Dear Travel Junkies:
Bai Dinh Temple ("Chùa Bái Đính" translated in Vietnamese) is a large complex of Buddhist temples on Bai Dinh Mountain in the Ninh Binh Province, Vietnam. It is a famous tourist attraction site in northern Vietnam. The temple encompasses the new and the old temples.
The new temple known as the New Bai Dinh Temple ("Chùa Mới" or "Bai Đính Tân Tự" translated in Vietnamese) is located on the Ba Rau hills, near the Hoang Long River. The large newly built complex includes many structures and was finally completed in 2010. However, when I was there in Fall 2011, there were a lot of construction still happening so I think there will be some new additions to the temple the next time I return. The magnificent temple's architecture had large halls, traditional lines and details, large courtyards and enclosures. The interior decorations were intricately detailed from local handicraft villages. You will be amazed to witness the bronzed workmanships on most decorations, carved stones, wood carpentries, and detailed embroideries from the talented local villagers. I was in awe and very impressed with the temple's architecture and the workmanship the villagers had put together.
The old temple or the original Bai Dinh pagoda ("Chùa cũ" translated in Vietnamese) is located in the foothills from the new temple. You will need comfortable footwear for this trip, especially for ascending a series of over 300 stone steps to reach the entry of the old temple. I loved how the temple itself is located in a series of small caves on the mountainside. I manned this entire day trip in sandals (aka flip flops or thongs) in the rain.
The best time to visit the Bai Dinh temple is on the 6th day of the first lunar month where the temple hosts a large festival drawing in huge crowds to bring in the new year. I love new year's celebrations! It's so much fun. It is the greatest time to visit Vietnam around this time.
So if you are planning to do what I did, wear comfortable shoes, light-weight clothing, water bottle, hat, lots of sun block, and money for donations or souvenirs. Beware of bombarding vendors who will follow you around until you buy something. However, everything in Vietnam is extremely cheap so splurge a little and remember to negotiate or have someone good at it do it for you.
You will notice all the temples have signs displaying no photography allowed inside the temple because it is a cultural thing my mother said. My aunt explained very briefly that it is bad fortune to take photos of the statues and said that some people had suffered from the misfortune of not following the religious rules like life possession and such. From there on, I never took a single photo of a statue. On another note, you will want to feast your eyes on the enormous gold plated buddhist statues inside the new temples. Take my word for it, you will never see any temple like this one in Vietnam.
Anyways, I'll give you some more pointers in my next posts for traveling in Vietnam.
Happy traveling =)
Google image I found of the new complex.
Amazing entry pathway to the old temple
A vendor following my father up until he caves in to buy something LOL
Take a break from climbing the cobble stone stairs up to the old temple
Entering the new complex
One of the new temples in the new complex
Magnificent stone carved statues lined up on the pathway up to the Pagoda