A view of the Kinh Chu Grotto from An Phu Mountain
It takes some getting to, but both the destination and the path offer unforgettable vistas and a unique opportunity to connect with various moments in the nation's history.
First, we had to get to An Phu Mountain, 246 meters high, in the northern province of Hai Duong. From there, we climbed further to reach the Duong Nham mountain range and explore Kinh Chu, one of the nation's most beautiful grottos.
From the peak of An Phu Mountain, the mountain range, Duong Nham, also known as Thach Mon, lies before you and resembles a giant dragon lying on an immense bed of paddy fields.
To the north of Duong Nham, the Kinh Thay River winds around the foot of the mountain range. And to the southwest is the peaceful, picturesque Kinh Chu Village.
The high terrain and thick greenery keep Duong Nham cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
HOW TO GET THERE
Kinh Chu Grotto is situated in Duong Nham Hamlet, Pham Menh Commune, Kinh Mon District, Hai Duong Province, 57 kilometers east of Hanoi.
From the capital city, tourists can take bus No. 202 along National Highway 5 to the Phia Tay Bus Station in Hai Duong Town, and another bus to Kinh Mon Town. From there, it is a xe om (motorbike taxi) ride or a bus or taxi drive of around five kilometers to reach the Kinh Chu Grotto.
The mouth of Kinh Chu Grotto. Each of caves inside the grotto has its own distinctive features.
We climbed stone steps along the mountainside to the Kinh Chu Grotto, accompanied by the songs of cicadas.
The mouth of the Kinh Chu is about three meters wide. We stepped into what seemed like a maze of many caves, each with its distinct personality and challenge
The Mau Cave is marked by giant moss-covered stones and a hole in its dome. Directly opposite is the Vang Cave with stalactites resembling an elephant, a turtle, a diamond and many other animals and objects. The Luon Cave has a stream with clear, cool water.
Kinh Chu also has 53 stone steles dating back to the Tran, Le, Mac, and Nguyen dynasties, each engraved with the sayings of kings and mandarins who visited the grotto.
The most famous stele is the one that is inscribed with a poem by King Tran Thanh Tong (1240-1290) - the second emperor of the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400), who reigned over Dai Viet from 1258 to 1278, in Han script.
Kinh Chu also has a pagoda with many stone sculptures of Bodhisattvas and Buddhist monks.
During the fight against Mongol invaders, King Tran Nhan Tong (12581308), the Tran Dynasty's third emperor who reigned over Dai Viet from 1278 to 1293, and his troops were stationed at Kinh Chu Grotto.
At the top of the Duong Nham mountain range are two blockhouses built by French troops in 1950.
The magnificent landscape and fresh atmosphere of the place generate a feeling of peace deepened by the sounds of the Kinh Chu Pagoda's bell.
In fact, even before discovering the Kinh Chu Grotto and the Duong Nham mountain range, the Cao Temple at the top of An Phu
A stalactite resembling an elephant in Kinh Chu Grotto's Vang Cave
Mountain offers a valuable glimpse into the nation's past. The temple is dedicated to An Sinh Vuong Tran Lieu (1211-1251), the elder brother of King Tran Thai Tong - the second emperor of the Tran Dynasty, and father of Tran Quoc Tuan or Tran Hung Dao - one of Vietnam's greatest generals.
Down 50 meters from the Cao Temple stands the 12.7-meter high Tran Hung Dao statue made of green stones. Tran Hung Dao, was instrumental in defeating Mongol invasions and was posthumously bestowed Hung Dao Dai Vuong (Grand Lord Hung Dao) for his military contributions. In the yard where the statue is located is a long terracotta relief depicting the wars against the Mongol forces.
Halfway down the mountain are the Tuong Van Pagoda and the Thanh Mau Temple, further adding to the serenity of the place.