|Sombre ceremony: The Death anniversary of the Hung Kings (Gio to Hung Vuong), the Vietnamese festival to worship Hung Vuong, attracts many visitors to Hung Temple in Viet Tri City annually. It has been a public holiday in Viet Nam since 2007, celebrated on the tenth day of the third lunar month. — VNA/VNSPhoto Minh Quyet
|Grand designs: Co Vien Lau, a cultural tourist site located in the heart of the Tam Coc - Bich Dong Tourist Site recently opened as a new attraction for the area, where visitors can see 25 old houses built in the style of the 18-20th century Red River civilization, homes that are made of precious timber with intricate wood carvings offer a distinctive local flavor. — VNA/VNSPhoto Anh Tuan
The government wants 2013 to be the year tourism really takes off in Viet Nam and will make the Red River Delta a focal point of this drive by highlighting its wealth of heritage and stunning natural beauty. Ha Nguyen
reports.Viet Nam will tap into the natural beauty and elegance of the Hong (Red) River Delta as part of its efforts to drive tourism in 2013.
Provinces across the Delta will be heavily promoted to entice visitors to the region, with Hai Phong serving as the centre of project "Civilisation of Red River", according to Nguyen Van Tuan, chief of the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT).
The country's tourism strategists have identified the Red River Delta, a cradle of wet rice cultivation in Viet Nam, as one of its seven key tourism centres due to its wealth of heritage and natural beauties including rivers, lakes, mountains, seas and islands.
Tuan said, "These advantages have helped us to develop abundant tourism links in the region, catering for cultural tourism, heritage tourism, religious and spirit tourism among others.
"The most important aim is to convert tourism potential into lucrative business by promoting co-operation between provinces and cities in the region to emphasise their strong points."
The provinces and cities are Ha Noi, Quang Ninh, Hai Phong, Thai Binh, Nam Dinh, Hung Yen, Bac Ninh, Ninh Binh, Hai Duong, Ha Nam, and Vinh Phuc.
Last month was the first time authorities from the VNAT, the tourism departments of 11 provinces and cities in the region and leaders of 40 tourism agencies throughout the country met to discuss ways of enhancing inter-province co-operation.
Ha Van Sieu, head of the Institute for Tourism Research and Development, said provinces should work closely to develop national tourism sites such as Ha Long Bay, Cat Ba, Yen Tu, Tran Temple and many others.
He said Hai Phong and Quang Ninh are the owners of two heritage sites in Cat Ba and Ha Long Bay, so it will be highly lucrative for them to join hands in developing sea and island tourism.
Trinh Dang Thanh, deputy director of Quang Ninh Tourism Department said his province would co-operate with Hai Phong to take advantage of Cat Bi Airport to attract tourists to Quang Ninh, and would promote connecting tourism from Ha Long Bay to Cat Ba.
Tran Thi Viet Huong, an official from travel agency Viettravel, said: "We should create genuine tourism destinations at each province's famous national heritage sites such as Tran Temple in Nam Dinh, Keo Pagoda in Thai Binh and Tam Coc-Bich Dong-Trang An tourism site in Ninh Binh."
VNAT chief Tuan agreed with Huong, adding that the VNAT would consult provinces and cities to produce popular tourism products at each location. For example, Cat Ba and Ha Long Bay could develop tourism in winter by offering travellers tours of craft villages and traditional festivals.
They all agreed to send their own solutions to the VNAT by the end of this year to effectively market world heritages including Thang Long Citadel and Trang An dubbed as "Ha Long Bay on Land", as well as national favourites ca tru (ceremonial singing) and quan ho (love duets).
|Water wonder: Thac Ba is one of Viet Nam's three largest artificial lakes and is famous for housing the first hydro power plant, making it an attractive option for eco-touristsâ. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Viet Ton
The VNAT has asked three locations to promote tourism through tours running from: Son Tay Citadel and Va Temple to Xuan Mai and Ben Market to Ninh Binh by boat to visit Van Long Natural Reserve. The reserve is the largest area of natural wet land in the Red Delta, boasting 3,000ha across seven villages.
The Red River Delta provinces are all home to centuries-old temples and pagodas with genuine architecture, so they are huge attractions for visitors seeking culture, history and religion, according to VNAT chief Tuan.
|Pot luck: Bat Trang, a 500-year-old village, is renowned for its beautiful, high-quality ceramics. It is an interesting attraction in the capital that is a must-see for tourists. — VNA/VNSPhoto Huy Hung
Officials from the three locations expressed agreement with ideas to promote tourism between Ha Noi, Ha Nam and Ninh Binh, but said the infrastructure of Tam Coc is still inadequate. "If connections are made between the three sites, it will help tourism enjoy strong development in the region," they said.
Tran Van Tien, deputy director of Ha Nam's Culture, Sports and Tourism Department, promised that his province would promote projects connecting Tam Chuc with other tourism sites.
Duong Anh Dien, chairman of Hai Phong city and head of the Hai Phong National Tourism 2013, said the programme aimed to popularise the Red River Delta's attractive destinations to lure one million local and foreign tourists; promote co-operation between locations in the region and the country while enhancing international integration and attract more finance to bolster the tourism initiative.
Hai Phong city is compiling files to send to UNESCO to gain recognition for Cat Ba as a world natural heritage site. — VNS
Vinh Phuc tourism
Truc Lam Tay Thien Zen Monastery is one of the three largest zen monasteries in the country.
Director of Vinh Phuc Tourism Department Tran Van Quang said although finished in 2004, the construction aimed to restore the zen school founded by King Tran Nhan Tong.
Tran An Hop, from Ha Noi's Hai Ba Trung District, said: "Visiting the site, I had an opportunity to immerse myself in religious contemplation, while enjoying the harmony brought about by natural beauty."
Hop said she was very pleased to use a cable system to discover the hidden charms and supernatural power of the mountain system, which stand more than 1,000m above sea level.
"In the past I had to walk half an hour or more to reach the peak of a mountain that I can now reach in only 11 minutes by cable," said Hop.
Aside from the Tay Thien zen monastery, Hop also visited ancient pagodas and temples such as the Ha Tien Pagoda in Vinh Yen Town, one of the major Buddhism centres during the Ly Tran dynasties, as well as the Tung Van Pagoda in Vinh Tuong District which was built 377 years ago during the Le Huy Tong Dynasty. The temple was recognised as a national heritage site in 1964.
"Visiting the Tung Van Pagoda you see precious objects such as the bronze bell and musical instruments, terra-cotta statues and Buddha dated back to 300 years ago," Hop added.
Quang said Vinh Phuc developed eco-tourism at sites in Tam Dao and Dai Lai, where many projects such as the Flamingo Resort have helped to awaken tourism potentials in the province.
Director of Ninh Binh Culture, Sports and Tourism Department Trinh Xuan Hong said new eco-tourism sites such as Linh Coc and Hai Nham, located among the already famous Tam Coc Bich Dong tourism complex, attracted thousands of local and foreign visitors with its virginal beauty, limestone mountains and bouncing small valleys which create a charming landscape.
Hong said boat travellers could reach the first cave, named Chua, in just half an hour and then the boat would carry them inside the cave. "The fresh and cool air in the cave helps visitors forget all their daily worries, allowing them to enjoy the fresh water and stalactities in their own bubble of serenity, leaving the Chua Cave, travellers' eyes are met by immense green valleys, limestone mountains and pleasure houses," said Hong.
Discover the sacred
Apart from these fascinating destinations, Keo Pagoda in Thai Binh Province is considered to be one of the most highly promoted places in the National Tourism 2013 programme. Deputy director of Thai Binh Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Phuc Dien said it was the only ancient pagoda to retain its original form of architecture from the post-Le Dynasty period (about 400 years ago), adding that the pagoda complex was considered a genuine art of the 17th century due to its symbollic bell tower.
Here is the first leg of the Thai Binh-Hung Yen discovery tour.
Keo Pagoda has 102 rooms, worshipping Buddha and Saint Duong Khong Lo, the pagoda founder who had a comprehensive understanding of Buddhology.
"The pagoda is the most diversified Buddhist compound of architecture in Viet Nam," said Dien, adding that a key feature is the bell tower, a deft wooden art construction consisting of three floors and 12 roofs.
Thai Binh has approved an overall plan to preserve the pagoda in an effort to make it the trade mark of Thai Binh's own tourism and a key feature of of the Red Delta's, according to Dien.