Adventures in East Asia

Hoa Lu - The Ancient Capital of Vietnam

On the second day of our visit up north, we headed for the Ninh Binh province, which is about two hours drive (or 100 km) south of Hanoi. Our destination was the district Hoa Lu, which was once the ancient capital of Vietnam and which now features relics from the 10th century as well retaining areas of natural beauty. Well, apart from the odd building site we came across.


We arrived where I think was the centre of Hoa Lu, it looked more like a few playing fields with a few rough roads, paths and car parks full of coachs. Sure its the ancient capital, but a far cry from the urbanisation of Ho Chi Minh. There were groups of Vietnamese school kids on a day out as well as tourists, and therefore a few stalls selling toys, souvenirs, fruit and ice cream.

At the side of one road was this dapper fella with his dressed up ox, who was getting a bit of attention. I read somewhere that the Vietnamese farmers use ox's to plough the land but that they're treated with a lot of respect, almost as a part of the family.


Hoa Lu was the ancient capital of Vietnam from 968 until 1010. As usual, there's lots of history to be found about the area, both online and as told by our tour guide, but the one thing that stood out and which I looked forward to experiencing was the landscape of hills, boulders and streams that we drove through.

Before the year 968, the Vietnamese nation was just a district of China, until self proclaimed Emperor King Dinh managed to defeat the lords of the district, declaring independence. He set up Hoa Lu, which with all the undulating landscapes, was easier to defend against forthcoming invasions from China.

In Hoa Lu, we visited two temples which were in close proximity to each other, one dedicated to the aforementioned King Dinh, whose dynasty lasted 12 years, and the second to King Le whose dynasty started after King Dinh's and lasted 29 years. Both temples are actually very similar in design, but King Dinh's was built with slightly more elaborate features to show his importance over King Le. See below - the first one is the temple of King Dinh, which has a little more decoration, including extra steps up, than the second photo showing the temple of King Le.



Apparently, they both shared the same queen (I think it was something to do with her wanting to protect the former King Dinh's son?) but because of her perceived infidelity, each year her statue is taken from one temple to the other, beaten (lightly, so as not to damage it!) by the population's oldest resident, and then returned. Don't you just love tradition?


At the entrance to the temple of King Dinh, this musician was playing a rather forlorn sounding piece of music. I wasn't sure if he was playing for tips, but his face was scarred and so he kept turning away from the tourists that were passing by to the temple.


Flickr photosets:

Temple of King Dinh, Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh
Temple of King Le, Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh
Grounds of Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh

This entry posted in : History. Tourism. Vietnam.

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