Chua Bai Dinh is an example of a grand modern Buddhist complex which features a number of structures built between 2003 and 2010. The buildings have been skillfully constructed with the finest natural materials showcasing stone carving, bronze work and woodwork. The complex is watched over by a giant bronze Buddha who sits in Phap Chu Hall.
As well as some beautiful Buddhist temples, Ninh Binh also has a famous cathedral. Construction of Phat Diem Cathedral began in 1875 and took roughly 24 years to build. The architecture features elements of a traditional cathedral overlaid with a traditional Vietnamese style resulting in an elegant yet imposing structure. The cathedral was forced to close its doors in 1954 when the communists took power over Vietnam, and the Catholics were forced to flee south. It later suffered damage from bombing in 1972 but has since been restored. The Cathedral’s past in combination with the gothic elements of its design give the area a tranquil yet solemn ambience. Visitors can now enjoy the peaceful atmosphere whilst taking in the cathedral, lake and stone church.
Food and Drink
Ninh Binh‘s typography makes it a prime place to raise goats which has become a local delicacy. It is served up in a variety of local dishes from flavoursome stir fries to being served rare with herbs and seasoning, a real luxury.
Another local speciality is eel vermicelli. Carefully prepared eels are fried with seasonings and nuoc mam (fish sauce) and combined with banana flower and vermicelli to create a delicate but flavoursome dish. The dish is often accompanied by the fiery ginger and lemon juice to up the ante of the flavours.
Com chay is a simple but extremely satisfying local dish in Ninh Binh. Dried patties of rice are deep fried creating a crunchy delicious pancake which can then be topped with any variety things. Popular choices are fried beef, fried pigs heart and fried vegetables.
All of this tasty food is best washed down with a glass of the local drink Kim Son wine. The liqueur is made from glutinous wine which is dried under the sun and then fermented. The drink has a high alcohol content and is believed to have medicinal properties, especially when combine with other traditional ingredients.
Festivals and Events
Each year Ninh Binh holds a grand festival to celebrate its former glory days as the capital. From the 10-13th of March in the lunar calendar, the Truong Yen Festival takes place to honour the two kings Dinh Tien Hoang and Le Dai who established the capital. The celebration begins with a water procession in which a ceremonial bamboo adorned with wishes is rowed along the river in traditional dragon boats. Once in the middle of the river, rituals are completed, and then the worshipping ceremonies at the temples begin. After the ceremonies, the celebrations continue with traditional games, singing and dancing.
From the first to the third lunar months, the Bai Dinh Temple lights up with the colours of festivities as crowds of people pilgrimage to the New Year’s festival. Throughout the months the air at the temple becomes thick with incense smoke, and the sound of traditional music and singing reverberates amongst the temples. It is fantastic time to take in the true atmosphere of the temple with people joining together to celebrate their beliefs.
On the 18th day of the third lunar month, there is a festival in honour of Saint Quy Minh Dai Vuong. It is held in the remarkably beautiful setting of the Trang An complex and is a chance for local people to pray for health and prosperity. The usually still quiet waters of Trang An are brought to life by the colourful floating processions and musical performances which pay respects to the saint who defended Ninh Binh during the time of the 18th Hung King.
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