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Hai Phong

 

Unlike the two neighbors Halong and CatBa island, Hai Phong (haiphong) attracts less tourists unless they arrive in Northern Vietnam by cruiser ships. Yet, the city maintains many charming architectures with evident influence of early 20th century colonial style the French invested to build up the old town as an important sea port.

Passing Hai Phong is an exciting experience as soon as you go by the way crossing Cam River Ferry, from where you can go to Halong by the land way or take a boat (usually reserved) and run upstream 12km till you reach the sea, from where you go on either to Halong or Cat Ba island. Both ways offer wonderful views and seascape with plenty of islands belonging to Halong and Cat Ba archipelago, and few tourists choose this way to avoid repeated itineraries


There are still remarkable ancient Vietnamese architectures in Hai Phong. Du Hang Pagoda, the centre of Buddhism in Hai Phong, is a very pure and graceful temple that was built in 17th century with some renovations afterward. The pagoda contains a lot of brilliant woodworks, bronze statues, and a bonsai collection right in the front ground. An array of Buddha and Bodhisattva statues highlight a circular pond of water lilies in a flowery garden and a tranquil towered-grave yard, where buried the monks who had resided in the pagoda, make the place a wonderful sanctuary to reduce any pressure. If you luckily arrive in the new moon and full moon days' morning, you will have a chance to catch fascinating pictures of Hai Phong religious women in black velvet scarves and brown long dress, with respectful faces and manners, sitting in and around the main shrine of the pagoda while the monks pray or give lectures of Buddhism. Not far from the pagoda, at the end of a very narrow market street is Hang Kenh Pavilions, which is dedicated to the Vietnamese hero Ngo Quyen who lived in 10th century. Being a Communal House of the Kenh village in the old time, the Pavilions is famous for its wooden bas-relieves, sculptures and special boat-shaped interior.

If you prefer to stroll out the city, your visit should be started from the colonial quarter around Dien Bien Phu street and Tran Hung Dao street, from where you can direct to the old Opera House, and go for a walk surrounding Tam Bac Lake. There are 5 roofed kiosks in the eastern side of the lake with very fresh flowers sold by smiling girls, and in the southern side is the exciting Hang Kenh Tapestry producing woolen carpets for export.

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