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Tran Quoc is a spiritual anchor for the nation and its kings

Tran Quoc is the name of Hanoi’s oldest and most sacred pagoda. Nearly 1500 years old, it used to receive kings in Buddhist memorial days and host famous Buddhist monks who came here to practice their religion.

Occupying a promontory at the northwest corner of the West Lake in Yen Phu ward, West Lake district of Hanoi, Tran Quoc has been officially recognised as a national relic of history and culture since 1989. According to the Vietnam air travel Cultural Heritage Dictionary, ‘Originally named Khai Quoc (meaning ‘Nation Founding’) Tran Quoc was built during King Ly Nam De’s (544–548) reign in Yen Hoa Village.

In 1615, it was moved to what used to be the foundation of Thuy Hoa back hall and Han Nguyen Palace near Yen Phu dyke, the previous Kings’ favourite place for fishing and relaxation. From 1624 to 1639, Khai Quoc was continually expanded and later King Le Hy Tong renamed it Tran Quoc.

The beginning of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802- 1945) the pagoda was renovated and acquired a bigger bell and Buddha statues. In 1821, King Minh Mang visited it and gave 20 silver taels for its renovation. In 1842, King Thieu Trị also visited Tran Quoc and contributed one big gold coin and 200 quan (the currency of the time).’ Tran Quoc was like a spiritual anchor for the nation and its kings.

Historical texts also recorded that Tran Quoc had hosted famous Buddhist monks such as His Venerable Khuong Viet Chan Luu and High Zen Priests Van Phong, Thao Duong, Thong Bien, Giac Quan and Quang Te. Having been renovated multiple times, Tran Quoc architecture shows ‘harmonious continuity between historical eras,’ as noted by cultural experts.

The main architectural units of Tran Quoc pagoda includes the Front Hall, Incense Ward, Upper Edifice, Bell Tower, Ancestral Shrine and House of Steles. The experts don’t mention much about the carvings and artwork at Tran Quoc.

They simply remark that ‘some details are painstakingly well done.’ About the overall architectural and scenic values of the pagoda, the general opinion is that the antic solemn structures in sternly strict arrangement according to the ancient Buddhist rules and the dreaminess of the West Lake highlight each other well.

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Perhaps that’s why the British Daily Mail ranks Tran Quoc among the world’s 15 most beautiful Buddhist pagodas. Having witnessed so many historical ups and downs, the pagoda preserves valuable artefacts, such as the statues in the Upper Edifice, especially the one of Shakyamuni Buddha entering Nirvana, unique and meticulously made in a distinct fashion.

The 14 steles with engraved texts about the foundation and history of the pagoda, including the steles of famous scholars Nguyen Xuan Chinh (1587-1693) and Pham Quy Thich (1760-1825), are also considered highly valuable. Behind the pagoda’s entrance is a ‘garden of towers’ with many old and new towers.

Most attention is drawn to the 11-storey, 15m-tall Six Heaven Tower that houses many Amitabha statues made of precious stones, with 9 layers of stone carved lotuses at the top. Amid the 500ha of West Lake, the pagoda’s 3000 m2 garden stands prominently under the shade of many tree species such as mountain pomegranates, longans, willows, etc.

Buddhists revere the banyan tree planted by President Rajendra Prasad of India when he visited Tran Quoc in 1959.

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Quan Chuong is one of the Eastern gates of the earthen fortification that surrounded the Thang Long Citadel. Built in the 10th year of Le Canh Hung reign (1749) and renovated in the 3rd year of Gia Long reign (1817), it remains intact until today. This is one of the 21 gates of the old Thang Long Citadel, a national relic, ranked in 1995.

Today, almost all the other gates are only remembered by names borne by some geographical entity that stands on their place, or by historical records. For example, Cho Dua Gate is now the name of a bazaar, and Cau Giay Gate was known as the name of a brick bridge that crossed To Lich River, without having anything that reminded one of the ancient structures.

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Fortunately, Hanoi still has an almost intact gate; Quan Chuong. Located at an end of O Quan Chuong Street, Quan Chuong Gate opens to Red River dykes and Hang Chieu Street behind it. It has cupola form, with a watch tower at the top.

The palate form gate used to have double thick wooden doors which closed at night and opened early in the morning for people to go into and out of town. Through ups and downs of history, Quan Chuong Gate still stands solemnly, preserving for Hanoi a simple but precious structure that witnessed times of peace and war.

On the left side, it has a stele carved in 1882 with instructions from the City Governor Hoang Dieu ordering the gatekeepers not to extort funeral processions that passed the gate. Besides the large passage, the gate also has two small doors on the sides. Above the big door is written ‘Thanh Ha Gate’. Vietnam air travel

That was the gate’s original name, because it opened to Thanh Ha Village on the bank of To Lich River, where it poured into Red River. The village covers the area of Hang Chieu, Thanh Ha and Dao Duy Tu Streets today. The gate took the form we see today in 1817 during a major reconstruction. At the time, it was still called Thanh Ha Gate.

Quan Chuong was the rank of an officer in charge of the city guards. On Nov 20, 1873, the French attacked Hanoi for the first time. Warships coming upstream from the sea brought fire power and strong troops, who immediately stormed the gate. Quan Chuong and over 100 city guards fought fiercely until the last one fell. Since then, Thanh Ha Gate has been named Quan Chuong Gate.

Having taken Hanoi, the French ordered the destruction of old structures to expand the city. Almost everything around was leveled. But the Quan Chuong canton chief Dao Dang Chieu had led the local people’s campaign against the destruction of the gate. They resolutely refused signing the agreement which would have made the destruction legitimate.

It’s because of their strong will that the city retained an invaluable relic of architecture. In 2009, the United States donated $74,500 to Vietnam for the preservation of Quan Chuong Gate. US Ambassador to Vietnam Michael W. Michalak said, ‘Quan Chuong Gate is an astoundingly beautiful architectural relic being eroded by time. It is not simply a landmark gate of the ancient Thang Long citadel, but also a symbol of the spirit and resiliency of the people of Hanoi.

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Dien Bien is a mountainous border province in the northwestern region, 500 km west of Hanoi; bounded by Lai Chau province to the north and Son La province to the east and north-east, Yunnan province of China to the northwest; to the west and southwest by the Lao People's Democratic Republic.

Dien Bien province is rich in tourism potential, especially its culture and history. The most prominent is the historic Dien Bien Phu victory system, including Dien Bien Phu - Muong Phang campaign headquarters; Him Lam, Ban Keo, Doc Lap; The hills A1, C1, D1, E1 and the center of the conglomerate of France (De Castries Tunnel). This relic is a precious resource for tourism development for Dien Bien province and the Northwest area also.

When to go?

Visit Dien Bien on the occasion of Dien Bien Phu Victory Day 7th May to enjoy the happiness of Dien Bien people in this special occasion.
Around the third month of the calendar is the season of camel's foot flowers (kachnar) blossoming on all over of northwest area.

In December, along the 2 sides of the National Highway No.6 to Dien Bien is fulfill by the yellow of Japanese sunflower bloomed.
Around August 8-9 to see rice crop sightseeing in some other areas.

In November as white mustard flowers bloomed everywhere in Moc Chau.
How to go
By Bus
Sleep bus to Dien Bien daily run at My Dinh Bus Station in Hanoi, duration from 12-13 hours. Traveling by sleep bus has the advantage of being able to send a motorbike.

If you dont want to go by bus, taking a motorbike is a good idea to travel from Hanoi to Dien Bien for a whole day to take the distance of 500km.

By Airplane
Currently Vietnam air travel is the only airline to operate the route of Hanoi - Dien Bien, the aircraft used for this flight is ATR 72. Round trip fare is about 2,8 mil VND.

Hotel
There are 94 hotels in Dien Bien province operating with nearly 1400 rooms. In which 7 hotels are rating from 1- 4 star standards. Most of the rest are standardized to serve tourists, so you have many choices when traveling to Dien Bien.

Tourist sites in Dien Bien

The purpose of tourists to Dien Bien is to visit the old battlefield, re-examine their perceptions of human resources tourism to enrich their knowledge.

Dien Bien Province also has many historical relics and scenic spots that can satisfy even the most demanding tourists such as historical site of Thanh Ban Phu for spirituality tourism; Uva hot spring, Pe Luong, Sang village; Pa Thom Cave, Pa Khoang Lake, Muong Luan Tower, Chieng So, Huổi Phạ, Hồng Khế ..., or you can enjoy the adventure by exploring primeval forest in Muong Nhe ...
Special foods

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The cuisine of Dien Bien is unique and satisfy visitor from everywhere, such as:

Dien Bien Tam Rice

Tua Chua Black Chicken

Vegetables of carmel's foot flowers

Tua Chua Snow Shan Tea

Sau chit acohol

Terraced field sticky rice

Muong Thanh bird's stick rice

Cabbage rolled green loquat

Banana leaves rolled grilled pork

Festivals

The intangible cultural heritage of Dien Bien province is also outstanding to develop tourism with a long history of formation, with 21 ethnic groups living.

This is reflected in customs, habits and festivals of ethnic minority people with festivals such as the typical festival of Ban Phu Citadel is held on 24th - 25th February of the lunar calendar, to tribute to the hero Hoang Cong Chat and two local leaders of General Ngai and General Khanh who led his people to successfully expel foreign invaders.

In addition, there are many special festivals of ethnic minorities such as: Thai people have agricultural rituals such as welcome the first thunder, new rice ceremony, worshiping rice field, water greeting ceremony, rain prayer ceremony...

The highlight of the ceremony is Xen Ban ceremony to pray for a year of good weather, fresh crops, people get a comfortable life, well-off and happy.

Thai people also have many other typical festivals such as Xen Phan Be (goat head cutting), Kin Pang Then (offering heaven); Kin Khui (release of bad luck)....

Dien Bien highland market

At the markets in Tua Chua district, people to the market with the purpose of trading and enjoy the market and meeting their friends. Tua Chua has 3 main markets of Muong Bang, Xa Nhe and Ta Sin Thang.

In the busy market atmosphere, couples find each other. They have used the leaves flute, lips flute to sent love, confession and get together. They gave each other bracelets, mirrors to believe. The meeting in this spring is the bridge give many boys and girls become wives and husbands.

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