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Visiting Trang An Scenic Area - Vu Lam Royal Step-Over Place
Being located 90 kilometers from Hanoi capital to the South, Trang An was recognized as a mixed cultural and natural World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2014. This is the first mixed site in Vietnam and Southeast Asia to be awarded World Heritage status. This recognition is a great pride and honor for Vietnamese people in general and the Ninh Binh people in particular.
anh tin bai

Trang An Landscape Complex features outstanding universal values of World Heritage: Firstly, Trang An provides an exceptionally clear window into the interaction between people and environment in Southeast Asia over a period of  30,000 years. Secondly, the tower kast landscape of Trang An is among the most beautiful places of its kind anywhere on Earth. (Karst here means an area of land made up of limestone. Karst landscapes feature caves, underground streams and sinkholes on the surface). Thirdly, it displays better than any other place on Earth the final states of karst landscape evolution under a humid tropical climate.

Trang An is made up of Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, the Trang An-Tam Coc-Bich Dong Scenic Area along the Sao Khe River, and the Hoa Lu Special-Use Primary Forest. The place we are going to explore today is the Trang An Scenic Area (route 2), a beautiful part of the complex.

Unliked other tours to Phong Nha- Ke Bang or Huong pagoda, in which visitors get in and get out by one route, here we will go in a closed circle. We start from the boat wharf, go through the moutains and caves and come back by another way.

When you are on boat, you will be abe to hear the sound from the boat oars, the waves lapping the boat sides mix with the sound of the birds singing from bushes on the 2 sides of the river. Furthermore, it is very easy to see moutains, that silently reflect in the water surface.


The whole area is covered with a deep green of moutains. Sometimes, there are different colours of some wild flowers and the white of the reed flowers. Especially, inside caves, there are a lot of colourful stalacties with different shapes. All of these things will make you feel like you are lost in the paradise.

Visitors will navigate historical Sao Khe river now, which leads us back to the historical time when people explained natural phenomena with legends and the day King Dinh Bo Linh chose Ninh Binh as the first capital of the independent Vietnam. In the 10th century, King Dinh took advantages of the nature, used moutains as walls, rivers as trenches and used connecting limestone moutains together to create artificial walls for the country.

In 13th century, this place was a military base set up by Tran Dynasty's Kings in an attempt to consolidate their forces and counter-attack the Mongolian invaders.

As you can see, surrounding you, there are many ranges of green moutains. All of them are limestone moutains. The limestone moutains were formed in the final step of the weathering process in humid tropical climate. They are in the shape of a tower or a cone.

The flora and fauna systems here are very diverse. According to research and survey, there are over 600 species of plants, 200 species of animals, many of which are listed in the Red Book of Vietnam ( such as: Chinese phoenix, wildcat, parrot)

The first cave is called “Lam cave”. The cave is 60 meters long with beautiful stalacties. The ceiling of the cave is quite tall with many domes. These domes are shelters of many bat species. The next cave is Vang cave.Vang cave is much longer and cooler than the 1st cave. It is 250 meters long.When we get in this cave, we will feel like there is a natural air-conditioner here.

The third cave called Thanh Truot cave. The cave is 300 meters long. The stalactites in this cave are spotless white or blue. According to documents, the limestone here contains a lot of silicon oxide so the stalactites grow slowly but look sparkling. Leaving Thanh Truot cave, we’ll visit Suoi Tien temple. The temple was built on the base of a former temple to worship a mandarin whose title Tran Quy Minh Dai Vuong.

Saint Quy Minh Emperor, also known as Saint Cao Son, is a folk deity and one of the four sacred guardians of the former citadel of Hoa Lu. Legend has it that the former Saint Quy Minh Emperor Temple was built by King Dinh Tien Hoang in the 10th century in the hopes of ensuring security on the nation’s borders. Known locally as Tran Temple, the tranquil site is only accessible by boat. During the festival on Lunar March 18, thousands of boats carry locals and tourists down the Sao Khe River to perform divine sacrifices, join a water procession and release fish to pray for nation peace, bumper crops and favourable weather.

Next, we will get back to the boat and pass the last cave called Dai cave. Dai means “very big”. This is widest cave among 4 caves we visit.Getting through Dai cave, visitors will have chance to visit Vu Lam Royal Step-Over Place where was a military base set up by Tran Dynasty's Kings in an attempt to consolidate their forces and counter-attack the Mongolian invaders in both the second and third times in 13th century. The Tran Kings took advantages of the nature, used moutains as walls, rivers as trenches and used connecting limestone moutains together to create artificial walls for the country. It is very special that following victories over Mongolian invaders, two Tran Kings named King Tran Thai Tong and Tran Nhan Trong chose this area as a place to practice Buddhism. The last  stopping point for visitors are temples which were built to commemorate Tran Kings.

After that, visitors will come back the boat and get back the boat wharf. 

Written by : Nguyen Loan


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