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Heroic king's homeland full of history

Update: July, 24/2012 - 17:02

 

House of treasures: The Quang Trung Museum is located at Phu Phong town in Tay Son District, 40km northwest of Quy Nhon City
Cannon fodder: Foreign tourists visit the Quang Trung Museum. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tung
Font of history: An ancient well stands at the museum.
Show time: An actor performs traditional martial arts at the museum. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tung
Gifts of nature: Ganh Rang Tien Sa in Quy Nhon(Binh Dinh Province) has interesting rocks along the beach with natural stone statues and caves such as the Sun Statue, the Lion Head andthe Vong Phu Rock. — VNA/VNS Photo Duc Tam
 
After numerous invitations from a close friend to visit the homeland of King Quang Trung in Binh Dinh Province, and group of friends and I decided we would take up the offer, and the trip didn't disappoint.

From Da Nang, we took a six-hour car ride to Quy Nhon in the central southern province of Binh Dinh. My first impressions of the city were influenced by the long coastal roads, green public spaces, and the peaceful life of locals there.

The city's beauty dispelled all our tiredness after the long trip, and inspired us to go out and discover more. Guided by my local friend Nguyen Thi Tram, we first visited the Quang Trung Museum. Tram said that if we didn't visit the museum during our visit to the area, we would not be able to understand the historical or cultural background to there.

Binh Dinh Province was the home of national hero King Quang Trung (1753-1792), who is credited with national unification and defeating foreign invaders to establish the brilliant Tay Son dynasty.

The museum is located in Phu Phong Town in Tay Son District, 40km to the northwest of Quy Nhon.

The museum guide said that the museum was founded on the site of the old king's house, and there is still a 200-year-old tamarind tree and an ancient well.

"I couldn't ignore the rare chance to enjoy tamarind fruit and drink fresh water from the well," one friend said.

In the museum premises, there is a shrine to worship the king, a display of Tay Son artefacts, and a small theatre where traditional martial arts and drum performances take place.

In the afternoon, we returned to the city centre and set out on foot to Ghenh Rang hill which lies to the southwest of the city.

At the base of Ghenh Rang is a unique bathing area with smooth pebbles that have been rounded by the passage of time. During the feudal period, it served as a resort for King Bao Dai and his wife Queen Nam Phuong, and is also known as the Queen's beach, Tram said.

It is also home to the tomb of famous Vietnamese poet Han Mac Tu, a well known poet in Viet Nam during the early 1940s.

From the peak of the hill, the pure atmosphere was enhanced by views of the city, Phuong Mai peninsula and Thi Nai lagoon.

Thi Nai lagoon, at 10km in length and 4km wide, is the largest lagoon in the province.

Local fisherman Phan Van Thong, 45, said that the lagoon is at the confluence of the Con and Ha Thanh rivers before they run out to sea. When the tide rises on windy days, choppy waves cut across the lake's surface.

On the lagoon's western banks is a mountain topped by an old tower, above which is a shrine that was built by local fishermen to worship the Water God.

According to Thong, the mountain has the name because many boi ca birds (kingfisher) come here to hunt, and often perch upon the mountain.

Thi Nai lagoon is not only a beautiful site but also home to many kinds of fish, of which the butterfish is probably the most famous for the renowned trademark Go Boi fish sauce, which tourists often choose as a gift for relatives, Thong said.

Thong said that the peninsula on the eastern banks of the lagoon formed the foothills of the Trien Chau mountain range, and resembled a dragon's head from a distance.

The area formed a strategic defensive position where the glorious victories of the Tay Son insurgent army against invading foreign enemies took place during the 18th century.

According to Thong, the peninsula has three communes including Nhon Ly, Nhon Hoi and Nhon Hai, and the locals earn their living through husbandry and fisheries.

 

Imposing: A 200-year-old tamarind tree stands in the grounds of the museum. — VNS Photo Do Truong
 
In Nhon Hoi Commune, there is an ancient pagoda named Phat Loi with a famous sandstone statue with legendary stories surrounding it.

The elderly here say that the statue originated from the Cham islands in the central province of Quang Nam, but how the statue ended up on Phuong Mai peninsula is unknown.

When the Cham islanders found out about the statue, they were determined to bring it home, but even hundreds of healthy young men were unable to lift, and they decided that the statue didn't want to leave. The Phat Loi pagoda was subsequently built as a place of worship.

On the back of the statue are words written in Sanskrit, and fishermen believe that copies of these words bring them good health and luck.

The peninsula is connected with the city centre by the 2.5 km-long Thi Nai Bridge, the longest sea crossing bridge in Viet Nam.

Tram said that it only takes about five minutes by motorbike to drive from the city to the peninsula over the bridge. "If you drive in the evening, you will clear feel cold steam from the lagoon," she added.

Like every trip I go on, I like to explore the local cuisine.

The area is not only known for its seafood dishes, but also hoi cake and a fermented pork roll called cho huyen (district market).

A hoi cake is made of vermicelli, tripe, pig intestine and basil, with a bowl of fish sauce to dip in.

"Although the components of the dish are popular, it is a whole different eating experience here, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that each dish only cost VND7,000," my friend said.

Tram said that cho huyen from Tuy Phuoc District along with bau da wine and hoi cake have become a feature of local cuisine, and it would have been remiss if we hadn't taken some home with us for our relatives to try. — VNS

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