My Visit To Phu Tay Ho In Hanoi

Posted by : foongpc | Friday, May 29, 2015 | Published in


If visiting temples during your travels is your kind of thing, then a visit to Phu Tay Ho in Hanoi should be included in your itinerary.

It was my last day in Hanoi and I was travelling solo. My friend had left the day before. Right after my tour of the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum in the morning, I flagged down a taxi to take me to a part of Hanoi that I wanted to see badly - the West Lake area.

My first stop at West Lake was at Phu Tay Ho Temple.

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That is the main entrance gate of the temple. My taxi driver did not stop in front of this temple but further off, and I had to walk quite a bit to reach here. It was OK as I did not mind walking and exploring the place.

Below is the same gate from the other side.

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Located on a peninsula in the middle of West Lake, the Tay Ho Temple was rather quiet during my visit. But I heard that it would get quite crowded during 1st and 15th days of each lunar month.

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The temple, also known as Tay Ho Pagoda, is not a Buddhist temple - neither is it a Confucius temple. It is actually dedicated to the Mother Goddess, Thanh Mau. 

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Legend has it that sometime in the 17th century, the Mother Goddess appeared as a pretty girl to a fisherman on the lake, smiling and reciting poetry. However, she disappeared without a trace after that. The locals found out her real identity and decided to build Phu Tay Ho.

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The main building of the temple, which is located on the left side after entering the main gate.

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Intricate carvings

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The Jade Emperor is also worshipped here, although he is deemed less important than the Mother Goddess.

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Not sure why, but I did not take any pictures inside the temple that day. Maybe that's a good thing because then you will visit this temple to have a look yourself rather than just reading from my blog haha!

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I like the ambiance here - peaceful and quiet. Not many visitors and worshippers that day.

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I like the shape of that roof with the dragon carvings!

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There were some Vietnam heritage trees in the temple compound, like this one.

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It's called Ficus Benjaminal otherwise known as the Weeping Fig tree.

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Look at this tree! It was slanting so much it needed supporting beams.

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One good thing about this temple is you get to see the view of West Lake.

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Not sure what structure this is but it has two elephants at the bottom and two dragons at the top. Hanging from the middle is a bat-shaped axe.

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Bats are regarded as auspicious objects as the word for bat and good fortune are homonyms in Chinese.

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Walking towards the right side of the temple compound while enjoying the view of the lake.

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Another heritage tree here - banyan tree.

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This tree is so tall!

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Can you see a golden buffalo and its calf in the photo below?

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I forgot to take a close shot of the buffaloes! Apparently there's a legend surrounding these buffaloes but I was not too clear about it.

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Another temple building with lovely dragon carvings at the rooftop.

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Close shot of the rooftop carvings.

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More photos ....

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A giant bell and a carp. Not sure what they represents.

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It was said that this giant bell is actually a replica of an even larger bell, which according to legend, when it was rung, the sound could be heard as far away as China!

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I took only about half an hour to complete my tour of Phu Tay Ho. Clearly, the temple was not very large but it was still a nice temple to visit.

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There are actually many temples around West Lake. So expect me to go temple hopping! LOL!

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Which temple would I be visiting next? Stay tuned!

The Empress Of China Sub-Theme Song - The Secret Of Tears

Posted by : foongpc | Thursday, May 28, 2015 | Published in


This is my piano version of the sub-theme song from Fan Bingbing's The Empress Of China (TVB version) called "The Secret Of Tears". Originally sung by Jinny Ng, I found this song to be extremely addictive! Hope you like it! : )

You can listen to my piano version of the main theme entitled Queen HERE.

If you like, do follow me on SoundCloud for all my other piano performances and recordings HERE.

A Disappointing Dinner At Cha Ca La Vong In Hanoi

Posted by : foongpc | Friday, May 22, 2015 | Published in


I really do not know why Cha Ca La Vong is so famous! Why is it even mentioned in almost all travel guide books on Hanoi is beyond me! It's even listed as one of the top 100 things you must try before you die by cuisine experts. Really? You see, I don't think it's worth going to this restaurant at all!

Let's backtrack to my last day in Hanoi. I have just visited Vietnam Museum Of Ethnology (will blog about this later) and was rushing back to the Old Quarter just to try this restaurant which was highly recommended in most travel guide books. I was rushing because I needed to reach the airport by 7pm to take my flight home. I did not want to miss this most talked about restaurant before heading home.

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That's Cha Ca Street in the Old Quarter. Can you see the small white signboard on the right with the red words "Cha Ca La Vong"?

When I entered the restaurant, a guy inside told me it's not opened for dinner yet, and asked me to wait till 5pm. At that time, it was 10 minutes to 5pm. So I walked leisurely around the streets and returned right on the dot at 5pm.

Unfortunately, I was told that the restaurant was still not opened yet and I would have to wait till 5.15pm. I was not very pleased on hearing that. I thought the least they could do was to let me sit down and wait but no, they did not do that. What's even worse was the guy who spoke to me was not exactly apologetic and I would even say he had quite a rude "take it or leave" attitude.

Well, since I was so hard up for the "so called famous cha ca dish", I guess there's nothing I could do but to go for another leisure walk around town. I wondered if I would even make it back to my hotel on time as I had already booked the taxi to the airport which would arrive at my hotel at 6pm to pick me up!

Anyway, at 5.20pm, I returned to the restaurant, and they ushered me upstairs.

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There is no menu in this restaurant because they have only one dish - the much talked about cha ca or grilled catfish, supposedly a Hanoi street delicacy. The grilled fish is usually marinated, grilled on charcoal, then fried in oil.

But they were fast - immediately after I sat down, a staff came out with a burner and a small pan on top containing the grilled fish already frying in oil that's probably flavoured with spices. She also  brought out side dishes consisting of fresh herbs, peanuts, fish sauce with chili and a plate of rice noodles.

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The staff then put in some spring onions and fresh dill into the hot pan and stirred them with the fish already inside. And it's done - ready to be eaten.

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I did not really know how to eat it but after having been in Hanoi for five days, I did not think it was that difficult to figure it out. What I did was place some rice noodles into the empty bowl, add in one or two pieces of the grilled fish, some herbs and peanuts and poured in some of the fish sauce and just scoop them up with my chopsticks.

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Was it delicious?

No. A huge, big NO. I would even say it's bland.

Sorry to say that, but I had expected something more awesome than this after hearing so much about it! And guess what's the price tag? A very expensive 170,000 VND (US$7.80)!! Drinks were not even included - you would have to pay extra for drinks!

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OK even with the food not living up to my expectation, maybe the interior of the restaurant would somehow make it worthwhile for a visit right?

NO again. There's nothing to see inside the restaurant - it was just filled with wooden tables and chairs with some dusty cabinets and a shrine near the wall. Luckily there were ceiling fans to keep you cool or it would be quite hot inside.

I heard Cha Ca La Vong has been operating for over a century, encompassing five generations, making it one of the oldest restaurants in Vietnam! Maybe that's why it is so famous. Maybe that's why the staff were a little stuck up.

Whatever it is, I am not stepping back into this restaurant! Perhaps I will try this dish again but at other cheaper restaurants in Hanoi.

The Empress Of China Theme Song - Queen

Posted by : foongpc | Sunday, May 17, 2015 | Published in


Lately, I have been following a Chinese drama called "The Empress Of China" (Wu Ze Tian) starring Fan Bingbing as the lead actress.

This historical drama, produced by Fan Bingbing herself, boasts a budget close to US$50 million, making it the most expensive TV series in Chinese history. One of the attractions of this drama is the lavish costumes worn by the actresses in the show. Unfortunately, the costumes were deemed too revealing by China's censorship authorities and many scenes were edited to show less cleavage.

Despite the censorship regulations, the series still enjoy high ratings in China. I guess the censorship has in a way hyped up the show even more. When Hong Kong's TVB station aired the show dubbed entirely in Cantonese, they employed additional CGI measures to play safe. And that's the version I am watching now on Astro - the 'very clean' TVB Cantonese version.

I guess Fan Bingbing must be very disappointed because according to reports, she actually went through a lot of hardships wearing those elaborate costumes!

Story-wise, I am not sure if the show sticks closely to the historical facts - I have a feeling it does not, but then again, I am not very well versed in the life of Wu Ze Tian, the only female Chinese emperor in history.

Besides the story, the acting and the costumes, I found myself drawn to the music, especially the theme song of the show. There are two theme songs - the China version and the Hong Kong version. The theme song in China is called Wu Zi Bei sung by Jane Zhang, with music written by Aarif Rahman, one of the lead actors in the show.

And then there is also the opening song in the China version called Qian Qiu sung by famous singer Sun Nan.

However, since I am watching the Hong Kong version, I am only familiar with the Cantonese theme song called Queen sung by Joey Yung. This theme song is also treated as the opening song for the show.

Queen is such a beautiful song that I fell in love with it at the first hearing! And since I get to listen to it every time I watch the show, naturally I began to hum it and soon found myself playing it on the piano.

And so, here is my piano version of The Empress Of China theme song. Please excuse my mistakes and slips, which inevitably occurred as I did not really practise before I made this recording. Enjoy! :)

Spending My Morning At Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum

Posted by : foongpc | Friday, May 15, 2015 | Published in


On my fifth and last day in Hanoi, I visited the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum. Located just across the street from the Temple Of Literature, the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum showcases Vietnam's fine arts from different historical periods.

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My friend had already taken the early morning flight back to KL so I would be going solo again just like my first day in Hanoi.

The museum was housed in a colonial-style building, which was formerly a Catholic girls boarding school.  Entrance ticket was a very reasonable 20,000 VND (about US$1) and you are allowed to take as many pictures as you like! However, you need to keep your backpack in the locker which they provide free of charge.

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I have to say that the three-storey building itself is a work of art! Don't you agree?

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The exhibits in the museum were arranged chronologically from the bottom to the top floor. I started with a room at the ground floor which contains some pretty ancient stuffs, probably from the prehistoric era.

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Many types of axes and spears.

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Bronze drum (on the right) dating back to 300 years BC.

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A belt buckle (left) and ancient bronze bells (middle and right).

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A statue of a man kneeling down and carrying lamp in both hands.

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I did not take pictures of all the exhibits - only the more interesting ones. I continued walking towards the right to cover the entire ground floor exhibits.

Here is a statue of the Buddha.

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Sakyamuni Buddha on snowy mount

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King Ly Nam De and the Queen. King Ly Nam De is considered by many to be the first emperor of Vietnam and founder of the Early Ly Dynasty.

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Giving lecture

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Buddhanandi made from lacquered wood

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Buddhist cultural images from the Tay Son period.

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Were these on the first floor of the museum? I could not remember, but they probably were.

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An incense pillar. This is not a real incense pillar but a reproduction. It seems that many exhibits in this museum are reproductions as many of the original items were destroyed during the Vietnam War.

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There's a section where they were many wood carvings on display.

Fighting against a tiger.

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Two man playing a ball game - a work of art from the 17th century.

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Depiction of a young girl.

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Can you guess what game is this carving trying to depict?

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No, not kung fu. It's boxing!

A giant Dragon and fairies riding on mini dragons.

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Door carved with dragon images.

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The phoenix and her cubs

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This one is pretty remarkable - The One Thousand Eye And One Thousand Arm Guan Yin.

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A closer shot

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Duchess Yen

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Buddha entering Nirvana. Yes if you must know, this pose was when Buddha was dying and entering Nirvana.

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Scene of everyday life.

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Legendary lion

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Puppet offering incense sticks

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Majucri Bodhisattva

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Princess Trinh Thi Ngoc Co

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Fairies and a fairy riding a dragon (bottom right)

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Buddha Guan Yin

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Duke Nguyen The My

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Amitabha Buddha

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A closer shot.

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The room where the statue of Amitabha Buddha was placed.

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More carvings on the wall, but I did not take pictures of them all.

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A side shot of the Buddha Guan Yin with thousand arms.

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The room where the statues reside.

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Not exactly sure what this was.

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A hideous looking creature at the top. I could not find any labels or information anywhere near it.

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OK, there is information regarding this building, but I forgot to take a shot so I really have no idea what building this is!

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Sculpture of a Lion.

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Not your usual lion, but one of those mythical creatures.

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Garuda beating the drum.

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A portrait

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Nice piece of art!

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Finished with the first floor exhibits, I walked up to the second floor. This is the passageway of the first floor, I think.

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Mother and child sculpture at the corridor.

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Many sculptures displayed along the corridor.

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On the second floor, there were some war related bronze sculptures on display.

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Rice jar to feed the army

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The caption for this reads "While eating its fruits, think of those who have grown the tree".

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I like the expression on the faces of these sculptures.

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I took some time to take a view outside the opened window of the museum building.

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Pretty nice view, no?

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Back to the exhibits. This one depicts a lady sharpening the bamboo spikes.

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A drawing simply titled "Miss Lien". I wonder who she is!

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Kim Dong

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Cock fighting

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I kind of like this sculpture!

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Reading a book

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A handful of land from the South

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Very nice sculptures!

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Dien Bien Phu victory

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Oil on canvas titled "Central Region".

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I completed the whole tour of the museum in about one and a half hour. I could have taken longer but time was not really on my side. As it was my last day in Hanoi, I had to make full use of my time as I still have several places that I needed to visit.

Overall, the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum is worth visiting and I would certainly recommend it as part of your itinerary in Hanoi.