Yen Tu Mountain, the most famous religious attraction in Vietnam, located in the northern coastal Quang Ninh province. Yen Tu is well known for the picturesque landscapes, ancient pagodas and especially the foundation of Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen Sect. The mountain is called the capital of Buddhism in Vietnam because over 700 years, Yen Tu still remains the huge system of pagodas, temples and valuable relics. The itinerary to Yen Tu would make ones feel that they are on their way to the Promise land to find peace in their soul.
I. OVERVIEW ABOUT YEN TU MOUNTAIN
Yen Tu Mountain in Thuong Yen Commune is about 14 km from the center of Uong Bi town (Quang Ninh), belongs to the Dong Trieu Mountain Range in the north-eastern area of Vietnam. Previously, Mount Yen Tu was called “Voi Mount” because the shape of a mountain looks like a giant elephant. Yen Tu is also known as “Bach Van Son” as the mountain is surrounded by white huge clouds around the year. Dong Pagoda of Yen Tu lies in the highest peak, with the altitude of 1,068 meters above the sea.
Legend has it that King Tran Nhan Tong (1258-1308), the third emperor of Tran Dynasty, who guided Dai Viet army to defeat the Mongolian invaders in 1285 and 1287, decided to leave the palace, abdicated the throne to his son Tran Thuyen (as King Tran Anh Tong) and started a new life as a Buddhist monk.
He devoted his life to the Buddha – he concentrated on ascetic virtues for many years and then established temples, meditation centers where he could perform his lectures to other monks and propagate Buddhist scriptures. Later, he co-established the Truc Lam Zen Sect, the first Vietnamese Buddhist Zen Institution. Up to now, Yen Tu has always been a place that a lot of Buddhists choose to pray and pilgrimage.
Additionally, Yen Tu has a great natural diversity. Along the path to ancient pagodas, temples, there are thick bamboo and pine forests. Also, architectural masterpieces can be seen in anywhere: In the dense forests, next to the pagodas and temples, or even at the peak of the mountain. From the top of Yen Tu Mount, visitors can look to the East and enjoy the poetic scenery of Ha Long Bay with thousands of limestone islands or they can look to the South and see Hai Phong city with Bach Dang rivers flowing gently like a growing ribbon. Each year, Yen Tu holds the spring festival lasting 3 months from the 10th day of the first lunar month.
II. WHEN TO TRAVEL TO YEN TU MOUNTAIN
1. Weather in Yen Tu Mountain
Nestled in the Dong Trieu mountainous area, Yen Tu Mount has various dense bamboo and pine forests, which gives the mountain a cool, mild climate around the year. The annual average temperature in Yen Tu is 22.2 degrees Celsius. There are four seasons in Yen Tu: Spring, summer, autumn and winter; however, summer and winter are the two main and distinct ones. Summer lasts from April to July and has the temperature from 22 to 30 degrees Celsius. Winter lasts from November to January and has the temperature from 10 to 17 degrees Celsius. The total annual rainfall in Yen Tu is 1,600mm. It rains mostly in June, July, and August, which accounts for 60% of the annual rainfall, and the average number of rainy days is 153 days.
2. The best time to travel to Yen Tu Mountain
As having a temperate and pleasant climate, it is suitable to visit Yen Tu at any time of the year. However, there is a 3-month festival in the mountain from January to March, so there are a lot of Buddhists from around the country pilgrimage to this sacred landmark for praying. The worshipers consider it as a time to show their sincerity and wish for a new year to Buddha and also to get away from their sorrows and misery in the previous year. Therefore, if you visit Yen Tu with a view to worship, this is the best time for you to contemplate the breathtaking view of the mountain and join the huge Buddhism festival as well, especially in February when it is less crowded by people.
If you go there for sightseeing purpose, it will be better for you to reach the mountain from September to December as there are not many tourists there so you can enjoy the peaceful, quiet atmosphere and the weather is not rainy so it will be easier for to climb to the grand mountain peak.
III. HOW TO GET TO/AROUND YEN TU MOUNTAIN
1. How to get to Yen Tu Mountain
a. Getting to Yen Tu Mountain by shuttle bus
Shuttle bus is the most suitable vehicle to get to Yen Tu as it is a very economical transportation and you may get lost if you go to the mountain on your own. Shuttle buses whose route includes Yen Tu are always available in some big station in Ha Noi such as Nuoc Ngam station, My Dinh station Luong Yen station or Giap Bat station. You should get on the shuttle bus which has a route from Hanoi to Quang Ninh and tell the driver your destination is Yen Tu, they will understand and take you to Trinh Temple, the first temple of the pagoda system in Yen Tu and then you can take a taxi to Yen Tu Mount.
b. Getting to Yen Tu Mountain by private car
From Hanoi, you can easily rent a private car to visit Yen Tu. This is the most convenient and flexible way as you don’t have to wait for others like shuttle bus and just follow your own schedule. It also allows you some breaks for photographs, refreshments or a toilet stop along the way whenever you want. Additionally, you can choose the proper kind of car for your group or family. The average price for renting a private car is from VND 1.300.000 to VND 4,500,000 (including payment for tolls, petrol, and driver) depending on the size, brand and status of the car you want to rent. The available types of cars include 4 seats, 7 seats, 16 seats, 29 seats, 35 seats and 45 seats.
c. Getting to Yen Tu Mountain by motorbike
Using motorbike is another alternative choice as it is a very easy and cheap to rent this vehicle and also suitable for travelers who want to go by themselves. However, you should only rent this means of transportation if you’re a skillful motorbike driver and you have known the way to Yen Tu Mount thoroughly. What is more, make sure that you have checked the weather condition, maps as well as the driver license before starting the journey. The motorbike rental price ranges from VND 90,000 to VND 150,000 per day depending on the type of motorbike and the number of days you want to rent the motorbike.
2. How to get around Yen Tu Mountain
a. Getting around Yen Tu Mountain by Aerial tramway
In order to help visitors reach the pagodas temples in the mountain more easily, the Yen Tu Aerial tramway was introduced in 2002 as an alternative to climbing 6km of stone steps to the peak of Yen Tu Mount. The two stages when you get to the peak of Yen Tu by this means of transportation. The first stage is at the foot of Yen Tu Mount to Hoa Yen pagoda, about 1,2 km as the crow flies. The cable car stops at Hoa Yen Pagoda from which you can choose to continue the second trip by cable car at Mot Mai pagoda or to hike up to the top of the mountain. In addition, traveling by this means of transportation allows you to contemplate the whole fascinating view of the Yen Tu National Forest, which would give you an amazing experience.
b. Getting around Yen Tu Mountain on foot
Another way for you to get to the top of the mountain is to walk. By this way, you will pass through the dense green bamboo forests, stream and hike up thousands of step stones to the peak. Moreover, most Buddhist pilgrims will try this way, even many 80 – year – old women because they believe that taking up this challenging journey is a way of expressing their sincerity to Buddha.
Tips for traveling to Yen Tu mountain peak
- You should check your health condition before to decide whether you are well enough to make the hike or not.
- Take on a comfortable pair of walking shoes. The stones are very slippery especially during the spring and the summer
- Bring along a raincoat with you in case it rains on the way to the top of the mountain
IV. WHERE TO GO IN YEN TU MOUNTAIN
1. Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen Sect – Truc Lam Yen Tu
Truc Lam Yen Tu, also known as Lan Pagoda or Long Dong Tu, is a pagoda on Yen Tu Mountain. In 1293, King Tran Nhan Tong built and made this pagoda a splendid place in order to preach sermons to other monks. Lan Pagoda is located on a hill that looks like a lying dragon. Lan Pagoda still remains historical vestiges. In the courtyard of the pagoda, there is a bronze statue of Buddha weighing nearly 4 tons. Behind the Main Hall, there is a statue of Bo De Diem made of wood with 3.2m height, weighs about 3.2 tons with delicate carvings.
2. Giai Oan Stream
The next destination you visit is Giai Oan Stream. It is said that hundreds of the imperial concubines failed to persuade the King to return the palace so they drowned themselves in the stream of the mountain. Therefore, in order to give the wandering souls a home and remind other people of them, the king built the Giai Oan Pagoda next to the stream.
3. Hue Quang Tower
Continue climbing up 500m higher from the stream, and then walking along a path among green pine trees, visitors will reach Hue Quang Tower Garden. This is where a tower with the statue of Buddhist King Tran Nhan Tong inside is located. The statue has a height of 62cm and is made of marble, surrounded by 97 other smaller stupas of Yen Tu monks from the Tran Dynasty.
4. Hoa Yen Pagoda
This is the biggest pagoda in the in Yen Tu Mountain. Hoa Yen pagoda was built in Ly Dynasty and had an old name Van Yen. Initially, Hoa Yen was a very big pagoda, consisting of several main buildings, provided with bell and drum towers, a “predestination” shrine (Am Thien Dịnh) and more. This was the place where the retired king meditated, preached and taught his students. Later, it fell in ruins. The present Hoa Pagoda is built on the old foundations but smaller.
5. Mot Mai Pagoda
This is a unique pagoda in the temple and pagoda system of Yen Tu. It has the name Mot Mai because half of the pagoda is a cave so that there is only a half of the roof. The pagoda is small but unique because it still maintains the system of white stone worship statues from the Le and the early Nguyen dynasty.
6. Bao Sai Pagoda
The pagoda is located in the cliff of Yen Tu, at an altitude of 724 meters above sea level, named after Bao Master Zen who had here and is King Tran Tran Nhan Tong’s first disciple. Bao Sai pagoda was restored and rebuilt considerably in 1989 and 1995, which gives the pagoda a spacious precinct with the main hall, courtyard, and a stone well.
7. Dong Pagoda
Dong Pagoda is the ultimate goal, lying on the peak of the mountain. The pagoda has statues of Lord Buddha Sakyamuni the three founders of Truc Lam Zen Sect: King Tran Nhan Tong, Phap Loa, and Hue Quang. Also, from here you can enjoy a fascinating scenery of the entire coastal area up to Ha Long Bay, a reward reserved for anyone who has finished their long journey to the top.
V. WHERE TO STAY IN YEN TU
There are not many hotels to stay over as most travelers visit Yen Tu as a day trip. However, for those who would like to extend their stay, you can check some suggestions as below
1. Ngoc Hai Hotel – A full-service hotel for tourists
This hotel is opposite to Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen Sect, which is very convenient for tourists to visit the mountain. Moreover, the hotel has a large garage for shuttle buses and a restaurant as well. With a very reasonable price, you can have a room with a balcony looking out the superb mountain scenery.
- Address: Opposite to Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen Sect, Thuong Yen Cong commune, Uong Bi city, Quang Ninh Province
- Hotline: +84 986 197 240; +84 918 629 204
- Phone: +84 2033 664 120
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Price: VND 300,000 – VND 1,000,000 depending on the number of beds of the room
2. Thanh Binh Hotel – A great and cozy place for tourists
Located near Truc Lam Yen Ty Zent Sect, this hotel is also very suitable for tourists to stay when visiting Yen Tu. Hotel rooms are fully furnished with air condition, wifi, cable TV. It also has large garage for tourists.
- Address: Nam Mau, Thuong Yen Cong Commune, Uong Bi city, Quang Ninh Province
- Hotline: +84 916 088 665
- Telephone: +84 333 853 215
- Price: VND 350,000 – VDN 800,000 depending on the number of beds of the room
3. Tinh Thuong Hotel – A hotel with affordable price and fine facilities
It is very convenient and easy to get to Yen Tu Mount from this hotel as it is near Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen Sect. The staff here are very friendly and facilities in each room are in good condition. Moreover, Tinh Tuong Hotel can provide tourists with karaoke rooms to help tourists relax and have a good time when visiting Yen Tu
- Address: Thuong Yen Cong Commune, Uong Bi city, Quang Ninh province
- Hotline: +84 983 975 565 – +84 915 808 344
- Email: email@example.com
- Price: VND 450,000 – VND 550,000
4. Doan Ruc Hotel – A simple and comfortable hotel
This hotel restaurant has a very suitable location, near the foot of Yen Tu Mount. All rooms here are spacious and furnished with cable TV. Also, it has a restaurant serving vegetarian diet as well as local dishes in Yen Tu.
- Address: Doan Ruc Hotel and Restaurant, 33 Yen Tu street, – Nam Mau 2 Hamlet, Thuong Yen Cong Commune, Uong Bi city, Quang Ninh Province
- Hotline: +84 972 824 243
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Price: VND 200,000 – VND 250,000
VI. WHAT TO EAT IN YEN TU MOUNTAIN
1. Chicken soup with Bau wine – An elegant and healthy dish
This is a local dish only available in Yen Tu. The simple soup includes chicken, ginger, spices and Bau wine – a kind of local wine. Yet, its taste is so elegant and it helps to keep warm especially in winter. Therefore, don’t forget to enjoy this dish after having a long and difficult journey to the top of the mountain.
Price: Around VND 25,000 – VND 35,000
2. Yen Tu bamboo sprouts – A Special local vegetable
Yen Tu is famous for bamboo sprout and this kind of vegetable is featured in almost local dishes. The texture and taste are different to any other types of vegetable. It is also high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Bamboo sprout can be boiled, fried or simply eaten with sesame seeds and salt for its freshness.
Price: VND 15,000 – VND 30,000
3. Fried stream fish – Primitive fresh dish
After the locals catch the fish from the stream, they season the fish with a pinch of salt, pepper and then fry deeply in oil. Enjoy the greasy crispy fish with rice and you will experience the special feeling.
Price: VND 30,000
4. Seafood spring roll – Unique and tasty local food
This dish is not only famous in Yen Tu but it is also famous in Quang Ninh province. There is a lot of ingredients in this dish, from seafood to some kinds of vegetables. You will be amazed by the crunch of the rice paper and the slightly sweet and aromatic taste of the combination inside.
Price: VND 40,000 – VND 50,000
VII. WHAT TO BUY IN YEN TU MOUNTAIN
1. Yen Tu apricot wine
Besides contemplating majestic scene of the mountain, tourists will have a chance to enjoy the most famous Yen Tu specialty – apricot wine which has a gently sweet and sour taste. Apricot trees are grown on the top of the mountain and harvested in the summer. The apricots will be chosen and processed by a barmy method to produce the most fragrant apricots wine. Also, this kind of wine is considered to help improve stomach’s condition and detoxicate.
2. Yen Tu honey
The honey here is brought from the forest so this notorious liquid has a very special sweetness and good for health. Therefore, when visiting Yen Tu, tourists often buy this kind of honey as a gift for friends
3. Tien Yen Tu Medicated Oil
This one is made of Trau Tien, a kind of herb grown in the foot of Yen Tu Mountain. It is very suitable and a must-have item when traveling because it gently soothes and quickly brings relief to a headache and cold symptoms. It also provides fast and effective relief for arthritis, backache, minor aches, muscle pain, sprains.
VII. SOME TIPS FOR TRAVELING TO YEN TU MOUNTAIN
- Respect local people’s beliefs as Yen Tu is considered the biggest and most important Buddhism center in Vietnam.
- Cable cars don’t operate on days which have strong wind or heavy rain. Therefore, you should check the weather forecast before deciding to visit Yen Tu.
- The weather at the top of the mountain is always cold and windy so you should bring a jacket with you.
- Local people there may offer various types of traditional herb medicine. It is advisable not to try anything you are not familiar with because you may get allergic.
- Be careful with pickpockets while climbing to the mountain, especially during the festival time. Sadly, there are some people who are not there for the good reasons and they will not hesitate to commit a theft.
- Bring the camera with you because you will not want to miss the marvelous scenery along the path to the peak of the mountain.
The above is the complete from A to Z Yen Tu Mountain Travel guidebook for you. Along with these above activities, there are still many other wonderful things in Yen Tu Mountain are waiting for your exploration and footprints. Wish that you’ll have a memorable trip!