đỗ Động Giang, now Thanh Oai, Hà Tây Province.
● Trần Lãm/ Duke Trần Minh, held Bố Hải Khấu, Kỳ Bố, Thái Bình Province (proclaimed himself Trần Minh Công. Trần Lãm trained Đinh Bộ Lĩnh who emerged as the strongest of the 12 lords and founded the Đinh Dynasty.
● Kiều Công Hãn or Che/ Kiều Tam Chế, held Phong Châu – Bạch Hạc, Phú Thọ Province
● Nguyễn Khoan/ Nguyễn Thái Bình, held Tam Đái - Vĩnh Tường, Vĩnh Phúc Province
● Ngô Nhật Khánh/ Duke Ngô Lãm, held Đường Lâm, Hà Tây Province
● Lý Khê/ Lý Lãng, held Siêu Loại - Thuận Thành, Bắc Ninh Province.
● Nguyễn Thủ Tiệp/ Duke Nguyễn Lệnh, held Tiên Du, Bắc Ninh Province
● Lý Đường/ Duke Lã Tá, held Tế Giang - Văn Giang, Hưng Yên Province
● Nguyễn Siêu/ Duke Nguyễn Hữu, held Tây Phù Liệt - Thanh Trì, Hà Nội
● Kiều Thuận/ Duke Kiều Lệnh, held Hồi Hồ - Cẩm Khê, Hà Tây Province
● Phạm Bạch Hổ/ Phạm Phòng Át, held Đằng Châu, Hưng Yên Province.
Ngô Xương Xí and Ngô Nhật Khánh were nobles of Ngô Dynasty; Phạm Bạch Hổ, Đỗ Cảnh Thạc, Kiều Công Hãn were officials of Ngô Dynasty; Trần Lãm, Nguyễn Khoan, Lý Khê, Nguyễn Thủ Tiệp, Lý Đường, Nguyễn Siêu, Kiều Thuận were local landlords or nobles. (next history- see Hoa Lu)

Posted by PetersF 11:24 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam cave spider forest butterfly turtle prehistoric ninh_binh cuc_phuong Comments (0)

Vietnam Halong Bay

karst rocks, floating villages and prehistoric caves

Halong Bay 8th August

We left quite early to drive along the dual carriageway out of Hanoi to Halong (144km). At first we drove along the rivers through the suburbs and
then into less populated areas- villages rather than towns. Certainly the area looked like it was doing well economically- the houses were clean, well
appointed and many were doublers. We saw a lot of trucks going north and our guide was quite scathing saying many were illegally selling Vietnamese coal to the Chinese (but claiming it was something else and hiding it under tarpaulins). Another popular export to China was Vietnamese chicken- seen by the Chinese as cleaner and safer than their own produce (I think the milk additives scare has a lot to do with this). Like all the guides in both Vietnam and Laos he said he never bought “shoddy” Chinese goods because the quality was so poor. Instead they all saved up for western/ Korean/ Japanese goods due to the quality (even though they were more expensive). A lesson to be learnt?
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The villages became smaller and further part as we headed along the river towards the coast. We were surprised to see train tracks half way across a bridge come to an abrupt halt- they had run out of money a good few years ago. Likewise the tolls on the toll road had been suspended because the government wasn’t happy with the quality of the road being built (by private company). I asked if trains were a good choice to Halong and our guide laughed and said only if we wanted to take 12 hours! The trains run VERY slowly, so slowly people can climb on and off whilst it moves. We drove along the coast admiring the karst in the bay until we got to long bridge connecting Dau Tuan Chau (island) with the mainland. This pretty, wooded island had been purchased by a Vietnamese speculator who was slowly turning it into a tourist area- he had already built a tourist port, a temple, a theatre, a few hotels and quite a number of holiday cottages. We drove down to the jetty (Bai Chay Tourist Wharf) where we sat in an air con waiting room ready to take the cutter out to our junk boat- L’Aphrodite. Once on board we were served a drink and 3 course lunch in the lounge/ dining area (with panoramic windows) almost immediately whilst the boat sailed off towards the bay. As we ate the maitre d’ explained the 2-day programme to us (though it was hard to remember it all).

We sat outside to enjoy the scenery as we sailed almost directly south. Through the early area, past Dau Be Island and the Dog (Cho Da) Islet like a dog howling. We passed Trong Mai Islet and Cong Dam fishing village. Cong Dam has coral reefs, underwater caves, etc. Surrounding Cong Dam village are islets and beaches, such as Tra Gioi, Cay Bang and Cat Oan beaches. The highlight in Cong Dam is an ancient village floating on a vast expanse of clear water. Cong Dam fishing village has retained its traditional fishing culture. Tourists can gossip with locals people about their life, big storms, their living, etc.
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Trong Mai or the Kissing Cockerels is probably the most famous of Halong Bay’s islets. It is about 5 km SW from Bai Chay Wharf and is two 10m high rocks that look like chickens facing each other. It is also known as Ga Choi (Fighting Cocks). Another 1km on we encountered Dinh Huong Islet (Incense Burner) Islet also called Lu Huong Islet, just southwest of Dau Be Go Island.
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Dau Be, Cong Dam, Dinh Huong

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Cho Da, Kim Quy, Double-rock


After a brief rest in the cabin (with its own balcony) we arrived in a bay (Cat Ba national park) and anchored.
Apparently this is less touristy and admittedly we did only see one other tourist boat. We grabbed swimsuits and the cutter took us to Soi Sim Island. We opted to climb the 200 odd steps to the top where a vantage point gave us a beautiful view of the bay, Ba Trao Dao (3 Peaches) island-mountains, Kim Quy (Tortoise) Island and Ti Top (Titov) Island. We then descended back to the beach. Although we paddled in the sea it was much too dirty and oily to want to swim. The locals say the rubbish comes mainly from China. Soi Sim Island (8.7 ha) is 11kn SW of Bay Chai and is unusual in its composition of red soil over feralite base. It has two beaches and a high viewpoint that gave us spectacular views. The sim part refers to the sim (rose myrtle) trees that cover the island. The island is pretty much the centre of Halong Bay. Ti Top (Titov) Island is a small pretty island with a pale white beach, named after the Russian astronaut Ghermann Titov visited the island in 1962. He did not return until 1997.
Ba Trao Dao (Three Peaches) is a group of three 23m mountain peaks in Halong looking a bit like peaches (below right). The bow shaped beach stretches along all three, though at high tide it disappears. The story goes that a God’s daughter fell in love with a fisherman and stole three heavenly peaches to make him immortal. However her father found out and turned the peaches into mountains and she never got her man! Dau Nguoi Islet (Human head shaped Islet) is situated in the south of the island range of Bo Hon, Halong Bay, about 13 km far from Bai Chay Tourist Wharf. It lies near Luon Grotto, Sung Sot Island and Ti Top Island.
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/After our beach trip we went back by tender for a drink and a bay watch whilst we sailed to past Con Coc (Toad) Islet. Con Coc is in the SE of Halong, some 12km from Bay Chay. The 9m high rock looks like a toad stretching up to the sky. This relates to the Vietnamese toad legend. Once the Gods forgot about rain and the land became parched. A brave toad led a delegation of animals to remind the gods. The toad was honoured by the gods who said when the toads croak they will send rain.
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Then on to Cua Van Floating village. This is one of the larger fishing villages in Halong and was anchored in a sheltered cove between mountain-islands (to protect from fairly frequent typhoons). It has about 6-700 people in 130-150 houses, and is unusual in having a small school and clinic. As we got on board the tender a young girl in a small bamboo sampan boat tried very hard to sell us some “souvenirs” aka large carved shells- very kitsch. We said no politely (several times). Steve was mustard keen to kayak around the bay and I wasn’t, so whilst he went off in his
kayak, I shared a sampan with an interesting guy from Saigon. It turned out he was a parks and forest official who’d been on an official visit to Sapa forests and was now coming back via Halong. As he spoke (obviously) Vietnamese and (not so obviously) English he kindly asked the local man who was rowing us my questions and translated the answers for me. This meant I learned a lot more than I would have otherwise. First off, the building on the hillside was the local temple, which in all villages was located on dry land on an island but easily accessible from the water. Although the fisherpeople lived all their lives on the sea they would be married and buried on dry land in or by the temple. Everything else- school, houses, aquaculture, etc- was on the water. We passed a beautiful squid fishing boat, ready to set off for the night, its lanterns just being lit. As we quietly rowed whole shoals of flying fish jumped silvery in front of our wake.
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We looked in on the floating primary school, but, said the rower sadly, the children go to secondary school on the mainland and often do not come back because life (health, education, prospects) is better on the mainland. His view was that the village life was slowly disappearing and our official said (in his official capacity) that it was estimated that it would, as a way of life, vanish within the next 20 years. I asked about emergencies. The villager said that in general they still used traditional medicine for simple (or even more serious) problems and only for REAL emergencies would they radio for a helicopter. The average age of death was much lower for the people of the floating villages, mainly due to their limited access to healthcare. Saigon man suddenly pointed overhead and a huge sea eagle lazily flapped over us to a large snag, followed by a dive to catch a fish. We now landed at the main village jetty and Steve met us. We disembarked and went to look at their fish pits- about 5 main pits fed much of the village. The fish in the pits were huge. Mackerel, tuna, anchovy, white croaker...
This was their main meeting area with a meeting room (amazingly with a TV), seating, large jetty, etc. I asked about fruit and veg- fruit would come from the nearby island and their veg was mainly from the sea (seaweed, arame, dulse, nori, kombu, wakame).
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It was becoming attractively dusk now as the sun set behind the rock formations and time to head back to the boat. When we were all on board the boat set off east towards Tra Ngu, Da Le, Hang Trai and Dau Be Islands which form a sort of archipelago, some 28km from Bai Chay. The highest peak is 139m and Hang Trai includes the ancient site of Ba Ham Lake. The boat continued to sail towards the “boat park” at Coconut Island/ Hang Lac (which sits between Halong and Bai Tu Long Bays). As we sailed we grabbed some Happy Hour cocktails and went to sit on the loungers on the top deck to watch the moon and stars come out. Below we watched them prepare the evening buffet on deck. The food was excellent and very fresh. We tried squid (including the famous Ha Long squid sausages), oyster, crabs, Halong sea snails, huge steamed shrimps and super sea vegetables. The special Ngan Arca Wine (made from clams and rice), which is supposedly a sort of Viagra, we steered clear of. We had a lovely buffet, then headed back up top to watch as we moored up with all the other boat- their lights all shining in the night. Slowly the lights went out and the full moon shone over the bay. Steve went to get some cocktails and narrowly avoided being pressed into karaoke! We went to bed early, as I wanted to watch sunrise over the bay the next morning.

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Map of Vietnam 1540 Mạc (pink), Nguyễn-Trịnh yellow, Champa green

Mạc Dynasty
Mạc Đăng Dung/ Minh Đức 1527-29 & 1537-41 and Mạc Đăng Doanh 1529-37. Mạc Đăng Dung started as a bodyguard to Emperor Lê Uy Mục. Fearing the ambition of Mạc Đăng Dung, Emperor Lê Chiêu Tông fled south with his “protectors”; the Trịnh and Nguyễn families. Mạc Đăng Dung proclaimed the Emperor's younger brother, Prince Xuan as Emperor Lê Cung Hoàng, then captured and killed Lê Chiêu Tông. He removed his figurehead Emperor and made himself Emperor Minh Đức. The Trịnh and Nguyễn revolted against the Mạc. Both sides tried to ally with the Ming Dynasty and King Phothisarat I of Lan Xang (Laos). His son Mạc Đăng Doanh became Emperor and he took the title Senior Emperor, though in reality he was still in control. The area south of Red River was captured by the Nguyễn/ Trịnh armies. In 1533 their choice of figurehead Lê Emperor, Lê Trang Tong, was crowned at Hanoi. The Ming declared Mạc rule illegitimate and sent an army. Mạc Đăng Doanh died and his father reclaimed the throne. The Ming gave the Mạc northern Vietnam and the Lê southern Vietnam, but the Nguyễn and Trịnh refused to accept this and war continued. Mạc Đăng Dung was succeeded by his grandson Mạc Phúc Hải 1541-45.
Mạc Phúc Nguyên 1545–61, Mạc Chính Trung 1546-61, Mạc Mậu Hợp 1561-92. Mac Phuc Hai ruled for 6 years, during which he was defeated by the Trịnh. He was succeeded by Mạc Phúc Nguyên who fought against his brother Mạc Chính Trung. Mạc Mậu Hợp 1561-92 was the last significant Mạc ruler. In 1592 Trịnh Tùng conquered Hanoi/ the northern provinces. Mạc Mậu Hợp was captured and cut to pieces. Mạc Toàn and his successors held Cao Bằng until 1677
Mạc Kinh Chi & Mạc Toàn 1593-1616; Mạc Kinh Cung 1593-1625, King Mạc Kính Khoan 1623-1638; King Mạc Kính Vũ 1638-1677. The Mạc lost all of Vietnam except for Cao Bằng Province. Mạc Kinh Chi defeated the army of Trịnh Tùng but in 1594 was wiped out by an army under Trịnh Tùng. Mạc Kinh Cung ruled for 20 years in Van Ninh (Quảng Ninh). The Mạc army attacked the Trịnh who received aid from the Nguyễn and their joint army (with Nguyễn Hoàng) defeated the Mạc. In 1598 the Ming declared the Mạc rulers of Cao Bằng province. Trịnh Lord Trịnh Tráng began the Trịnh–Nguyễn War which went badly at the battle of Truong Duc (1648). The next Trịnh Lord, Trịnh Tạc was more successful in pushing the Nguyễn back. The Trịnh had been prevented from destroying the Mạc who were protected by the Ming. In 1660, the Mạc sided with a disloyal governor and the (Manchu) Kangxi Emperor withdrew his protection. Trịnh Tạc invaded Cao Bằng, defeated the Mạc and drove them to China. The last mention of the Mạc is 1677 when a Mạc army invaded northern Vietnam but was defeated by the Royal (Trịnh) army.
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Later Lê Dynasty (late period) 1533-1788
1n 1533 the Nguyễn-Trịnh alliance captured Đông Đô (Eastern Capital) and crowned Lê Trang Tông as Lê emperor. In official Vietnamese history, this marks the end of the Mạc Dynasty though reality was different. Mạc Đăng Dung ruled in Hanoi until 1541 and his descendants until 1592. The country was divided in 2 though gradually the Trịnh-Nguyen alliance took over from the Mạc. In 1592 with the conquest of Hanoi, the Emperor of Vietnam, Lê Thế Tông, was installed in the capital. The Lê emperors sat as figurehead rulers from 1533-1789 in Hanoi until the Tây Sơn Revolt.
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Map of Vietnam showing areas controlled by the Trịnh, Nguyen, Mac, Champa 1650 10.
Lê Trang Tông 1533-48, son of Prince Ý, was crowned Emperor at the Winter palace 1533 and recognised by the Ming. An attack on Mac forces by Nguyễn Kim resulted in the partition of Vietnam, with the Nguyễn controlling South Vietnam with the hereditary title chúa (lord) and continuing to profess loyalty to the Lê Dynasty.
11. Lê Trung Tông 1548-56 the Mạc war continued.
12 Lê Anh Tông 1556-73 In 1572 the Royal army under Trịnh Tùng captured Hanoi but soon lost it. The Emperor took the opportunity to escape the control of Trịnh Tùng. However, Trịnh Tùng simply appointed a new Emperor and assassinated Lê Anh Tông.
13. Lê Thế Tông 1573–99 The Trinh ousted the Mac and ruled North Vietnam in the name of the Lê. The Emperor gave Trịnh Tùng the title Pacifying Prince (Binh An Vương) in recognition. The Trinh, like the Nguyễn, took the title chúa, but spent most of the 17th century attempting to depose the Nguyễn.
14 Lê Kính Tông 1600-19 Nguyễn Hoàng refused to accept imperial edicts from Le Kinh Tong. After 19 years as a figurehead, Le Kinh Tong was involved in a conspiracy to kill Trịnh Tùng. He was executed and a new Emperor appointed.
15. Lê Thần Tông 1619-43; 1649-62 Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên refused to acknowledge the new Emperor and the Trịnh–Nguyễn War started. Le Thần Tong saw the death of Trịnh Tùng and the rule by Trịnh Tráng. In 1643 he abdicated to his son, Le Chan Tong. The Trinh (100,000 men, 500 elephants, 500 junks) were far superior to their southern foe but the Nguyễn were better equipped (Portuguese weapons and gunpowder). The Trinh army was defeated and Le Than Tong regained the throne after the early death of his son. By 1662, Trịnh Tạc had defeated the Nguyễn offensive.
16. Lê Chân Tông 1643-49 took the throne when his father abdicated (temporarily and possibly under duress) but 6 years later the Royal (Trịnh) army was defeated by the Nguyễn. Le Chan Tong died and his father retook the throne.
17 Lê Huyền Tông 1663-71 The Mạc were driven from Vietnam.
18. Lê Gia Tông 1672-75 The last great offensive against the Nguyễn by Trịnh Tạc. A 100-year peace between the Trịnh and Nguyễn was agreed. The Nguyễn expanded south into lands of the Cham and Khmer while the Trinh consolidated the north. The nobility and mandarins, south and north, blocked the development of manufacturing and trade, preferring a feudal, peasant society, easy to control.
19. Lê Hy Tông 1676-1704 was forced to abdicate in favour of his son by Lord Trịnh Cương.
20. Lê Dụ Tông 1705-28 A peaceful time though Christian missionaries were persecuted. The Emperor and Trịnh Cương died within months of each other in 1728.
21 Hôn Đức Công 1729-32 was imprisoned by new Trịnh lord Trịnh Giang and murdered after 4 years.
22. Lê Thuần Tông 1732-35 Nothing of import during his short rule.
23. Lê Ý Tông 1735-40 Trịnh Giang convinced China to give him the title Supreme King of Annam, but was seen as usurping the Lê emperor, leading to revolt in North Vietnam. Trịnh Giang gave up his title and Y Tong abdicated.
24. Lê Hiển Tông 1740-86 revolts suppressed by Trịnh Lord, Trịnh Sâm. 1772 Tây Sơn revolt started. Tây Sơn Revolt/ Dynasty After a decade of success in the south against the Nguyễn Lords, Nguyễn Huệ of the Tây Sơn marched north to vanquish the Royal army under Trịnh Tông. Trịnh Tông committed suicide and the Lê Emperor gave his daughter in marriage to Huệ and died.
25. Lê Chiêu Thống 1786–1788 was the last Lê emperor. The Emperor and the Trịnh fled Hanoi. The Emperor's mother went to the Qing court to ask for aid against the Tây Sơn. Emperor Qianlong dispatched a force to invade Northern Vietnam but Nguyễn Huệ raised an army and defeated them in 1789. Lê Chiêu Thống fled to Beijing, never to return. He was made a Chinese mandarin and his family remained in China, until the last one, Brigadier General Li Hung Tsai d1878.
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A boat park!

Halong and Cuc Phuong 9th August

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I set the alarm early enough to sit on our private balcony and watch the sunrise- spectacular. The junk set off to sail into Bai Tu Long Bay- every bit as spectacular as Halong Bay. Shortly after we headed up for a snack breakfast. Quickly we boarded the tender to go to Me Cung Grotto on Lom Bom Island with its ancient cave settlement. I was keen to see this because it was home to some of the earliest SE Asia human settlements- Halong Neolithic Culture 12-9,000 BC. It was a short, though slippery, walk up the steps to the cave entrance, which was filled with a thick 1.2m layer of the semi-fossilised shells and nut cases which obviously formed the main part of the Neolithic diet. Just in the cave entrance was a rare blooming cave orchid.
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We went single file through a narrow crack into the first cave with its beautiful stalactites (no stalagmites) and on up through the cavesystem (including an outside walk with a vertiginous drop protected by a cord) to the top of the island where we could look down into the island interior, with its beautiful freshwater karst lake (a tung) surrounded by the island’s mountains. These tung and the related ang (underwater reservoir) are unique to Halong and many have their own unique ecosystem of fish, shrimp, octopus, coral, algae and seaweed. Life here must have been very easy- plenty of food and protection. Some interesting plants were pointed out, including a dragon tree. This was the area of extremely old trees known as the “Royal Garden”. In this area a fossilized animal skeleton was found- now in a museum. The island is home to many birds and animals, varans (a monitor lizard related to the Komodo dragon), monkeys (of course) and surprisingly, chamois.
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We headed back to the boat for a proper breakfast as we sailed back to the mainland. As we sat on the top deck we watched the island and spotted quite a few monkeys and a variety of birds, mainly Black Kites which are numerous there. The boat staff pushed us into filling in a form and were very genuinely keen for improvement points.
Finally we arrived back at the tourist jetty where we found our guide had already collected our bags ready to go.

Trịnh lords (Chúa Trịnh 1545–1787) often referred to as Vietnamese shoguns. Their ancestor was Trịnh Khả, an advisor to Emperor Lê Lợi. During the reign of Lê Thánh Tông, his top generals was Trịnh Văn Sái.
Nguyễn lords (Chúa Nguyễn; 1558–1777) were a series of rulers of Southern Vietnam (Đàng Trong). They came from a powerful clan in Thanh Hóa Province. They supported Lê Lợi against the Ming. Their descendants later ruled the whole of Vietnam as the Nguyễn Dynasty.

Trịnh-Nguyễn Alliance 1520-45 The Lê Emperors following Lê Thánh Tông were weak and following the death of Lê Tương Dực in 1516, Mạc Đăng Dung rose to power. In 1520, the Nguyễn and Trịnh left the capital Đông Do (Hanoi) and fled south, with the new Emperor Lê Chiêu Tông "under protection". This started a civil war between Mạc Đăng Dung and the Trịnh/ Nguyễn. Tông was assassinated by Mạc Đăng Dung and the Trịnh and Nguyễn leaders were executed. In 1527 Mạc Đăng Dung usurped the throne, killed his puppet Emperor Lê Cung Hoàng and started the Mạc Dynasty. The Trịnh and Nguyễn clans revolted, led by Nguyễn Kim whose daughter married the new Trinh leader, Trịnh Kiểm. The armies of Nguyễn Kim and Trịnh Kiểm captured Hanoi and crowned their puppet Lê Trang Tông emperor in 1533.
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The Trịnh Take Power 1545-1613 In 1545 Nguyễn Kim was assassinated by Mạc and Trịnh Kiểm took the opportunity to assert control over the Nguyễn- Trịnh army. The Trịnh captured Vietnam, nominally on behalf of the Lê Emperor. Kim’s eldest son, Nguyễn Uông was killed in battle and his second son, Nguyễn Hoàng, was put in charge of new southern province of Ô-châu from Phú Xuân (Huế) in 1558. His descendants ruled there for the next 150 years. In 1570 Trịnh Kiểm died and was succeeded by his second son Trịnh Tùng, who defeated the Mac in 1592. As Hoàng became secure in the southern provinces he was increasingly independent. While he cooperated with the Trịnh against the Mạc, he ruled locally as a king. In 1600 with a new Emperor, Lê Kinh Tông, Hoàng broke with the Trịnh-dominated court, saying he was only a Trinh puppet, although he continued to acknowledge the Lê emperor. This continued until Hoàng's death in 1613.
The Trịnh-Nguyễn War 1613-73 In 1620, after the enthronement of another figurehead Lê Emperor (Lê Than Tông), the new Nguyễn leader, Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên, refused to send tax to the court in Đông Đô. He opened relations with the Portuguese, helping establish a trading post in Hội An (Faifo). In 1620 the emperor was removed from power and executed by Trịnh Tùng, who died shortly after and was succeeded by his son Trịnh Tráng. Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên announced he did not acknowledge the new Emperor. The French Jesuit Alexandre de Rhodes arrived in Trịnh-controlled Vietnam. He gained thousands of converts and built churches. Trịnh Trang saw Rhodes as a threat and tried to suppress Christianity in Vietnam. Rhodes simply moved south to the Nguyễn court at Huế. Nguyễn Phúc Lan came to the same conclusion as Trịnh Tráng, so Rhodes was expelled from Vietnam on pain of death if he returned. Fighting broke out between the Trịnh and Nguyễn in 1627. Trịnh Tạc concluded a peace treaty with Nguyễn Lord, Nguyễn Phúc Tần 1673. Vietnam was divided between the 2 ruling families for the next 100 years. Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên's daughter had married King Chey Chettha II of Khmer, so peace was made with the Trịnh, the Nguyễn pushed into the Champa kingdom and Khmer Empire
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The Long Peace 1673-1765 The Trịnh Lords ruled well, maintaining the fiction that the Lê monarch was the emperor. However, they selected/ replaced emperors as they wished, having the hereditary right to appoint officials. In 1694-1704 the Trịnh Lords fought a war in Laos, before settling into an uneasy peace with three new Lao kingdoms paying tribute to them. Trịnh Căn and Trịnh Cương reformed the government and increased tax leading to popular unrest. During Trịnh Giang's inept rule of, revolts became frequent and his successor Trịnh Doanh was preoccupied with peasant revolts and armed gangs. In 1714 the Nguyễn sent an army into Cambodia to support Keo Fa's claim the throne against Prea Srey Thomea and his Siamese allies. At Bantea Meas the Vietnamese routed them but by 1717 Siam had gained the upper hand, although the Nguyễn Lords seized Saigon and the Mekong Delta. The Trịnh and Nguyen Lords were mostly capable, hard working, long-lived rulers. The unusual government they developed was a creative response to the obstacles to their rule, but they lacked the authority to resolve the contradictions inherent in a system of ruling without reigning.
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Posted by PetersF 10:46 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam cave halong junk karst prehistoric Comments (0)

Vietnam Hanoi temples and pagodas

Quán Thánh Temple, Tran Quoc Pagoda, Ly Quoc Su Pagoda

Wider Hanoi 7th August

We had the day to ourselves today, so decided to go for a tour around a wider part of tourist Hanoi. We left the Golden Silk (Hang Bai) to the left for a change, onto Hang Bong to a large intersection, then down Dien Bien Phu. This long road was a pleasant walk past the Lenin Statue (left) and the Vietnamese Military History Museum (right).
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We could see the HCM mausoleum from here, but could we find an entrance? We walked 2⁄3 of the way around before we found an entrance with a long queue. This must be it we thought, and since the queue was moving fairly fast we joined it. Just as we got to the entrance a lady said no cameras and we twigged it was the queue to see the embalmed body of HCM. No thanks!
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We left the queue, filled with reverential Vietnamese, and found a second entrance to the park only with no queue. From here we could go in, see Ho Chi Minh’s cars, wander the gardens and even get to One Pillar Pagoda (for free). The mausoleum exterior, which was all we’d wanted to visit, was also accessible. We left out of a second gateway and walked around to the entrance (paid) to the Botanical Gardens for a wander, a shady rest and a nice view. While Steve sat and watched the world’s largest rats hoover up the bird food on what we dubbed Rat Island, I went to see HCM’s stilt house which was way more interesting than a pickled body. The gardens were very attractive and almost empty, so we wandered along the ponds to the far entrance, where we exited and walked up to Quán Thánh Temple.
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Quán Thánh Temple, formerly Trấn Vũ Temple, is an 11th century Taoist temple dedicated to Xuan Wu, or Trấn Vũ in Vietnamese, one of the principal deities in Taoism. As one of the Four Sacred Temples of the capital, Quan Thánh Temple is located near West Lake in a ward of same name, Quán Thánh Ward, and is one of the leading tourist attractions in Hanoi. Legend has it that Quán Thánh Temple was established during the reign of Emperor Lý Thái Tổ (1010–28) and was dedicated to Trấn Vũ, Deity of the North in Taoism, whose symbols of power are the serpent and turtle. It is one of the Four Sacred Temples built in four directions to protect the capital from malevolent spirits. During its long history, Quán Thánh Temple has been renovated several times, most recently in 1893 when the principal gate and the shrine were redone, so the architecture is a mixture of many different styles. The main features are a large yard shaded by a giant banyan tree and a shrine that contains the famous bronze statue of Trấn Vũ. 1677 during the reign of Lê Huy Tông, artisans from the nearby village of Ngũ Xã offered a very large statue of Trấn Vũ in black bronze 4 m high, 3,600 kg and depicts Trấn Vũ as a deity with his two symbolic animals, serpent and turtle. A master craftsman Trùm Trọng has his own statue in Quan Thanh Temple placed alongside. The main shrine has a valuable collection of ancient texts from the 17/18th century. After each restoration, a stele was kept in temple for the record; the oldest one dated 1677. Because of the famous statue, Quán Thánh Temple was named by the French as Big Buddha Pagoda.
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Leaving this temple, we walked 1 minute further to reach West Lake. We were thirsty now, so stopped in the floating Highland Coffee (nothing to do with Scotland!) for a smoothie and a break. The cafe was filled with locals enjoying the free wi-fi but we could not get it to work. As we left we walked across the tree-lined banks of West Lake to get to Tran Quoc Temple with its turtle sellers outside. It looks like they (all women) catch small turtles from the lake, then one purchases the turtle and releases it back to the lake (for good luck) and then, presumably, it gets caught all over again.
Chùa Trấn Quốc (or Tran Quoc Pagoda) is located on the east side of dazzling West Lake, on Thanh Nien Road. Particularly, it is positioned on an island linked by a bridge to the causeway between the two most romantic lakes of Hanoi: West Lake and Truc Bach Lake. The construction of the pagoda started in 541 and was completed in 545 under the reign of King Ly Nam De (544-548) under its original name of Khai Quoc (National Founder). It was initially built on the bank of the Red River (then where West Lake and the Red River met) until the early 17th century. In the 15th century, during Le Thai Tong’s reign, it was renamed An Quoc (Peaceful country). Under the reign of King Le Kinh Tong (1600-1618), the pagoda was moved to the Kim Ngu (Golden Fish) Islet due to the river bank crumbling and then was renamed Tran Quoc (National Defence) by Le Huy Tong (1681-1705). Tran Quoc is a cultural symbol of Vietnamese Buddhism for it is the oldest pagoda and situated in the centre of Hanoi. Tran Quoc Pagoda was built in an intricate way. Behind the shrine is the Buddhist trinity followed by corridors, ten shrines and belfry. Inside the pagoda, there are many valuable statues, such as the red lac statue trimmed with gold of Sakyamouni Buddha's Parinirvana, which is a masterpiece of Vietnamese sculptural art, and lots of ancient stele, one in particular made in 1639 by lau-Nguyen Xuan Chinh, recording the Pagoda's history. The island and pagoda provide a beautiful backdrop, particularly at sunset. Standing at one end of Thanh Nien Road, one can see the towers of the pagoda rising above the lake’s surface. In the pagoda’s garden stands a Bồ Đề (Bodhi) tree, given in 1959 by Indian Prime Minister Razendia Prasat. The plant was grafted from the holy bodhi tree where Sakyamuni sat in zen (meditation) position and achieved enlightenment in India 25 centuries ago. In 1915, due to a serious landslide the government moved the whole pagoda to its present position on Kim Ngư Island (east bank of West Lake). Besides the front gate facing Thanh Nien Road, the complex is designed according to strict rules of Buddhist architecture with many layers of buildings and three main houses called “Tiền Đường” connected with each other to form a Công script. Tran Quoc Pagoda is highlighted by a high stupa erected in 1998 and composed of 11 floors with a height of 15m; each with a vaulted window holding a statue of Amitabha made from gemstone. On the top stands a nine-storey lotus (Cửu đỉnh liên hoa) and is also gemstone. This stupa is situated symmetrically with the 50-year-old Bodhi tree. Inside are ancient statues- the outstanding one “Thích ca thập niết bàn”, is called the most beautiful statue of Vietnam.
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As it was lunch we started to meander back towards Hoan Kiem passing Hoe Nhai Pagoda and an elegant rotunda Bot Hang Dau (Hang Dau St). Then down through the shops, past the main train station and back towards Hoan Kiem. We grabbed a street snack before looking in some souvenir and silk shops. Opposite our hotel we found a skinny shop with just the Vietnamese traditional silk costume for me and a second T-shirt for Steve.
Hang Dau is the intersection of the streets: Hang Giay, Quan Thanh, Hang Dau, Hang Cot. This was built on the villages of Fulin (the ancient capital of Ta Tuc) and Nghia Lap (Hau Tuc; later renamed Dong Xuan). Old temples shown traces of this village: Dinh Phuc Lam (No. 2 Gam Street Bridge); Moc Dinh Thi Phuc Lam (worship trees) Temple No. 32, Hang Dau; Dinh Nghia Lap Bach; Tu Nghia Lap Temple. At the intersection of Hang Dau - Nguyen Thiep there was a gate, called Fulin, similar to Quan Chuong gate. This gate bridge was destroyed when the river-rail bridges was built. Hang Dau street, in the days of markets, was a rural outskirt where beans would be sold: green, black, white, soy ... and people in alleys around bought them to turn to tofu or pickled bean sprouts. Hang Dau, under the Nguyen was the boundary between two zones. At the end of the 19th century, Hang Dau had a famous school, the Chrysanthemum, nicknamed for Dr. Le Dinh Duyen (1819-1878). In addition, there are a few nearby buildings near Hang Dau; Hang Dau water tower and Hang Dau gardens.

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Hang Dau water tower is located at the intersection of six streets Hang Dau- Hang-Than-Phan Dinh Phung Quan Thanh-Hang Cot-Hang Giay. The stone water tower was built 1894. It looks like a fortress tower and consists of three floors, cylindrical with a diameter of 19m. The 25m tall building has a cone shaped roof, surrounded by small Gothic window loopholes. In the tower, stone walls are like spokes of a wheel, with doors around. On these walls are corrugated iron water tank towers. Each holds 1.250m3. Water went from here straight into where the French colonial army distributed water to other towns. This water tower was abandoned in 1954. Van Xuan flower garden located on Phan Dinh Phung Street (aka Hang Dau Park) the largest flower gardens, fountains, shady trees, the festival, often overflowing flower market.
Then we went left out of our hotel (Hang Bong, left onto Ly Quoc Su), then after a visit to Ly Quoc Su Pagoda we went to find St. Joseph’s Cathedral (40 Nha Chung St)- a lovely Gothic job dating to 1882.
Ly Quoc Su Pagoda was established in 1131 (Ly Dynasty) and has been renovated many times. The pagoda is dedicated to the Buddhist monk, Nguyen Chi Thanh. He healed King Ly Thanh Tong, who in gratitude entitled him Ly Quoc Su and built a pagoda next to Bao Dien Pagoda. Where Ly Quoc Su lived, teaching medicine and bronze casting (an odd combination). There was a famous Tu Chung bell in the pagoda. We popped along Au Trieu Street, not one of the 36 streets, but interesting because Au Trieu was the nickname of Le Thi Dan, a female revolutionary of the early 20th century. Her nickname, meaning little Trieu in Han language, comes from “Lady Trieu”, a female warrior in 3rd century Vietnam. Au Trieu was a member of the Association for Modernisation and Vietnamese for Eastern Study and died a martyr after being detained by the French.

We went to collect my silk suit, then went for a rest before dinner. I had prebooked an evening meal at The Gourmet Corner Restaurant on the top floor of Hotel Hanoi Elegance Diamond (32 Lo Su Street). Just as well I had booked because there were NO unbooked tables in this bijou restaurant. We sat in a window table and watched the sun go down over Hanoi (from West Lake to Hoan Kiem to the Red River) from the 12th floor. The food was amazing and the service was perfect. http://www.hanoielegancehotel.com/diamond/restaurant.htm
Well sated, we sauntered back to pack for our move to Halong the next day.
The Gourmet Corner Restaurant 32 Lo Su Str., Old Quarter | Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi 10000, Vietnam +84 4 3935 1632 Ranked no.2 in Hanoi Certificate of Excellence 2014Cuisines: Asian, Vietnamese, Fusion
Dining options: Breakfast/Brunch, Lunch Spot, Dinner, Reservations, Delivery, After-hours
Description: Located on the top floor of Elegance Diamond hotel, the Gourmet Corner restaurant and terrace bar boast the finest view of Hanoi from the 12th floor, overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake, the Red River and the ever-growing skyline of Hanoi. A selected menu of authentic Vietnamese food prepared by our experienced 5-star chef, served by a team of attentive waiting staff will savour your taste. Drop by for a drink at the terrace bar to see the panoramic view of the lake, the river in the sunset.

Vietnam’s History
Fourth Chinese domination 1407-27
Following its conquest by the Ming 1406/7, Vietnam became the county of Giao Chỉ (Jiaozhi). There was revolts including those by Trần Ngỗi (1407-1409), a son of the late emperor Trần Nghệ Tông and Trần Quý Khoáng, a nephew.
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Later Lê Dynasty 1428-1788
Lê Thái Tổ and Founding of the Lê Dynasty The founder of the Lê Dynasty was the hero-Emperor Lê Lợi 1428-1433. He was the son of a village leader, born shortly before the Ming conquest. Vietnamese culture was suppressed; resistance was dealt with harshly. Lê Lợi revolted in the Lam Sơn uprising and proclaimed himself Lê Thái Tổ (Founding Emperor) of Vietnam, and was recognised as such by Xuande, Emperor of China.
Lê Thái Tông 1433-1442 was heir to Lê Lợi, but only 11. A relative, Lê Sát, became regent until Lê Thái Tông had him executed. The new Emperor had a weakness for women. He had a scandalous affair with Nguyễn Thị Lộ, the wife of his father's advisor Nguyễn Trãi. Shortly after he died. The court believed he had been poisoned, so Nguyễn Trãi, his wife and their families were executed for treason.
Lê Nhân Tông 1442-1459 was an infant so the real ruler was Trịnh Khả and his mother, Empress Nguyễn Thị Anh. The next 17 years were good for Vietnam until Lê Nhân Tông's brother, Nghi Dân, murdered him. Nghi Dân's rule was brief and he was never officially recognised. Nguyễn Xí and Dinh Liêt killed Nghi Dân and made the son of Lê Thái Tông, Lê Thánh Tông, Emperor at just 17.
Lê Thánh Tông 1460-1497 was the most prominent Lê ruler and a great Emperor. He instituted government/ legal/ land reforms, restarted the exam system for government positions, reduced the power of the noble families and conquered the Cham capital, ending the Champa kingdom. After his death the Dynasty fell into decline. His son, Lê Hiến Tông 1497–1504 was 38, affable and mild-mannered. His third son, Lê Túc Tông 1504–1505, became emperor but fell ill and died 6 months after assuming the throne. Given his older brother's subsequent history of ruthlessness, there is a suspicion that he was in fact murdered. Lê Uy Mục 1505–1509 succeeded his younger half- brother, Lê Túc Tông. He took revenge against those who had barred him from the throne by having them killed. Lê Uy Mục was cruel and sadistic and wasted money. Well aware he was detested, he hired a group of bodyguards, led by Mạc Đăng Dung. Despite this a cousin assassinated the Emperor and proclaimed himself Emperor Lê Tương Dực 1510- 16. Unfortunately he was as bad as Lê Uy Mục. He spent the royal treasury, and raised taxes. In 1516 officials and generals stormed the palace and killed him. Lê Chiêu Tông 1516-22, Lê Cung Hoàng 1521-3 & Civil war 1520-1590. A nephew of Lê Tương Dực, was made emperor Lê Chiêu Tông 1516-1522. As he was young, factions vied for control- one led by Mạc Đăng Dung. His power was resented by the leaders of two noble families in Vietnam: the Nguyễn (under Nguyễn Hoàng Dụ) and the Trịnh (under Trịnh Duy Đại & Trịnh Duy Sản). After several years of tension, the Nguyễn and the Trịnh left the capital Hanoi (Đông Đô) and fled south with the Emperor "under their protection", starting a civil war between the Mạc and the Trịnh/ Nguyễn. Mac Dang Dung declared the Emperor’s younger brother, Emperor Lê Cung Hoàng. Emperor Lê Chiêu Tông was killed in 1522 by Mạc Đăng Dung and the Nguyễn/ Trịnh leaders were executed, leaving Mạc Đăng Dung the most powerful man in Vietnam.
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Vietnamese Cinderella? A widower with a daughter Tam remarried a wicked woman. When a baby girl, Cam, was born her stepmother made Tam live in the dirty and work. She scrubbed floors, cut the wood, feed the animals, cooked, washed up and many other things. Tam worked till her skin became dark and her hair messy. She washed her face until her soft white skin appeared. One day, Tam and Cam went fishing, but Cam stole Tam’s fish. Tam cried, but the Goddess of Mercy appeared, and gave her a small fish with red fins and golden eyes. The Goddess told her to take the fish home, put it in the well at the back of the house, and feed it three times a day. Tam did as she was told but her stepmother killed the fish. The Goddess told her to bury the bones and make a wish. Tam followed the advice and it was not long before she had gold, jewels and beautiful dresses. When Autumn Festival came, Tam was told to stay home and sort out two baskets of black and green beans that her step- mother had mixed up. “Get the work done before you can attend the Festival.” The Goddess used her magic willow branch to turn flies into sparrows, which sorted the beans. Tam dried her tears, and dressed in a glittering blue and silver dress. She looked as beautiful as a princess, and went to the Festival. When Tam realised Cam was staring, she ran away in such a hurry that she dropped one of her slippers. The King made the ladies of the palace try it on, but the slipper was too small. He ordered all the noble women to try it, but the slipper would fit none. In the end, word was sent that the woman who could wear the slipper would become Queen (First Wife). When Tam tried the slipper it fitted perfectly. She became Queen but her stepmother could not bear to see her happy and killed her. Tam’s soul turned into a nightingale, which dwelt in the King’s garden and sang sweet songs. The King listened to her beautiful songs all day. Cam became jealous of the bird, and killed it. Tam became a tree, which had a golden fruit. An old woman picked it and a lady came out. One day the King lost his way. He saw the old woman’s house and went. She offered him tea and betel. The King asked who had made this betel like his dead Queen? He realised it was Tam and they went home. Cam asked Tam how to be white and Tam told her to boil herself. Cam died, as did her mother.
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Posted by PetersF 10:33 Archived in Vietnam Tagged temple vietnam pagoda hanoi Comments (0)

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