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Hoa Lu, Vietnam

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Hoa Lu is a tourist destination located 110km or two hours from Hanoi. I visited it on a day trip when I was at Hanoi with a small group of AsiaExplorers members. Located near the dusty town of Ninh Binh (dusty because of a nearby rock quarry), Hoa Lu is the site of a 10th-century capital of an ancient Vietnamese kingdom called Dai Co Viet. This small kingdom covered an area of only 300 hectares, and reigned from the 10th century, during the Dinh and Le dynasties, to the 11th century, during the Ly dynasty. The kingdom was enclosed by a citadel. The citadel and the Yen Ngua limestone hills provided good defence for this kingdom against the Chinese.

Not much of this ancient kingdom is left standing. Whatever that remains of the palaces and shrines would only be of interest to archaeologists. Nevertheless, I find the surrounding to be quite picturesque, with its ponds and limestone range forming a jagged horizon. There are two 17th century temples, modelled after their 11th-century originals that are on most itineraries to Hoa Lu. They are the Den Dinh Tien Hoang and Den Le Hoan, dedicated to the founder of the Dinh dynasty and to its successor. I shall describe these two temples separately on their respective pages.


Karst mountain range in picturesque Hoa Lu.

How to go to Hoa Lu

You can easily get a day tour from Hanoi to visit Hoa Lu from most travel agents in Hanoi. Such a tour usually includes a boat ride at Tam Coc as well. The tour begins in the morning and ends at the early part of the afternoon. Hoa Lu is about 110km from Hanoi, and takes 2 hours to reach.


Another view of the mountains at Hoa Lu.

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