Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Visiting Hue, Vietnam’s last imperial city

Situated on the Perfume River, Hue is a relaxed and peaceful city full of lakes, canals and lush vegetation. Once the imperial city of the Nguyen dynasty, this Unesco world Heritage Site is home to some of Vietnam’s greatest historical buildings and sights. The Nguyen dynasty was the last royal family to rule Vietnam with a dynasty spanning 143 years, from 1802 to 1945.


Thien Mu pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda
Ngo Mon Gate, Citadel

Possibly the most impressive sights within the city are the citadel and the royal mausoleums. Of equal interest is the Thien Mu pagoda, the largest in Hue, and an unofficial symbol of the city. It is very fortunate that these historic sights survived somewhat unscathed during the bombing of Hue during the Tet Offensive in 1968 when much of the city was levelled.

The Citadel

Hue’s glory days kicked off in the early 19th century when Emperor Gia Long began the construction of a vast citadel comprising three concentric enclosures. The citadel bears a striking resemblance to the Forbidden City in Beijing and must have been a sight to behold when completed. Today, only 20 of the original 148 buildings remain.

Ten gates lead into the citadel, but by far the most impressive is Ngo Mon, the principal entrance. The gate itself consists of five entrances: the central one for the emperor, two for civil and military employees and two for the royal elephants. Of the remaining palace buildings, Thai Hoa Palace boasts a spectacular interior containing gold and red lacquers and was where major ceremonies were held.

The Royal Mausoleums

If the citadel were not enough to convince one of the decadence within the royal court, the royal mausoleums surely are. Built in the valley of the Perfume River, these mini palaces are built in beautiful surroundings. Artificial lakes, waterfalls and lush gardens were set out with the three buildings comprising the mausoleum taking pride of place. The main temple was dedicated to the worship of the deceased emperor in question, followed by a stone stele recording details of his reign and finally, the tomb, which is enclosed behind a wall.

There are in total seven mausoleums although the mausoleums of Tu Duc, Khai Dinh and Minh Mang are the most attractive and best preserved. These are easily accessible from Hue by taxi or motorbike. It’s also possible to see the mausoleums as part of a cruise on the Perfume river and if this is the route chosen, it should be possible to see a further three mausoleums.

Thien Mu Pagoda

Equally impressive is the Thien Mu Pagoda, also known as the Heaven Fairy Lady pagoda. It is seven stories high and is the tallest pagoda in Vietnam. It was originally built in 1601 after the then governor of the region heard a local legend. According to the legend, an old lady known as Thien Mu sat at the site, rubbing her, cheeks, and professed that the lord would come to the site and build a pagoda to pray for the country’s prosperity.

It’s possible to wander around the site at leisure taking in the calming atmosphere and smell of incense burned by Buddhist worshippers. After removing shoes, it is also possible to enter the temple behind the pagoda and catch a glimpse of the Buddhist way of life.

Imperial Cuisine

Hue has many cafes and restaurants serving both traditional Vietnamese food and for those that have been on the road a while, more prosaic pizza and burgers. The best known Hue dish is banh khoai, a small, crispy yellow pancake that is fried with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts and is served with a peanut and sesame sauce.

A food experience unique to Hue is to indulge in an imperial feast. There are a number of restaurants that offer this. Food in the imperial court had to be both visually stunning as well as delicious. Don’t be surprised if served a bird carved from cucumber. The food was meant to amuse and delight the diner, as well as satisfy their hunger.

While not a bustling city like Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, Hue provides

a break from the usual frenetic activity that is Vietnam. Whether taking a cruise down the Perfume River, or renting a motorbike to explore the rice paddies on the edge of town, Hue is wonderful place to relax and experience the quieter side of Vietnam.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Crab Hot Pot in Ca Mau

Ca Mau is an area with many canals so it is rich in aquatic products such as crabs, fish and shrimp. With available materials, local people make many tasty dishes, including crab hot pot.

To make the dish, crabs caught in Dat Mui Hamlet, Ngoc Hien District, Vietnam must be used because the crabs there are very fat. When it is done correctly, the dish has the greasy taste of crabs mixed with the sweetness of dried shrimp and coconut milk and the light sourness of tomatoes with the pungency of red pepper.

(Serves 6)
Crabs: 1.5kg; tomatoes: 5; dried shrimp: 100g; mushroom:50g; chicken eggs: 2; coconut: 1; ½ teaspoon of cooking oil; 2 teaspoons of shrimp paste; rice vermicelli: 0.5kg; salt; fish sauce; red pepper; pepper; eryngium; basil, water morning glory and some other fresh vegetables.

-Peel off the plastron of crabs and clean.
- Whisk the chicken egg.
- Fry dried onion, garlic and tomatoes and then pour the coconut milk and 3 tablespoons of water into the pot. Add crabs, whisked eggs, dried shrimp and mushroom. Add salt to your taste.
- When serving, boil the mixture and serve with rice vermicelli and other vegetables.

If you are interested in exploring Vietnam tourism, you can visit Vietnam travel guide, Vietnam travel agency, Halong cruises, Halong Bay, Halong travel site to know further attractive places.   
Story: Nguyen Vu Thanh Dat - Photo: Huu Thanh

Friday, 19 October 2012

Beauty-spots in Cat Ba Island


 - Taking a ride on a car or train for two hours from Hanoi to Haiphong, then on a high-speed vessel for another hour, visitors will arrive at Cat Ba Island, the biggest island (100km²) out of the 366 islands on the Lan Ha Bay.

 - Right from the moment visitors set foot on Cat Ba gangway, looking afar to contemplate the enchanting scenery of immense sky and magnificent mountains and breathing the fresh air from the sea, visitors will feel comfortable and their tiredness after a long trip will disappear. Surely, visitors want to go on with their journey at once.

 - Visitors should hire a Minsk motorbike, out of 400 motorbikes and cars here, to ride to any place visitors want to visit. First of all, visitors should rent a room in a hotel, because the hotels on this island are often overcrowded due to the ever-increasing number of visitors to Cat Ba Island, although more hotels and hostels are being built.

It is very pleasant to stay in a hotel, whose back leans against the mountain and its face looks towards the sea, and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery around.
Beauty-spots in Cat Ba
 -  Trans-island road: 27km long with many mountain pass, meander cols, slopes, along the sea shore, through National Pack, spectacular array of sea and island scenery.

 - Cat Ba National Park: 15 km to the North - West of the town. This Park covers an area of 15,200 ha, including 9,800 ha of forests with splendid grottoes. In tropical and primeval forests, there is a rich fauna and flora. There are 745 species of plants, including various species of rare wood trees so as Tri Ly, Lat Hoa, Lim Set, Gie Hoa, Kim Giao, white wood.

Kim Giao chopsticks used to be offered to Kings which can cause bubbles and turn itself into red when touched poisoned food. Cho dai tree that can be found in the old forest is endangered specie named in the Red Book, the only other in the world where we can find this tree is Hymalaya mountain.

Cat Ba National Park is home to 20 species of mammals, 69 species of birds, 20 species of reptiles and species of amphibians, species of 11 frogs. Particularly, the rarest animals in the world that can only be found in Viet Nam is Vooc (white faced monkeys). Another strange is Ma Tien fruit, a toxic fruit, if a person eats Ma Tien he will die immediately, but the white-faced Vooc can eat both leaf and fruit to feed themselves.

 - Trung Trang Grotto: 15km from the town, close to the trans-island road. There are a lot of beautiful natural stalactites that makes you feel like flying high, visiting the Elysium on earth. The grotto can accommodate hundreds of people.

 - Hung Son grotto: 13km from the town, on the trans-island road. Another name is 'Army Medical Grotto' because in the sabotaged war by America, an army hospital was built in the grotto with capacity of hundreds of beds in the mountain. This structure wrote feat of arms about courage of people.

 - Phu Long Grotto (Cai Vieng): recently found, it is considered more beautiful than Trung Trang grotto. In the grotto, stalactites and moisture steam make us imagine the way to sky, the way to sea, many quintessential vaults, golden mountain, silver mountain...

 - Beaches: Cat Co 1, Cat Co 2, Cat Dua, Cat Ong, Duong Danh,... are small rainy, secretive, shaded bathing grounds with fine white sand and clear water. A theme park called 'Palace under the sea' will be built to enable human to directly observe porpoises, lobsters, sharks, sea tortoises, cutlet-fish,.. slowly wandering near red corals.

 - Coming out of the caves and grottoes visitors should spend a little time to contemplate the sunset over Lan Ha Bay. On the golden background of the horizon and the dark blue of the sea, the heaving islets become multiform, the white sea-gulls hover and sea-eagles make circles in the sky, all beautifying the immense and fascinating space, and enchanting the visitors.

 - Cat Ba is also home to Halong Bay cultural relics, the relics of an ancient Vietnamese culture and many archaeological relics from the new stone-age period that were found on Cat Ba.

 - Every year, on the first of April the dragon boats race of district island and of whole nation fishing industry is held on the sea of Cat Ba.
If you are interested in exploring Vietnam travel you can visit Vietnam travel company, Halong cruise, Halong Bay, Halong tours site to know further attractive places.

If you are interested in exploring Vietnam tourism you can visit Vietnam travel agency, Halong cruises, Halong Bay, Halong travel site to know further attractive places.