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What to see in Hanoi - Part 7

 

Perfume Pagoda

This site is popular year round, but particularly from the middle of the second to the end of the third lunar months following Tet and on even days of the lunar calendar. But rather than avoid peak periods, we'd recommend embracing the madness.

Junkets for foreigners start at 08:00 and get back after dark. The Vietnamese start off at 04:00, get to the pagoda by 08:00, and make a day-long visit out of the pilgrimage or do an overnight. Many make the trip out of faith, but clearly for others, religion is an excuse to get away from the grind, and the trip is also popular for young, courting couples.

 

 

There are numerous pagodas around the site and strewn over the mountain, but few foreigners visit them all. Some require your boat to take a detour, but unless they have particular religious significance to you, you'll do fine with the main ones.

You'll probably skip everything except the Trinh Pagoda at the base of the mountain, and then visit additional sites along the way as they climb 2.5 km up or down the slope, which takes about an hour.

At the top is the location's raison d'etre: a large, natural cave with numerous shrines within. The cave is filled with incense, candles, and Vietnamese offering up prayers, usually for prosperity during the coming year. Some days, the site receives as many as 7,000 visitors.

You'll reach the Perfume Pagoda by boat. There are about a thousand metal barks absolutely packed into the area of the boat landing, all nearly identical, painted rusty-red and made of light steel. They all have names and each driver knows their own boat. After paying for your ticket at the ticket booth you'll be hooked up with a paddler for the hour-long trip. Many tourists often take the paddles and row for a stretch, mostly for the photo op.

The boats let off at a gauntlet of restaurants, all of which serve exotic game, like weasel, ferret, deer and snake. You'll find the carcasses hanging garishly on display in front of every eatery. Less adventurous fare is also served.

This is a good place to wind up the night before returning by boat after dark. Boats continue running until 21:00 or 22:00, and the trip is serene and gorgeous at that time (not to mention romantic), so don't hesitate to plan a late-night return.

Even if you're on a tour, you can blow off the return bus and stay on your own. Returning by public bus is slightly tricky, but doable.

There's a cable car going from the base of the mountain to the top. Opinions are divided on whether it's easier to walk up and take the car down, or vice versa. Subjecting your calves to an hour stumbling downhill has as many disadvantages as an hour lugging your mass against gravity. Or you can just decide that discretion is the better part of valour, and take the cable car both ways.

We stayed the night, and even though it's as touristy as Vietnam gets, the scene is not for foreigners and gives a good sense of an important aspect of Vietnamese culture that shouldn't be skipped. Basically, this is the mother of all domestic tourist spots in Vietnam, and should be experienced for that reason alone, whether you learn anything about Buddhism along the way or not.

 

Duong Lam Village & Ancient Houses

Duong Lam Village and Ancient Houses Located in Son Tay Town, away 40 km to the west of Hanoi, Duong Lam Village and Ancient Houses is now  a very popular tourist destination at the weekends. The village attracts visitors because of its ancient houses and the unique architectural features of a typical old Vietnamese village with banyan trees and a wharf on the river.

 

 

It takes just over an hour to get to Duong Lam village. On the road leading up to the village, tourists can feel the peaceful atmosphere and the life everyday of the countryside people  . The rice fields these days are in their prime while lotus ponds will soon be in bloom signaling the coming of the summer. Passing through the village gate to Mong Phu village, visitors should not miss taking photo of the old  gate, which is in the typical architectural style of an old Vietnamese village. Nguyen Trong An is Deputy Head of the village’s Management Board Of the 5 hamlets in Duong Lam village, Mong Phu is seen as the center, as it has many famous historical sites including communal houses, old houses, and the clan’s worshipping house. Of course, the 4 remaining hamlets also have its important relics, a regular must-see for tourists.

 

Bat Trang Pottery Village

Bat Trang Pottery Village is located in the south east of Hanoi, passing Chuong Duong Bridge, turns right and go about 10km along the dike of Red River. Bat Trang Pottery Village belongs to Bat Trang Commune, Gia Lam District, Hanoi.

Maybe you will ask yourself Why is its name popular and attractive to most tourists to northern Vietnam? The answer is its ever famous ceramic and pottery products of very high quality. If you have known and found out about Vietnam, you may not be surprised that Bat Trang’s vases, bowls, dishes, and many other kinds of ceramic products have been exported worldwide. Should you would like to contemplate skilled workers making ceramic products by hand, just come here! What is more, you can also try it yourself and can create the products as your interest !

 

 

Bat Trang village was established in 14th or 15th century in several documents. However, according to the villagers, the village perhaps appeared earlier. There are always two stories concerning the origin of the village. One of these tells that under Ly dynasty in 1100, when the nation was in its independence and initial growth period, there were 3 scholars who came back from their mission trip to China bringing the ceramic craft industry learned there back to Vietnam and taught the people of Bat Trang. In the other story, in the village history dates back to the 10th century, when King Ly Cong Uan relocated the capital in Thang Long. With the establishment and development of the capital, many businessmen, crafters from many other areas come to settle down here to work and trade. In Bat Trang, there was a lot of white clay,so many potters came here, among whom was Nguyen Ninh Trang family who came and built the kilns here. Accordingly, Bat Trang has gradually changed from a normal ceramic and pottery village into a famous ceramic and pottery centre until now.

As time went by, Bat Trang village’s products have been developing and become well known for the best quality, style and glaze both inside and outside of the nation. Many of these are now customized for aristocratic families and religious needs. Its exported popular foreign markets are Japan (under the brand "Kochi (Giao Chi) ware"), the Netherlands, Britain, Portugal, Southeast Asia, etc.,

The famous ceramic & pottery products

To produce a complete product, one must follow 3 main steps. The first step is making the product frame. The artists have to select the suitable clay, treat it and start making a raw product. It must be carefully repaired to get the best appearance. Secondly, they decorate and cover it with glazes. Lastly but not least, the raw products are baked in 3 days and 3 nights. There are several kinds of kiln, yet the temperature must be at 12000 or 13000. After baking, products are carefully brought out, classified and repaired in case there are mistakes. And now we have the perfect products.

Popular product types.

Bat Trang products are divided into 3 main kinds based on the purpose of use.

Decorating the product

Utilitarian wares : including plates, bowls, teacups, kettles, wine bottles, flowerpots, vases, jar… What differ is that they are thicker than Chinese ones.

Cult wares : Include lamp stands, candle holders, incense burner, altar boxes, swords… These are valuable for its collectors because of inscription of the production years, the names of the producers and the potters.

Decorative objects : house models, altars, statues and architectural fixtures.

The special trait is the diversified and unique decorations on the products. Thanks to a long–lasting development history, the village’s works have been accumulated with a lot of different special designs. One more thing that makes them distinguished is the glaze, which is of very high quality and a huge variety of colors such as blue, brown, white, moss green, in both breaking and melting glazes.

The fact that there have appeared a number of competitors both domestically and internationally who take advantages of high technology to produce. Yet most customers and visitors prefer the craft products that contain long–lasting historical and traditional values. Hence, it is no surprise at all that Bat Trang is still found in busy days and works. More importantly, the village is now so famous that absorbs a huge annual number of tourists to visit and buy ceramic goods.

 

Van Phuc Silk Village

Van Phuc Silk Village is situated on the banks of Nhue River, Nguyen Trai Road, near Ha Dong city, 8 km southwest of Hanoi. It takes you only about 30 minutes by motorbike to go there from the centre of Hanoi. The village has become much well known for its traditional sericulture, weaving and high quality silk products. Tourists coming here are lured by various beautiful shirts, crafts, ties, dresses and many other things made of silk available in the village. What special is that the silk is made by very simple looms, which is the genuinely traditional Vietnamese way of making silk.

 

The cradle of Vietnamese Silk

 

For many centuries, silk has always been considered an extreme luxury on par with rhinoceros horn, ivory and precious handworks in Vietnam. It has long been a universal byword of luxury, often only worn by the richest, most powerful citizens. Most visitors somehow have heard about the significant role of this kind of material in Vietnam, yet might wonder where the cradle of Viet silk is. The mentioned Van Phuc Silk Village is very proud to be the origin of best silk and silk-making industry of Vietnam, which is attached to a long-lasting history of more than two thousand years. Though passing by lots of ups and downs and during the recent years, the village’s craft has enjoyed real revival due to a surging demand for silk in both the domestic and foreign markets.

Today, the fine and lustrous cloth that originates from the cocoon of the silkworm is more affordable for "ordinary" folk. Furthermore, silk is currently enjoying a fashion renaissance, particularly since its many varieties can be made into a wide range of designs suitable for all facets of modern life. Should you intend to have a high quality silk pair of formal clothes made, just come here and select your mmost suitable materials and professional tailors here will bring you satisfaction!

Ideal place for silk products and souvenirs

Like anyone to the village, you will be very surprised at this “silk shop town”, where almost all houses along the paths have been turned into shops selling silk products. Specifically, the village is now home to 1,280 households and 90% of whom are involved in silk production and business, This is a good chance for the visitors to explore the Vietnamese traditional industry of silk-making.

No tourists here are uncontented with the glisten of various silk products. They are always confronted with an initially bewildering array of various silk products  from raw materials to garments  and a myriad of silk accessories. Tourists are spoilt for choice. The local silk is well known for its smooth and lightweight appearance and qualities that enable it to be dyed more colors to suit a variety of skin tones. In order to cater for the changing demands everyday and tastes of customers , Van Phuc silk producers are expanding their silk and garment repertoire: traditional glossy, embroidered silks, double layers, wrinkled silks and of course, more various colors, hues and weights.

If you are going to buy something from Vietnam as gifts for yourself, friends, family  at home, silk and clothes made of silk are really available around in the village for your good choice. 

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