NAM DINH, LAND RICH IN HERITAGE
Situated about 100 km south of Hanoi, this is an off-road region that is sure to seduce curious travellers. The province of Nam Dinh is indeed a land rich in heritage: religious, handicraft, artistic, historical and natural wonders. The discovery of this province is perfectly harmonious with that of the sublime Halong Bay on land nearby.
The cradle of Vietnamese Catholicism
Nam Dinh province is the cradle of Vietnamese Catholicism, home to one of the largest concentrations of churches in the world. All over the province you will find Catholic religious buildings, from the simple village church to the oversized cathedral such as the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Phu Nai, Bui Chu Cathedral or Pham Phao Cathedral.
Xuan Thuy National Park
Admitted in 1989 in the Ramsar convention and recognized in 2004 by UNESCO as a core zone of the World Biosphere Reserve, the Xuan Thuy National Park is a must-see for all nature-loving travellers to Nam Dinh province. Covering an area of 7100 hectares including 4000 hectares of mangroves, Xuan Thuy National Park is a vast alluvial zone located south of the mouth of the Red River. It is a natural sanctuary, rich in a unique ecological system, for hundreds of plant and animal species including many wild animals and migratory birds. A superb boat ride in this nature reserve will allow you to observe hundreds of multicoloured birds that adorn the blue sky. Every year, between October and March, hundreds of species of migratory birds from the north make their home here. On your way to Xuan Thuy National Park, you can also visit fishing villages and enjoy fresh seafood brilliantly cooked Vietnamese style.
The pagoda of Co Le
Co Le Pagoda, located about 100 km south-east of Hanoi, was originally built in the 12th century by the monk Nguyen Minh Không, known for his healing powers, during the reign of King Ly Tran Tong (1128-1138). Originally built of wood, the Co Le pagoda was badly damaged over the centuries and was rebuilt in 1920 on the initiative of monk Pham Quang Tuyên, who was inspired by European Gothic architecture. The Co Le pagoda offers a singular but remarkable architecture, combining Buddhist and Gothic characters on the outside. If the vaulted domes are reminiscent of European churches, we find the typical architecture of the pagodas of North Vietnam with the triple-entry porch, the tower, the main sanctuary, the room dedicated to the worship of the monks who founded the pagoda and the temple. Don't miss the impressive bronze bell weighing 9,000 kilograms and standing at 4.2 meters high. Every year, from the 13th to the 16th of September, the pagoda festival is held, with dances, songs, folk games and dugout races.
The tradition of the puppet theatre on the water
Born more than 1000 years ago during the Ly Dynasty, water puppet theater is a popular art form in the Red River Delta. A show that tells both scenes of daily village life such as work in the rice fields but also plays love scenes and religious scenes with local deities. The village of Hong Quang, located in the province of Nam Dinh, has for centuries specialized in the making of these puppets. When you go there, you can appreciate the craftsmen's know-how and try to manipulate these beautiful puppets that are just waiting to come to life. Some of these puppets will then find their way to the stage of Hanoi's famous water puppet theatre.
The silkworm village of Co Chat
This is yet another interesting village to discover among all the handicraft villages that make up the rich heritage of Nam Dinh province. The village of Co Chat is considered as the cradle of the very high quality silk threads of North Vietnam. Several families of the village maintain this centuries-old traditional craft. By going to Co Chat village, you will have the opportunity to observe the meticulous work of the artisans and understand the process of making a silk thread, from the cocoon to the finished product.
Already during the colonial period the French had installed the Cotton Factory in Tonkin, one of the most profitable activities of Indochina on the eve of the 2nd World War. Created in 1900, the Cotton Factory of Tonkin relied on a very cheap labour force and on a pre-existing tradition of weaving in the region. Look at a 2000 dong banknote, you will see an illustration of the textile factories of Nam Dinh.
Nam Dinh Headquarters
For 82 days, from December 1946 to March 1947, in their surrounded positions, a handful of porpoises of the 6th Colonial Infantry Regiment resisted thousands of besiegers of Viet Minh troops in Nam Dinh. This siege truly marked the beginning of the Indochina War which was to last nearly 8 years.
Best time to go: You can travel to Nam Dinh any time of the year.