VietNamNet Bridge – Van Don Island is quiet on a rainy day. When we paid them a visit, the range of islands in Bai Tu Long Bay was covered in a blanket of drizzle.


Green landscape: An aerial view from Cua Ong Temple. VNS Photos Tran Mai Huong

We travelled from Cam Pha, passing small islands to Cai Bau Island, which hosts Cai Rong Town, the district’s centre.

Besides Cai Bau, Van Don Island district has other big islands like Quan Lan and Minh Chau.

With more than 600 islands of different sizes around the north and northeast of Bai Tu Long Bay, 20 of which are habitable, Van Don District plays an important strategic role. Over a total area of, the district has high economic and tourism potential, as well as distinctive cultural and historical features.


Busy port: Ships docked at Cai Rong Port.

According to researchers, inhabitation of Van Don stretches back thousands of years, evidence of which has been found at a number of archaeological sites.

Soi Nhu Cave site hosts traces of New Stone Age (12,000 - 5,000 BC) settlers, even earlier than Ha Long Culture (3,000 - 1,500 BC).

The name Van Don stems from the Van Mountain on Quan Lan Island. In AD 980, the early Le Dynasty (980-1009) set up an army outpost there.

In 1149 under the reign of Ly Anh Tong (1138-1175), the Van Don Island authority was officially formed as a strategic location, at the same time as a busy trading port of Dai Viet. The port was bustling under the dynasties of Ly (1009-1225), Tran (1225-1400), and later Le (1442-1789) hosting trading ships from other countries.

Van Don is also home to various historical sites representing important events in the national fight against foreign invaders. In 1288, on the Mang River on Quan Lan Island, under the command of General Tran Khanh Du, the Vietnamese troops defeated Yuan-Mongol invaders in the historic Bach Dang victory.

Van Don also has great tourism potential, with Bai Tu Long Nature Reserve, magnificent caves, beautiful pristine beaches on the islands of Quan Lan, Minh Chau, Ngoc Vung and the natural landscapes on Hon Dua and Thien Nga islands.


Buy and sell: Bustling trade at Cai Rong Port.

Despite the rain, we took a car trip round the main island of Cai Bau. Roads on the island are fairly good, even though much of the infrastructure is still being built.

Hai Phong-Ha Long Highway has just opened while other construction has been accelerated.

Van Don Airport recently welcomed its first passengers while the terminal is being completed to receive commercial guests early next year.

The Van Don recreational centre is also under construction. The authorities of Quang Ninh Province plan to call for investment in other projects, like Phuong Hoang Island Ecological Tourism Area, sea tourism sites on Soi Nhu and Chin islets and the Cai Bau Island Ecological Tourism Site.

We visited Thien Vien Truc Lam Giac Vien (Giac Vien Monastery), which offers stunning views over Bai Tu Long Bay. The monastery was built on the foundations of Phuc Linh Pagoda, which was built 700 years ago. The monastery was inaugurated ten years ago, its structure designed to blend with nature. We found hundreds of visitors at the site even though it was rainy.


Sacred place: People pray at the Cua Ong Temple.


Across the water: A view from Cua Ong Temple to Bai Tu Long Bay. 

We moved to Van Hoa Port before arriving at Cai Rong Town, the administrative centre of Van Don Island.

Cai Rong Port, a hub in the trading port system of ancient Van Don, is still busy.

When we left Cai Bau Island to visit Cua Ong Temple and pay tribute to Hung Nhuong Dai Vuong Tran Quoc Tang (1252-1313), it was still raining in Van Don.

Cua Ong Temple was built to honour Tran Quoc Tang, the third son of renowned General Tran Hung Dao (1228-1300).

Tang was a talented general under the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400), who made considerable contributions to fighting against Yuan-Mongol invaders in the 13th century. Following the royal decree, he guarded the restive northeast border of the country from 1288 till he died.

Locals respected him and built the temple to worship him after his death.

The temple consists of three areas: the Lower, Middle and Upper temples. The highest temple hosts the mausoleum of Tran Quoc Tang.

As well as a place to worship Tran Quoc Tang, Cua Ong Temple is the only location dedicated to Gen Tran Hung Dao’s family and his close assistants. The figures have been immortalised in 30 valuable statues.

The temple was listed as a special national relic site and has become a popular tourism destination for domestic tourists. The temple festival is held from the 2nd until the end of the third lunar month with various cultural activities. 

By Tran Mai Huong

Source: VNS

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