Tag Archives: hanoi guide

Laquer brightens a village

All involved: About 500 families living in Ha Thai are involved in the lacquer ware business. — Photos Mark Carle

by Mark Robert Carle

Last Saturday morning, I met a group of friends for a trip to Ha Thai traditional lacquer village. I had visited it four years earlier and was interested to see the changes.

I presumed it was still a working village because there was so much lacquer-ware in shops in the Old Quarter. In fact, it was doing so well that many people had shifted their homes and workshops to a more spacious area. This also enabled them to open showrooms and galleries.

Ha Thai is only a short distance from Ha Noi, but the trees and green fields are rapidly disappearing as new buildings crop up everywhere. But the day was ours. The sun was bright and the Autumn weather kept temperatures cool. An occasional cool breeze swept across our faces.

We were smiling of course because the lacquer ware was bright and plentiful. Workers everywhere were using their talents to decorate vases, jewelry boxes, tissue covers and other pieces.

Ha Thai village is in Duyen Thai commune next to National Highway 1A, about 30km south of Ha Noi city. The 500 or so families living there are nearly all in the lacquer ware business.

Out to dry: A quiet road is used to dry vegetables.

The rural scenes surrounding the village are reflected on many of the craft works. Rice fileds, people resting in hammocks, buffalo grazing, women on bikes, mountains and sunsets are reproduced everywhere.

Years ago, the colors used were dark and muted, but now they are bright and vibrant. Where once the artwork always displayed Vietnamese scenes, artisans are now finding a market for abstracts and copies of Monet, Van Gogh and other European artists.

The material used for the bowls, boxes and chopsticks is usually bamboo, rattan or wood – sometimes even ceramics. It is a tedious job. Workers squat or sit on small stools as they sand, paint and polish for hours on end.

The results are magnificent, even if they were tissue boxes by the hundreds for a hotel chain. The prices were set and there was no bargaining. On my last visit four years ago, I was able to bargain for everything. What a difference a few years makes. Back in Ha Noi later that evening, we visited the night market and were surprised to find the prices were exactly the same as at Ha Thai village.

Anyway it was a nice day for a trip. We had dinner at the Viet Kitchen in Hai Ba Trung District when we returned. The presentation was decorative and the tastes were near perfection. In fact, the calamari was the best I’ve ever had. It was a perfect end to a nice day in the country. — VNS


Blumea blooms, tea gardens lure backpackers to Moc Chau

Photo-ops galore: Vast fields of white flowers and lush green tea plantations draw regular visitors to Moc Chau District in Son La Province at this time of the year.

By Lan Dung At the end of November, Nguyen Viet Hai and his friends drove 200km from Ha Noi to Moc Chau District in the northern province of Son La to hike through the white blumea flower fields.

Since his first trip to the plateau in 2009, the Hanoian officer often travels here to see the beauty of the flower fields.

A trip to Moc Chau to see the white blumea flowers is marked on the annual travel calendars of Vietnamese backpackers such as Hai.

“November and December are ideal times for tourists to visit Moc Chau because the flower fields in the mist are very beautiful. There are still some flower fields in Moc Chau in January and February but tourists have a different feeling in the spring atmosphere with the peach blossoms,” he said.

Because of the cold weather in the north, flowers are difficult to grow. Therefore, most local backpackers choose this time to flock to Moc Chau plateau to take photographs with the special flowers. Also, for male white-collar tourists, this becomes a way of challenging their driving skills.

Ba Phach village in Dong Sang Commune, which is located six kilometres from Moc Chau town, is famous for the most beautiful flower fields in the district. People who travel there for the first time will be surprised by the tens of hectares of white flowers. The fields are covered by white colours, interspersed with the green of corn and red of poinsettias. Looking from afar, the flower fields are like white clouds floating, making visitors think of walking in a sea of clouds.


Sitting pretty: Members of Ha Noi Couchsurfing pose against white blumea fields in Moc Chau District. — Photo Ha Noi Couchsurfing

Elementary teacher Nguyen Huyen Van chose Moc Chau as a backdrop for her wedding photos, thanks to advice from her brother, a professional photographer. She was impressed by the white flowers and the nature, and decided to spend two days there.

“We are the only ones standing in the middle of the fields. Plus, with the melodious rhythms from mini speakers, it creates a very romantic scene, like love stories in a South Korean drama,” she said. “It has become one of the most unforgettable moments in my life.”

A wedding album package photographed in Moc Chau over two days costs approximately VND30 million (nearly US$1,430). Besides taking photos in the flower fields, young couples will be taken to well-known tourism destinations, including tea plantation fields in Nong Truong Moc Chau town.

In the flower season every year, Ha Noi Couchsurfing organises trips to Moc Chau plateau for Vietnamese members and foreigners. Le Minh Hieu, ambassador for Ha Noi Couchsurfing, said that these journeys were held, depending on the flower season, such as in September to see ripened paddy fields in Yen Bai Province’s Mu Cang Chai District and October for tam giac mach – a mountainous flower in Ha Giang Province.

From Ha Noi, visitors can drive their motorbikes on national road No 6 to get to Moc Chau. After visiting white blumea flower fields, tourists can go to see attractions in Moc Chau district. Doi cave, located in the centre of Moc Chau town, is known as a living place for Vietnamese ancient people 3,000 to 3,500 years ago. The second place tourists cannot miss is a pine forest in Ang village, which is situated three kilometers from the town. Travelers can walk around the pond near the entrance of the forest or discover the pond with rented pedal boats.

If you still have time, you can make a visit to Dai Yem waterfall and a variety of five caves in Ngu Dong-Ban On.

This year there is a trip to Moc Chau which has drawn 54 participants, including five foreigners. Deborah Magloire, a French student from FPT University, joined the trip on December 7-8 and was impressed by the beautiful flower fields.

“On the roads to the centre of Moc Chau town, we often stopped to visit the fields and take photos with the flowers,” she said. “Compared with ‘tam giac mach’, I prefer this white flower more. I can not explain why, it is just my feeling.”

Hieu said that international tourists actually did not care about visiting Moc Chau in the flower season, and only enjoyed discovering the culture and lifestyles of people.

“Mai Chau District has been developing tourism, while Moc Chau and Ha Giang has not been. Thanks to backpackers, these provinces discover their strong points and focus on taking advantage of them, such as Ha Giang organising its tourism and cultural heritage week last November,” he said.

“There are some positive changes in Moc Chau this year. The administration has added direction signs to show tourists the route to the flower fields and local residents charge money for visiting their fields.”

Spending a weekend in Moc Chau is the best way to refresh after hard working hours at offices. Now is the perfect time to set a plan to visit the northern district and walk among the gorgeous scenery. — VNS

Temple of literature – the first national university of Vietnam

Temple of literature is the first national university of Vietnam. it is on top of the historical and beautiful sightseeings of the beautiful capital of Vietnam.

The very first stop-over of any foreign tourist in Hanoi is always Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam (translated as Temple of Literature), which reveals the Hanoians’ spirit of study in the past!

Situated at the south of Thang Long citadel, is on top of the historical and beautiful sightseeings of the beautiful capital of Vietnam. Please follow us in a brief tour of exploring his beauty and deep values.

Constellation of Literature pavilion

historical temple of literature

Tourists, particularly the foreign ones, now flock to the site for taking a look into its profound traditional meanings of both a Confucion temple and the first university of Vietnam. Văn Miếu or Temple of Literature, known as “pagode des Corbeaux” during the period of French colonisation, was founded as a Confucian temple in 1070.

Only parts of the Văn Miếu complex date back to the earliest period, although much of the architecture dates to the Ly (1010 – 1225) and Tran (1225 – 1400) Dynasties. In 1076, Vietnam’s first university, the Quốc Tử Giám (or National University), was established within this temple to educate Vietnam’s mandarin class. The university functioned for more than 700 years, from 1076 to 1779, during which, 2,313 doctors graduated. Hence, the complex has been attached to the name of Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam up to now.

A beauty-spot of architectural values

This ancient Confucian sanctuary is now considered one of Hanoi’s finest historical and cultural sites. “The ever special architetural style of Van Mieu dates back to the 11th century, evoking an inspiration of classical creativeness of many of us”, one of my tourists remarked. Just take a look into the art of architecture, you will share the feeling! The temple is based on Confucius’ birthplace at Qufu in the Chinese province of Shandong. It consists of five courtyards lined out in order, entrance to the first, via the impressive twin-tiered Van Mieu gate leads to three pathways that run through the length of the complex. The centre path was reserved for the King only, the one to its left for administrative Mandarins and the one to its right for military Mandarins.

Well Of Heavenly Clarity

The first two courtyards are peaceful havens of ancient trees and well-trimmed lawns where the scholars could relax away from the bustle of the city outside the thick stone walls. Entrance to the third courtyard is through the dominating Khue Van Cac (constellation of literature), a large pavilion built in 1802. Central to the this courtyard is the Thien Quang Tinh (“Well Of Heavenly Clarity”), either side of which stand two great halls which house the true treasures of the temple. These are 82 stone steles. Another 34 are believed to have been lost over the years. They sit upon stone tortoises and are inscribed with the names and birth places of 1306 men who were awarded doctorates from the triennial examinations held here at the Quoc Tu Giam (“National University”) between 1484 and 1780, when the capital was moved to Hue.

Doctor stelae – Temple of literature

The fourth courtyard is bordered on either side by great pavilions which once contained altersl of 72 of Confucius greatest students but which now contain offices, a gift shop and a small museum which contains ink wells, pens, books and personal artifacts belonging to some of the students that have studied here through the years. At the far end of the courtyard is the altar with statues of Confucius and his four closest disciples. The fifth courtyard contained the Quoc Tu Giam, Vietnam’s first university founded in 1076 King Ly Can Duc, but this was destroyed by French bombing in 1947.

Though having gone through lots of restoration work, the temple still retains its very first original shape, to be one of the visit-worthy sightseeings of Hanoi, captivating to a huge number of tourists elsewhere.

In the run-up to the Vietnamese New Year celebration, calligraphist tend to assemble outside the temple and write wishes in Hán tự, which are popular amongst Vietnamese as gifts or to be used as decoration at home for auspicious occasions.

A space of peace, green trees and solemnity covers the whole temple of historical and traditional love for study, making tourists feel like they were lost in a land of Confucion and traditional values. If you are in Hanoi, you should really come and explore it yourself!

If tourists in Vietnam Travel have chance to visit Hanoi, Temple of Literature is a must-see place that should not be missed!