Visiting the Buddhist capital of Vietnam

by Tuong Lan, Saigon Times, April 9, 2007

Tourists visit Van Tieu Pagoda in Yen Tu Mountain

Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam -- In Vietnam, the mountainous region of Yen Tu in Thuong Yen Cong Commune, Uong Bi District, Quang Ninh Province is famous all over the world for its beautiful landscapes, historical relics and hundreds of ancient pagodas and towers,  earning its name as the Buddhism capital of Dai Viet, Vietnam’s former name.

Tourists should not miss the Yen Tu festival which occurs every spring from the tenth day of the first month to the third month of Lunar New Year.

From Hanoi, it is a 115 kilometers drive to Quang Ninh Province, passing Uong Bi District, then turning onto Vang Danh Street for 9 more kilometers, and then turning left to the street leading to the region.

In the past, tourists to Yen Tu had to climb the six-kilometer track, on steps made from rock, through the bamboo and pine tree forest leading to Yen Tu. Today  they have the option  of going by cable car, which has been operating since 2002, which will carry tourists to the Hoa Yen pagoda, and from there they can walk to visit other landscapes in the region.

In the cool weather of spring many tourists still prefer following the track for a leisurely climb to all the tourism sites in Yen Tu.  All the pagodas and sites here bear legendary stories of Vietnamese King Tran Nhan Tong leaving the court to follow a religious life in Yen Tu in the thirteen century.

In order to contemplate the beauty of all the pagodas and temples here, tourists should follow the Giai Oan Stream (Vindication Stream), then go to Tung and Truc streets  to the Tower and  Hoa Yen Pagoda, and from there to Mot Mai, Bao Sai pagodas, visiting An Ky Sinh statue and Dong (Bronze) Pagoda on the right side.

On the way to Dong Pagoda, which is the highest pagoda in Yen Tu, there are more than 20,000 constructions with small and large relics. Near Hoa Yen Pagoda is a street called Tung (pine tree) street because it has two rows of ancient pine trees, dating back 600 to 700 years.   Passing this street, tourists will see an ancient rock tower, To Tower, rising to the mountain with the name “Dragon’s Forehead”.  A short distance from To Tower is Ngu Doi waterfall.

The more adventurous can go up 800 meters to visit Bao Sai Pagoda, one of the earliest pagodas here.  And going even higher brings visitors to the Vong Phu stone, which resembles a mother embracing a child, standing out from the view of forests and mountains.  The last stop is Dong Pagoda on the peak of Yen Tu mountain , 1,068 meters above sea level.

Dong Pagoda  has been rebuilt at a cost of more than VND21 billion. The copper pagoda is 20 meters square in area with a height of 3,35 meters. The whole pagoda, including more than 3,500 items of statues, bells, and more, weighs around 70 tons. The pagoda is skillfully carved and from far away looks just like a golden lotus.

As the journey comes to an end, tourists climb down and enjoy the vegetable dishes in Nang Tam Restaurant.  In Truc Lam Zen Monastery, at the foot of Yen Tu Mountain, tourists can hear the supreme monk lecturing about the history and the dogma of Buddhism.

Tours to Yen Tu mountain can be booked through the following travel services:
Open Tour: 48 Luong Ngoc Quyen Street, Hanoi, tel: (04) 926 0563
Tre Xanh Travel Service: 24A Tran Hung Dao Street, Hanoi, tel: (04) 933 4346
TransViet: 25 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hanoi, tel: (04) 934 7241