Lam Kinh has an unmistakable royal bearing.
It is said to be one of the capitals that Vietnam has had in its long history, and although it is not as famous as Hanoi and Hue, Lam Kinh does not lack importance or historical prominence as the origin of the nation's longest serving Le Dynasty (1428-1788).
Located 50 kilometers to the northeast of Thanh Hoa Town in the central province of the same name, Lam Kinh was declared the capital by Le Loi (1385-1433) as he used it as a base to launch an insurrection against the Chinese Ming troops between 1418 and 1427.
Le Loi came to the throne in 1428 and gave himself the name Le Thai To (the Founding Emperor) or King Le Thai To. However, Le Loi passed away after only five years on the throne.
The Lam Kinh Palace was once surrounded by four walls bordering an area of 314x254 meters that housed a royal citadel, an imperial residence, and an imperial temple area. These were situated in accordance with the Chinese character wang (çŽ‹) which means "king."
The structures have crumbled and turned to dust, and only the flagstones, which were once the columns that supported the buildings and shrines, stand to this day, six centuries later.
However, in an effort to redeem the site's place in the country's history, local authorities have so far rebuilt six imperial temples according to their descriptions in historical annals.
A giant banyan tree at Lam Kinh. The place was declared as the capital by Le Loi six centuries ago.
The temples are now dedicated to the worship of the Le kings together with Le Loi's father and grandfather. All the altars, copper censers and royal tools inside the temples are original.
The restored temples apart, Lam Kinh is a place worth visiting for the special ambience of its royal tombs.
Vinh Lang (King Le Thai To's tomb) is located 50 meters from the site's center. Statues of soldiers and elephants are placed around the tomb as spiritual guardians. Near the tomb is a headstone etched with the king's biography which was composed by Nguyen Trai (1380-1442), an illustrious scholar and a master tactician. It is decorated with the dynasty's emblem - dragons placed in sacred fig leaves.
The other tombs are: Huu Lang (King Le Thai Tong); Chieu Lang (King Le Thanh Tong); Lang Khon Nguyen (King Le Thanh Tong's mother Ngo Thi Ngoc Giao); Du Lang (King Le Hien Tong); and Kinh Lang (King Le Tuc Tong).
Another historic relic worth visiting is a temple about five kilometers from Lam Kinh where locals worship Le Lai, a national hero who sacrificed his life to save King Le Loi in 1418.
The calm, quiet atmosphere that pervades in Lam Kinh and surrounding areas makes for a solemn, reflective and soothing experience.
As part of the restoration and revival process, the Lam Kinh festival is celebrated during the eighth month of the Lunar Year with gusto, featuring several folk dances and games particular to the central region. The festival commemorates Le Loi's death anniversary and is held on the 22nd day of the month, one day after a festival in commemoration of Le Lai's death.
Do not leave without trying Lam Kinh specialties like roasted anabas and traditional rice cakes like che lam and banh gai.