Hoa Lư (English version)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French version

Hoa Lư is the old capital of independent  Vietnam under the reign of  Ðinh,  early Lê and Lý dynasties  until  1010 before the transfert to Thăng Long. It is located in  the Red River Delta region of Vietnam. It distinguishes itself from other tourist attractions by an magnificent environment made up of 3 caves (Tam Cốc) and karstic sharpen peaks as Hạ Long bay.

Thủ đô Đại Cồ Việt

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Bái Đính (English version)

French version

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Tràng An landscaped  complex 

Pagoda Bái Đính

Located on karst mountain ranges Tràng An in Ninh Bình province, the pagoda Bái Đính is very ancient. Its  reputation is confirmed for a long time under the successive dynasties Đinh, early Lê and Lý. Today, Bái Đính pagoda becomes an religious complex where one finds not only the old temple but also new temples under construction since 2003. Bái Đính pagoda is regarded  in Southeast Asia as the pagoda having the enormous  statue Buddha cast in bronze and imported from Russia.  This one has a height reaching 16 meters  and a weight of 100 tons.  500 arhats in white stone are disseminated  along a corridor  about 2 kilometers. This complex has a total surface of 539 ha whose 27 ha are reserved for the old pagoda, 80 ha for  new temples, a Buddhist study centre, waiting areas and car parks as well as lakes system.

 
World cultural heritage of Vietnam

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Ninh Bình (Hạ Long cạn)

 

 

Mekong delta river (Đồng Bằng Cửu Long)

 Version française

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The Mekong delta’s natives are  the mixing of several Vietnamese, Khmer, Cham and Chinese peoples.

Cửu Long nơi có chín rồng

Có sông nhiều cá có đồng lúa xanh

Thưở xưa là đất tranh giành

Người Nam nhắc đến không đành lìa xa

 

I like to dedicate this page to my two children and those from this delta.

Former territory of the kingdom Founan (Phù Nam). A multitude of religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Caodaism, Islam and Hoà Hão. Famous people originate from this country: Phan Thanh Giản, Võ Tánh, Nguyễn Trung Trực, Huỳnh Phú Sổ.

A fifth of the population lives in this delta. The least hectare, the least cultivable parcel of the delta are exploited by peasants consisted of Vietnamese of Khmer origin, Chinese,Chàm, and Vietnamese. That is why a multitude of religions is found there: Buddhism, Catholicism, Caodaism, Islam, and Hoà Hảo. Irrigated and sprinkled by the Mekong River, this delta produced itself alone one-half of the rice of the country, which allows Vietnam to become the third largest exporter of rice in the world.
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The Mekong delta is currently divided into  12 provinces: Long An, Tiền Giang, Bến Tre, Ðồng Tháp, An Giang, Kiên Giang,  Vĩnh Long, Trà Vinh, Hậu Giang, Sóc Trăng, Bạc Liêu  and Cà Mau.

Đồng Bằng Cửu Long

Before becoming an integral part of Vietnam, this delta belonged to the Khmer people. The first Vietnamese colonists appeared only at the beginning of the 16th century on this territory that was until then just a marshy area infested with crocodiles and filled with mangroves. It is only in 17th century that this territory became Vietnamese under the scepter of the lords Nguyễn. It was also the arena of violent clashes between the Tay Son’s armies and the Nguyen’s partisans supported by the mercenaries recruited by Pigneau de Béhaine at the end of 18th century.

One finds in this delta a labyrinth of channels and rivers that add up to 4,000 kilometers, which is equivalent to the length of the Mekong river itself. This river is born out of the snows from Tibet in the province of Qing Hai, flows for more than 4,500 km before reaching the delta and crosses six countries: China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Kampuchea, and Vietnam. It divides itself at the capital of Kampuchea, Phnom-Penh into two branches, Mekong and Bassac that enter Vietnam separately. In Vietnam, its upper course is divided into four arms at Vĩnh Long to throw itself into the East Sea. (Biển Đông).

The great lake Tonlé Sap, located at the center of Kampuchea is not only a natural fish tank but also a natural regulator of the water flow making it possible to prevent the flood of the delta. In summer, because of monsoon rain, the level of Mekong is higher compared to that of the lake to which it is connected by a channel. The lake fills itself, passing from 3,000 square kilometers in season of low waters to more than 10,000 square kilometers at the end of the monsoon. The lake begins to reverse its water into the delta by the time the rain ends. The Mekong delta does not need big water management works or dikes to protect itself from swelling, which proves to be essential for the delta of the North. Thanks to the irrigation of Mekong, the delta is so fertile. Gardens, fields, rice plantations and orchards are seen everywhere.

These orchards are in fact small plots of land irrigated by channels connected to each other by bamboo bridges often called Cầu Khỉ (Monkey Bridges). When referring to the delta, the term “cò bay thẳng cánh is often used. This means the delta is so vast that the cranes can extend their wings as they fly over. 

It is in this delta, at Sadec, that Marguerite Duras‘ mother ran the girls’ school. A young Chinese of good family lived there too. He will become the hero in “The Lover “. This novel has made Marguerite Duras a superstar of the French literature overnight allowing her to win the Prix de Goncourt in 1984 and ensure the sale of one million three hundred thousand copies in paperback in Midnight Editions and one million copies in hardcover at France-Loisirs.

It is also in this delta that are seen every morning, hundreds of sampans converging toward the famous floating market of Phùng Hiêp at the crossroad of seven channels in the direction of Cần Thơ to Sóc Trăng, or toward lesser known markets such as Cái Răng and Phong Ðiền. Also seen are merchants with conic hats trailing their mountains of fruits, legions of ducks, chickens and pigs to the market on their small boats, or other rudimentary means of transportation (bicycles, rickshaws). It is thanks to the orchards of the delta that one finds a great number of fruits: sapotilles, ramboutans, caramboles, corrosoles etc… at the markets of Saigon. It can be said that the delta feeds Saigon and a greater part of Vietnam. In the northeast of the peninsula lies the Plain of Reed Ðồng Tháp Mười ) which was a Việt Cộng refuge yesterday and which becomes the Asian Camargue today.

In spite of its lack of archaeological richness, the delta continues to play a vital role economically for Vietnam. It becomes thus the object of greed and confrontation for so many years. It was French Cochinchina at one recent time. Even Hồ Chí Minh, when alive, has agreed to its importance by burying his father at Sadec. There are folks whose names remain anchored in the memory of the Vietnamese people. Phan Thanh Giản, Võ Tánh, Nguyễn Trung Trực, Hùynh Phú Sổ, are among these folks and are issue of this corner.


Without the delta, Vietnam is never free and independent….. 
It is the granary of Vietnam.


Hà Tiên (English version)

French version

Vietnamese version

Facing to the Gulf of Siam, Hà Tiên is located about 8 kilometers from the Cambodian border. It is also the city marking the end of the long walk towards the South started by the Vietnamese. Before being known as Hà Tiên, it initially was called  Phương Thành then Mang Kham in the past. Its economic growth has been due to the massive arrival of the Chinese, supporters of the former Ming dynasty (or Minh Hương in Vietnamese) whose most known was Mac Cửu (Mac King Kiou).

Being hostile to the new dynasty of the Manchus (Qing) and leaving China at the 17 years age, this one,was established with his family in Cambodia in 1671. He was appointed a few years later by the Cambodgian king as provincial chief of Mang Khảm . Thanks to his generosity and business talent, he succeeded to transform Mang Kham into a port city flourishing and animated in the region. For countering against the Siamese’s ambition, he needed the Vietnameses protection, in particular that of the Nguyễn lords to the detriment of the Cambodian ones. They agreed to confer to him the title of commander of troops (tổng binh) in this region. Consequently, Mang Kham belonged to Vietnamese territory and changed name into becoming Hà Tiên. According to the legend, one saw appearing on the river, the ballad of Immortals (Hà river in Vietnamese). It is also the reason for choosing this name. Hà Tiên became a few years later the starting point for the conquest of Cambodian districts: Long Xuyên (Cà Mau today), Kiên Giang (Rạch Giá), Tran Giang (Cần Thơ), Tran Di (Bạc Liêu) with his son Mac Thiên Tứ. This latter was a character out of the ordinary. His fate was tied closely to that of Nguyễn Ánh, future emperor of the Nguyên Dynasty. It became the famous rampart of the Nguyễn against the Tây Sơn. With the years of vicissitudes of Nguyễn Ánh, he had to take refuge in Thailand with all the family and the son of Nguyễn Ánh, Prince Xuân. To sow doubt among the Siamese, the Tây Sơn did not hesitate to falsify documents and make them responsible for a conspiracy against Siamese king Trịnh Tân (Phraya Tak Sin).

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His entire family was executed with the prince Xuân. To preserve his honor and fidelity, he committed suicide in September 1780. Mac Thiên Tứ was also a greatest poet of his time. He made Hà Tiên famous by his volume of poems entitled “Hà Tiên Thâp vịnh” praising the beauty of its natural and marvellous sites.

This volume continues to grow in the coming years with the addition of 10 poems written by each of 31 poets belonging to the club of the poets “Chiêu Anh Các” created under the initiative of Mac Thiên Tứ. That constituted in all 320 poems to which Nguyễn Cư Trinh added the last ten poems to give a value priceless to this volume that continues to be transmitted to the posterity.

Ones does not forget his famous poem in Six-Eight to tease an young girl in Quảng Nam (Center of Vietnam), disguised as a young student taking part in the evening of the illumination festival. By seeing this young man, he does not hesitate to send the following four verses:

Bên kia sen nở nhiều hoa
Người khen hoa đẹp nõn nà hơn em
Trên bờ em đứng em xem
Mọi người sao bỗng không thèm nhìn hoa

On the other side, the lotus has many flowers
The person who admires them is more prettier than you.
On land, you continue to admire them
Everyone is not be interested to admire your “flower”

Without hesitation, he replied promptly by the four following verses:

Mặt ao sen nở khắp
Trông hoa lẫn bóng người
Trên bờ ai đứng ngắm
Sao chẳng thấy hoa tươi?

The surface of the pond is filled with flowers of lotus
Ones finds here at the same time these flowers and the people’s shadows
On land, each one is admiring them
Why isn’t a beautiful flower found?

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Lotus

This poetic exchange enabled him to have sympathy and to discover that this young student was only one girl disguised as a boy to avoid the pirates, coming from the Center of Vietnam, following her father to make the trade and bearing the name Nguyễn Thi Xuân. Mac Thiên Tứ took her later as wife of second rank . But the latter failed to die because of the jealousy of his wife . She was forced to withdraw herself in a pagodon to finish her last remaining days. Before her death, she left a poem showing her purity and nobility in a nauseaous world filled with turpitudes by comparing her with a lotus flower:

Vươn khỏi bùn nhơ thoát vươn lên
Phỉ lòng trong trắng giữa thiên nhiên
Xuân thu đậm nhạt bao hồng tía
Ðừng sánh thanh cao với đóa sen.

Leaving mud, the lotus flower continues to open out
It is glad to be pure in nature
Its perianth becomes more or less purple in the course of time
But one should not compare the nobility with this flower.

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When one evokes Hà Tiên, one does not forget to think of Mac Cửu and his son Mac Thiên Tứ because it is thanks to them that Vietnam succeeded in achieving its long walk towards the South. Nothing is more astonishing than to see the deep attachment and respect which the Vietnamese reserved for Mac Cửu and his family through his temple in Hà Tiên.

Khải Định mausoleum (English version)

Version française

 
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Ứng Lăng (應陵)

Unlike other mausoleums of the Nguyên Dynasty, especially those of Minh Mang and Tự Ðức, the Khai Dinh  mausoleum  ignores harmony and ingenious and subtle agreement cleverly searched and found so far between architecture and natural environment where the tomb of the Emperor must be built. There is also the abandonment of wood as a main element in the construction of this mausoleum.

On the other hand, it is a building constructed entirely of concrete and beautifully decorated by coatings of granular porcelain and glass of all colors. Despite the absence of the landscape, the mausoleum of Khải Đinh still reflects the exceptional talent of Vietnamese designers and artists at the beginning of twentieth century. It also reflects the character of a megalomaniac emperor who is interested only in the debauchery and is not worried about the fate of his people.

World cultural heritage of Vietnam

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Tự Đức mauseolum ( English version)

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Unlike other royal tombs of the Nguyễn Dynasty, Tự Ðức mausoleum  is primarily a possible place of refuge during his reign. That is why there is not only a palace which was later transformed into a place of worship after his death but also a theater and two small and pretty pavilions in red wood (Du Khiêm and Xung Khiêm) where he liked to sit for the relaxation and the composition of his poems. This mausoleum which was built during 1864-1867 by three thousand soldiers and workers, had approximately fifty buildings surrounded by a stone and brick wall 1500 meters in length in an area of 12 ha.

Khiêm Lăng (謙陵)

Tự Đức was crowned king at a time where he have had to cope not only with development of Western capitalism but also internal strife (war grasshoppers led by  poet Cao Ba Quát, the eviction of his elder brother Hồng Bang at his enthronement etc..). For taking refuge, he did not hesitate to order the construction of his tomb as a place of relaxation in his lifetime and remains a place of residence for eternal future life.

 

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In this mausoleum, the pavilion Hoa Khiêm is the main building where the Emperor worked and the pavilion Lương Khiêm is where he lived and slept. One finds also in the domain of his mausoleum two other tombs: those of his wife, Queen Lê Thiện Anh and one of his three adopted son, King Kiến Phúc.

The architecture of this mausoleum reflects not only the nature of the romantic poet emperor Tư Ðức but also the freedom that is lacking so far in the other mausoleums. Nothing is surprising to see this mausoleum become one of the favorite places choosen by most foreign and Vietnamese tourists.

 
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Mausoleum of Minh Mạng emperor (English version)

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Each royal tomb has a particular landscape and a own charm. That of Minh Mang is known for perfect harmony between architecture and  natural environment. It began to be built during his reign (1820-1841) and was completed only in 1843, two years after his death by his successor Thiệu Tri.

The temple Sung Ấn , dedicated to Minh Mang and his wife by his successor, may be achieved through  three terraces and the gate Hiền Ðức. On the other side of this temple, there are three stone bridges spanning Lake Pure Clarity. (Hồ Minh Trung). The central bridge known as the “bridge of the Intelligence and righteousness” (Trung Ðạo Kiêu , built in marble was used only by the emperor. Pavilion Minh Lâu (Pavilion of Light) represent the Triad: Heaven, Human being and the Earth. (Thiên Nhân Ðịa).

Hiếu Lăng (孝陵)

From a stone bridge spanning the lake Tân Nguyệt (Lake of the New Moon), one can reach through a gate in bronze, a circular wall symbolizing the sun and in the middle of this sacred fence it is the tomb of the emperor, a mound of soil surrounded by natural pines.

Map of  the Minh Mạng emperor mauseoleum

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  • 1 Ðại Hồng Môn
  •   The red main gate
  • 2 Sùng Ấn Ðiện
  •   The cult of temple
  • 3  Hoàng Trạch Môn
  •    The Hoàng Trạch gate  of pavilion of light
  • 4  Minh Lâu
  •    The pavilion of light
  • Trung Ðạo Kiều
  •     The bridge of the Intelligence and righteousness
  • 6  Mộ của vua Minh Mạng
  •      The mausoleum of Minh Mang emperor

 

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Huế city (English version)

 

 

Version française

For the majority of Vietnamese, Huế always remains the intellectual and artistic foyer of Vietnam. It always looks like a sleeping princess. It knows how to keep its charm and grace that it has had since the Champa occupation with its citadel, the Perfume river and above all the famous Thiên Mụ ( or The Celeste Lady ) pagoda . The cruel beauty of its women wearing the white tunic ( áo dài ) accompanied by a conical hat (or nón bài thơ) , the fineness of its poetry, the union of its parks and pagodas with varnished tiles, the culture of its madarinal court make it more charming, noble, and majestuous.

One remembers Hue through the follwing two famous popular verses:

Gió đưa cành trúc là đà
Tiếng chuông Thiên  Mụ, canh gà Thọ-Xương

While the wind smootly moves the bamboo branches 
One hears the Thiên Mụ bell, and the Thọ-Xương rooster’s song

Before becoming the imperial capital of the Nguyễn, it was first the strong place of Chinese Jenan’s command of emperorQin ShiHuangDi in 3rd century B.C., then it was gradually integrated in the kingdoms of Lin Yi and Champa since 284 of our era. Then it was the object of greed of the Chinese and the Vietnamese when the latter  gained their independence. It was partially controlled by the Vietnamese in 1306. This control was only wholly when Hue became a dowry from king Chế Mẫn of Champa to the Vietnamese in exchange of his marriage with princess Huyền Trân.

Cố Đô Huếtucam

It was the imperial capital of a reunified Vietnam from 1802 to 1945 and knew no less than 13 emperors of the Nguyễn dynasty, of whom the founder was Nguyễn Ánh known under the name of ” Gia Long”. On the left bank of the Perfume river, in the middle of the city center, three surroundding walls circumscribe the imperial city and protect the forbidden purple city whose orientation was set in relationship with four cardinal points by geomancers of the court. As an admirer of the Ming dynasty, emperor  Gia Long did not hesitate to give Huế a striking resemblance of the Forbidden City of Peking.

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The royal tombs were built  at the exit of the city, along the river. Hue was the target of several conquests, French first in 1885, Japanese next in 1945 and then French in 1946. It was the witness of deadly combats during the Mậu Thân Tết offensive in 1968. Many times, it was also the actor of nationalist resistance in colonial time and during the last five decades.

Despite its aristocratic appearance, Huế knows how to conserve in difficult time the history of Vietnam that is to say the Vietnamese soul.

Route mandarine (Version française)

English version


Route mandarine

Si le touriste a l’occasion de voyager de Saïgon à Hanoï en voiture, il est obligé de prendre la “route mandarine” (ou la route No 1) car c’est la seule qui existe sur le réseau routier du Vietnam. Ce nom “route mandarine”, on le doit aux Français qui l’ont appelé car c’était la route prise autrefois par les mandarins et les hauts fonctionnaires pour voyager rapidement et aisément entre la capitale et leurs provinces. Cette route est née dans les marécages du delta du Mékong,  infestés de moustiques. Elle commence à Cà Mau et se termine au poste de Ðồng Ðan de la frontière sino-viêtnamienne dans la région proche de Lạng Sơn.  On dit souvent qu’elle est la colonne vertébrale du pays au “look” d’hippocampe. Cette route est longue de 1730 km, reliant plusieurs villes, en particulier Saïgon, Phan Thiết, Nha Trang, Qui Nhơn, Hội An, Ðà Nẵng, Huế, Ðồng Hới, Hà Tịnh, Thanh Hóa et Hanoï.

Elle est recouverte d’une manière générale d’asphalte, mais mal bitumée et encombrée souvent sur certains tronçons d’une multitude de camions, de vélos, de piétons, de buffles et de vaches et de troupeaux de canards qui trottinent. Le bitume explose souvent, faisant tressauter la mamie grimpée en amazone sur un porte-bagages et les mômes juchés sur des vélos trop grands. Ce sont des scènes insolites rencontrées fréquemment sur cette route.

On trouve aussi des récoltes de riz ou de manioc mises à sécher sur l’asphalte chauffée de soleil dans le Nord. Sur cette route, on peut voir du côté de Sa Huynh, des marais salants ou des monticules de sel recouverts de feuillage et dressés le long de la chaussée.

Plus on s’avance dans le Nord, plus on rencontre des paysages paisibles de rizières inondées. On croise souvent des enfants menant des troupeaux de buffles laqués de boue. Aux abords de Hoa Lư, l’ancienne capitale du Vietnam, les silhouettes des collines rocheuses émergent d’une brume bleutée.

Malgré son mauvais état surtout dans le Nord du Vietnam, elle continue à être l’axe routier vital du Vietnam. Pour ceux qui aiment connaître l’histoire du Vietnam, l’histoire de sa longue marche vers le Sud, il est conseillé d’emprunter cette route car on retrouve non seulement les vestiges d’une civilisation disparue dans le tourbillon de l’histoire, le royaume du Champa mais aussi les marques et les traces que les colons vietnamiens, depuis des décennies, arrivèrent à imposer lors de leur passage.

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Connaître cette route c’est connaître non seulement des rizières immenses, des plantations d’hévéas, de beaux points de vue sur la côte du Vietnam, de très beaux panoramas d’un delta à un autre, de cols superbes (en particulier le col des Nuages ) et de collines boisées, des landes presque désolées mais aussi une intensité de vie agricole vietnamienne à travers les hameaux qui longent la route.

Connaître cette route c’est connaître aussi le pont Hiền Lương. Celui-ci construit par les Français en 1950, détruit par l’aviation américaine en 1967, long de 178m, évoque certainement une époque où le Vietnam était divisé et où la moitié du pont était peinte en rouge et l’autre moitié en jaune. Il est situé au 17ème parallèle, dans une zone où est situé un tronçon, connu lors de la guerre d’Indochine sous le nom “Rue sans Joie” car les troupes françaises y rencontrèrent de farouches résistances.       

Quốc lộ số 1

Connaître cette route c’est connaître le col des Nuages. Celui-ci est situé à 28 km au Nord de Ðà Nang (ou Tourane) et seulement 496 m d’altitude. Comme son nom l’indique, il est toujours dans les nuages car il est proche de la mer, ce qui lui permet de recevoir d’importantes masses d’air humide. Autrefois, il marquait la frontière entre le Nord et le Sud et protégeait les Chams des appétits territoriaux vietnamiens.

Le compositeur Phạm Duy a évoqué cette route à travers son oeuvre intitulé Con Ðường Cái Quan.

Dalat (English version)

Version française

  Thành phố sương mù

Located on the Vietnam’s Central Highlands, about 250 kilometers from Saigon and  1500 meters above sea level, Dalat continues to keep the charm of the 1920s.

In 1893, the discoverer of the plague bacillus and the Pasteur’s disciple, Alexandre Yersin has founded at the Lang Bian mountain plateau  a fertile ground for the establishment of a sanatorium. His project was followed several years later by that of Governor Paul Doumer in transforming Dalat into  the  most select climate  resort of South East Asia.
Here is found the little Paris of the Viet Nam with its buildings erected during the colonial era:  high school Yersin, convent of the sisters named “Couvent des Oiseaux”, private villas whose style is borrowed from Basque country, as well as from to  Savoy and Normandy.

The railway station of Đà Lạt is a replica of the Deauville train station in miniature. Even the small red and white iron lady, the small Eiffel Tower is there to remind its Parisian colleague.

 Little Paris in Vietnam

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Thanks to the temperate climate (10 degrees in  winter) and 25 degrees in  summer, one can cultivate here  all citrus fruits and vegetables. That allows Dalat to become the  leading vegetable provider of the country. Flowers greenhouses are also in the honour  for the region. Known as  “the city of eternal spring”, Dalat is characterized by a large number of “no”: no air conditioning, no traffic lights, no cycle ricksaws, no cops in  the streets, no supermarkets, no motorcycle taxis (xe ôm) etc..