Of all the places that I have visited in Vietnam I think I have neglected to write about Ninh Binh. So today I decided to take you on a trail to the famed Bai Dinh temple that sits on the outskirts of this Vietnamese city.
For those of you who have not heard of Bai Dinh temple before, allow me to give you a brief introduction to the spiritual world of the Vietnamese. The Bai Dinh mountain is located not far off from Ninh Binh. The Bai Dinh temple is actually a temple complex that covers a large expanse of land. An old temple is a remnant of the past and a larger newer temple is the addition from the present. While the Bai Dinh temple is a tourist attraction, it also serves as a pilgrimage spot for many of the local Vietnamese.
THE BAI DINH TEMPLE: GETTING THERE
Since we were staying on the other side of town, it was a drive to get there. Most people rent cars or take a cab. If you are on a budget this would probably drain a large part of it out. We rented a motorbike ($5 – $6 a day) and we were two of us. So that was almost just 3 dollars a person. So much cheaper than the cab option! There are a few things that you need to keep in mind though.
- Always wear a helmet or the police will descend on you in minutes.
- Ninh Binh can get hot so carry some water and don’t forget to rehydrate. Sunscreen is also very important. Don’t leave home without it.
- You need to head out to town for lunch. There isn’t much around. So fill your belly before you leave.
ENTERING THE BAI DINH TEMPLE COMPLEX
When one gate closes find another!
Interestingly the front entrance of this massive complex is closed. A lot of visitors see this and head back disappointed. Instead of turning back home proceed to the back entrance. There is a huge packing lot that you can park in for a nominal fee. With your motorbike parked away head over to the ticket counter and
You can take the electric cart and get to the main entrance. Bear in mind that the electric cart is charged for each way. We took a one way ticket. The lady at the counter told us we could buy the return ticket from inside if we wanted. It turned out to be a good decision. While we were busy wandering through the Bai Dinh temple complex we found that we had covered more than half way back to the parking lot. The last leg of the journey was a lovely path with trees on either side.
THE INNER VIEWS OF BAI DINH TEMPLE
The first glimpse after you enter the main gate is pretty soothing.
There is much that the Bai Dinh temple has for people to see. Unfortunately like most tourists I wasn’t able to grasp the whole history behind the religious site. A few snippets perhaps but that barely gives you an insight into the massive structure. That is the reason why I am going to let the pictures speak to you.
The rows of Buddhist monks. I think they are the equivalent of the Christian saints. People from all over Vietnam come to Bai Dinh temple to pay homage to them. You will notice that the statues are worn because everyone keeps touching them in hope that their requests will be granted.
The bell tower
The bell tower had an amazing view of the view point. We didn’t really go up to the top of the next tower because we did not have much time. We did however get quite close as you will soon see.
I have to admit we got a little closer than this!
One of the many sculptures!
The Laughing Buddha: A personal favorite! He just make me feel like smiling. I think it’s the smile that is contagious.
Let’s not forget the little men of Vietnam.
That was a really long walk in the hot hot sun!
The Bai Dinh temple was definitely one of the high points of my stay in Ninh Binh. It is a quiet getaway from the bustle of the city. The people are warm and welcoming. I would recommend asking people about the stories that go along with each of the sculptures.
We followed a tour group and overheard a few of the snippets of their conversation. Though if I had to do things again I would still have gone on my own. Not just because it is cheaper but because the tours just move too fast for my comfort.