Buddhism has been existed in Vietnam for more than 2.000 years. Yen Tu pagoda has long been associated with the name of Buddhist king Tran Nhan Tong who founded the Truc Lam Zen. This pagoda is the capital of Buddhism of Dai Viet (the old name of Vietnam). With the unique location, architecture and history, Yen Tu pagoda has been recognized as a special relic of Vietnam.
More than 700 years ago, after two victorious defends against the mighty Mongolian army (1285 and 12870), King Tran Nhan Tong left the royal palace in Thang Long (Hanoi nowadays) to found Truc Lam Zen sect with a unique Buddhist culture of the Vietnamese people.
Buddhist King Tran Nhan Tong
He went to Yen Tu mountain to build Yen Tu Pagoda and to lead an ascetic religious life on a day in 1299. Later, people called him “Buddhist King”. Visitors from all over the country will go to Yen Tu pagoda from the 10th of January according to the lunar calendar to attend Yen Tu festival, worship Buddha and view the spectacular scenery.
Yen Tu has been the center of Buddhism in Vietnam for many centuries. Every year on February 28th (January 10th in Lunar calendar), the opening ceremony of Yen Tu festival took place in Giai Oan yard, Yen Tu mountain, Uong Bi City, Quang Ninh province. Yen Tu festival is one out of several spring festival in Vietnam and it last for 3 spring months. During that 3 months, millions of visitors will come to Yen Tu pagoda to join festival, worship to Buddha, King Tran Nhan Tong, pray for luck, health and wealth for the new year.
Yen Tu festival in opening day
In the opening day, Yen Tu festival will welcome the attendance of Quang Ninh province’s president and many other leaders. The ceremony will start with the speech then chairman of Quang Ninh province and chairman of Quang Ninh Buddhism will hit the drum, ring the gigantic golden bell to officially start the festival. Even if you are no Buddhist, you can still enjoy the religious atmosphere of Yen Tu festival as well as Vietnamese new year.
Located thousands of meters below the ocean level, Yen Tu pagoda has its own unique weather all year round. The weather here is cool all year round, cold in the winter, often 10 degrees lower compare to the ground. If you decide to go to Yen Tu in the spring to attend Yen Tu festival, chances are you will be facing with thick foggy which can cause rain. All north of Vietnam rains in the first few month of lunar new year, that’s the fact.
Yen Tu pagoda located in Uong Bi city, Quang Ninh province, about 120km from Hanoi city center. You can use all kind of transportations to get here with ease and for cheap. From Hanoi, you can catch a bus from My Dinh bus station. You can only catch bus to Quang Ninh in My Dinh station because only buses from north stations can go to north provinces. However you can still find buses to Quang Ninh from other stations, but they are illegal. A bus ticket will cost you about 100.000 VND (4.4 USD). Kumho Viet Thanh and Phuc Xuyen are two most reliable brands that you should choose. You can also book private car or limousine car, but they will cost more, about 250.000 VND (11 USD). Motorbike is also a good idea because it is only 120km on a very good condition road.
Anyone can go to Yen Tu with cable cars
The road to Yen Tu located deep inside the mountain, about 21km from the main road. After getting off the bus, you can catch a taxi or motorbike taxi to go to Yen Tu. From then you can follow the directions to make your way to the mountain.
The instruction is for visitors from Hanoi, if you are not in Hanoi, you can use the google map to find a way.
You can either climb to the top of Yen Tu or use the cable car. The price for cable car is 280.000 VND round trip. There are some extra services like electric cars, buses, car park cost around 10.000 VND to 20.000 VND, remember to bring cash to spend because local people don’t accept credit cards.
You can complete your trip to top of Yen Tu pagoda within a day (you will have to start very early in the morning if you climb), so you don’t have to book accommodation in advance. If you want to spend a day or two to discover Uong Bi city, you should book hotels in Uong Bi city which is about 15km to the north. Uong Bi is a small peaceful city with friendly local people and a huge pagoda name Ba Vang. It is worth to spend a night there after Yen Tu.
Yen Tu pagoda is not a super popular destination to foreigner tourists, but a visit to the center of Buddhism in Vietnam will not disappointed you.
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