Where's Baldo?

2 Tranquil Temples on the Outskirts of Hanoi

9 min read
AsiaHa NoiTemples & ChurchesVietnam
Article author: michael
michael
Published:
Cover Image for 2 Tranquil Temples on the Outskirts of Hanoi

This post contains affiliate links. This means at no extra cost to you, I may earn a commission if you purchase through my links. Please see my website disclaimer for more info.

When you’re in Vietnam, Asian temples, whether Buddhist, Taoist, or Confucian, are a stone’s throw from pretty much wherever you are. So you won’t have trouble finding one if you’re looking.

That said, places like Hanoi are so busy and noisy, and full of air thick with pollution, that it can be hard to find a calm and relaxing temple to meditate in, or even just visit.

So when my wife wanted to show me two temples on the outskirts of Hanoi, I was curious to see what they were like.

The 1st temple we stopped at was Khai Nguyen Pagoda, which is about a 1 hour drive from the city centre (~45km). It’s a beautiful temple, with a large pond in front of it, and a bridge leading to the entrance.

Khai Nguyen Pagoda Info

Khai Nguyen Pagoda

Khai Nguyen Pagoda is a Buddhist temple, and is quite large. It’s also very new, with construction only having started in 2010, so there was still some work being done on the grounds when we visited.

Now besides being quite beautiful and relaxing, the other reason we were coming to this particular temple was because my wife’s high school friend is a monk there. So we were going to visit the temple with her, and then have lunch there, before heading out to the 2nd temple together.

The Main Gate

As with most temples, there’s an impressive main gate at the entrance of the site. You couldn’t actually enter through the gate though, likely because of the ongoing construction. So we drove around the gate and parked in the parking lot before walking to the entrance.

Khai Nguyen Temple Main Gate

The Pond & Small Shrine

Just past the gate is a large pond, filled with Koi. You cross the pond on a bridge, meeting a small shrine in the middle of the pond, where you can pay your respects to Buddha, before continuing on.

Khai Nguyen Temple entrance bridge

After crossing over the pond, you pass through what looks like another temple from the outside, but is in fact just a covered walkway, with items they sell to help you pray (and I assume to help finance the site), like incense, candles, flowers, as well as some small Buddha figures.

Khai Nguyen Temple covered walkway

The Main Temple

We then passed through the covered walkway, and on to the main temple. As you walk towards the main temple, you can see the big Buddha behind it, but note that the big Buddha rests atop a separate building.

Khai Nguyen main temple

Khai Nguyen main temple

The main temple is quite large and ornate, with beautiful gold writing and accents on the pillars.

Jade Buddha Shrine

Just behind the main temple is a small shrine, with two Jade Buddhas, and some bronze Buddhas on either side.

Fun fact: My wife’s friend, the monk, who was with us at this point, was telling us that the jade used for the big statues at the site were actually imported from Canada, of all places! I had no idea Canada even had jade, let alone that some temples in Asia imported it.

Khai Nguyen Jade Buddha shrine

The Big Buddha

At this point we headed into the big Buddha building, which is a separate building behind the main temple and jade shrine. The building is quite tall, although I don’t recall the height of it - possibly 72 meters based on what I found online.

Khai Nguyen Big Buddha outside

Khai Nguyen Big Buddha main floor

Inside the Big Buddha - 1st Floor

It was here, at Khai Nguyen pagoda, that I realized that you can actually enter some big Buddha statues, and climb up to the top of them. The ones I’d been to previously were always closed off to regular visitors if you could enter them, and only the monks, and possibly some pilgrims, could enter and/or go to the upper floors.

So after paying our respects to Buddha, my wife’s friend brought us to the back of the building, where there are stairs, as well as an elevator that leads up to the various levels inside the big Buddha.

Khai Nguyen Big Buddha elevator & stairs

Khai Nguyen Big Buddha - at the top

Inside the Big Buddha - top Floor

The top floor inside the big Buddha is quite small. You have to climb up to the final top level via the stairs, as the elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top.

When we got to the top, there was a group of women praying together out loud, in some type of ceremony.

Khai Nguyen Big Buddha - at the top

Khai Nguyen Big Buddha - at the top

The decor at the top is really beautiful, with more gold accents, and a number of different colours along the walls, columns, and ceiling. When you’re there in person and see the detail up close, it’s really impressive, but also easy to see why it takes so long to build these temples. The amount of detail and work that goes into them is incredible.

Inside the Big Buddha - views from the top

There are also a couple of small windows at the top, which you can look out of, and see the surrounding area.

Khai Nguyen Big Buddha - surrounding views from the top

The fields surrounding the site belong to the temple, and are where the monks grow various vegetables, which they use to feed themselves, and the visitors to the temple.

Other shrines inside the Big Buddha

After exploring the top floor of the big Buddha, my wife’s friend brought us down to another floor. As the site was still under construction, most of the floors in the big Buddha were not accessible, but once construction is complete, all of the floors will have shrines to worship in.

The floor we stopped at was mostly finished, although some parts were still incomplete.

Khai Nguyen Big Buddha - shrine

Khai Nguyen Big Buddha - shrine

Lunch Time

Next up, we headed down near the main temple to have some lunch. I’ve had lunch at a temple before, and loved it. This time was no different.

Khai Nguyen - delicous vegan lunch spread

Of course the food is all vegan, as Buddhists don’t eat meat, but man was it delicious. One of the dishes, to the right of the fried spring rolls in the picture above, was a savoury banana and mushroom dish. I’ve never had bananas done in a savoury dish before, but it was so insanely delicious that I couldn’t get enough of it. That said, it was all fantastic, and very filling.

At this point I thought we’d be heading off to the 2nd site, but there was one last thing my wife’s friend wanted us to see. Something I was definitely not expecting beneath the big Buddha …

The 6 Realms of the Afterlife

Turns out there’s a whole other area beneath the big Buddha, with a number of different rooms filled with some really intricate displays.

Khai Nguyen - reincarnation realms

Khai Nguyen - reincarnation realms

Now I’m not fully clear on the purpose of the displays, but I believe it has to do with reincarnation, and what to expect after death.

Khai Nguyen - reincarnation realms

Khai Nguyen - reincarnation realms

The different rooms, if I understand correctly, represent the different realms, of which there are 6: heaven, hell, human, animal, hungry ghost, and atula (also known as asura).

Khai Nguyen - reincarnation realms

Khai Nguyen - reincarnation realms

Khai Nguyen - reincarnation realms

Other than what I read briefly from some Google searches, I can’t say I know much about these realms. They’ve obviously put a lot of work into this area though, and it certainly was quite the experience!


Next up, we headed off to Tan Vien Pagoda, which was about a 45 minute drive (~35km) from Khai Nguyen Pagoda.

Tan Vien Pagoda Info

  • Address: 385X+66F, Ba Vì, Hà Nội
  • Entrance fee: Free
  • Official website: chuatanvien.com

    Note: Despite the different domain name, this is the exact same website as the Khai Nguyen Pagoda site, and so also in Vietnamese only

Tan Vien Pagoda

Tan Vien Pagoda and Khai Nguyen Pagoda are part of the same complex, so to speak. They’re quite far apart, but are run by the same group of monks.

Tan Vien is quite a bit older than Khai Nguyen, although I’m not sure exactly how old it is. It’s also a lot smaller, and more simple, but still quite beautiful.

Tan Vien is also kind of in the middle of nowhere. You have to drive up a winding road, up in the mountains, to get to it. It’s a beautiful scenic drive (which is a stark contrast to most of Hanoi!), but it’s also quite a long drive, and the road leading up to it is quite narrow.

The Main Temple

After parking, we headed straight to the main temple at the site.

Tan Vien Pagoda - main temple

My wife and her friends started by paying their respects to Buddha, and then gave a bath to a small Buddha statue, which is a tradition in Buddhism that I wasn’t previously familiar with.

Tan Vien Pagoda - main temple

Tan Vien Pagoda - main temple

The Temple on the Hill

After taking our turns bathing Buddha, we headed up to another temple on the site. To get to this temple, you need to climb up 152 steps through the woods. It’s not a huge effort, but you then need to also climb the steps to the actual temple, so it’s definitely a bit of a workout.

Tan Vien Pagoda - temple on the hill

Tan Vien Pagoda - temple on the hill

Once we were in the temple, my wife’s friend, the monk, explained to me the significance of the particular Buddha statue in this temple, along with the guardian statues all around the temple.

Tan Vien Pagoda - temple on the hill

The Buddha statue here is really quite beautiful, with 3 heads and many arms … I think I counted 26? I believe it’s a statue of Avalokiteshvara Buddha, who is the Buddha of compassion. My memory is fading a bit though, so don’t quote me on that! 😅

After that we headed out to see another massive Buddha statue, which is the main attraction at Tan Vien Pagoda.

The Big Buddha

Tan Vien Pagoda - Big Buddha

The Buddha statue here was pretty impressive, but unlike the one at Khai Nguyen Pagoda, you couldn’t enter this one. It was also quite a bit smaller than the one at Khai Nguyen, and you couldn’t walk right up to it as it was in a currently inaccessible area.


Final Thoughts

Well, that was it for the 2 temples we visited on this day!

I enjoyed seeing them both, but I definitely preferred Khai Nguyen Pagoda. It’s much larger, has a lot more to see, and the big Buddha there is really quite impressive.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my other Vietnam posts for more things to do and see in Vietnam!

Until next time,
michael 😀

Share this post:

Related Posts
Experiencing Cat Cat Village, in Sapa, Vietnam

Experiencing Cat Cat Village, in Sapa, Vietnam

Climbing Fansipan Mountain, in Sapa, Vietnam

Climbing Fansipan Mountain, in Sapa, Vietnam

S Plus Bungalow in Sapa, Vietnam

S Plus Bungalow in Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa CatCat Hills Resort & Spa in Sapa, Vietnam

Sapa CatCat Hills Resort & Spa in Sapa, Vietnam

Pao's Sapa Leisure Hotel in Sapa, Vietnam

Pao's Sapa Leisure Hotel in Sapa, Vietnam

Thinking about Taking a Sleeper Bus in Vietnam?

Thinking about Taking a Sleeper Bus in Vietnam?

Sapa - Trekker's Paradise, or Tourist Trap?

Sapa - Trekker's Paradise, or Tourist Trap?

Planning to Visit Vietnam During Tet?

Planning to Visit Vietnam During Tet?

I Had One of the Best Burgers Ever at Haneda Airport

I Had One of the Best Burgers Ever at Haneda Airport

A Beautiful Afternoon in Hội An, Vietnam

A Beautiful Afternoon in Hội An, Vietnam

Visiting the Marble Mountains in Da Nang, Vietnam

Visiting the Marble Mountains in Da Nang, Vietnam

Linh Ứng Pagoda, Da Nang, Vietnam

Linh Ứng Pagoda, Da Nang, Vietnam

Unique and Delicious Ice Cream From Around the World

Unique and Delicious Ice Cream From Around the World

Da Nang Beaches - Pham Van Dong vs. My Khe

Da Nang Beaches - Pham Van Dong vs. My Khe

Dragon Bridge Show Da Nang - Bridge vs Cruise

Dragon Bridge Show Da Nang - Bridge vs Cruise

Sun World Bà Nà Hills, Da Nang, Vietnam

Sun World Bà Nà Hills, Da Nang, Vietnam

Museum of Cham Sculpture, Da Nang, Vietnam

Museum of Cham Sculpture, Da Nang, Vietnam

Da Nang, Vietnam

Da Nang, Vietnam

Nine waterfalls of Tú Sơn, Hoa Binh, Vietnam

Nine waterfalls of Tú Sơn, Hoa Binh, Vietnam

Da Nang International Fireworks Festival 2023

Da Nang International Fireworks Festival 2023

Bamboo River Raft Cruise, Hoa Binh, Vietnam

Bamboo River Raft Cruise, Hoa Binh, Vietnam

A Tale of Two Resorts in Hoa Binh, Vietnam

A Tale of Two Resorts in Hoa Binh, Vietnam

2 Days in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

2 Days in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Trăm Gian Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam

Trăm Gian Pagoda, Hanoi, Vietnam

Bát Tràng Pottery Village, Hanoi, Vietnam

Bát Tràng Pottery Village, Hanoi, Vietnam

Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam

Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hạ Long Bay 2-Day 1-Night Cruise, Ha Long, Vietnam

Hạ Long Bay 2-Day 1-Night Cruise, Ha Long, Vietnam

The Beaches in Nha Trang, Vietnam

The Beaches in Nha Trang, Vietnam

Po Nagar Cham Temple Ruins, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Po Nagar Cham Temple Ruins, Nha Trang, Vietnam

MerPerle Hon Tam Resort, Nha Trang, Vietnam

MerPerle Hon Tam Resort, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Emperor Cocktail & Dinner Cruise, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Emperor Cocktail & Dinner Cruise, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Museum of Oceanography, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Museum of Oceanography, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Long Sơn Temple, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Long Sơn Temple, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Thắng Nghiêm Temple, Hanoi, Vietnam

Thắng Nghiêm Temple, Hanoi, Vietnam

3 Weeks in Vietnam

3 Weeks in Vietnam

1 Week in Thailand

1 Week in Thailand

1 Day in Ayutthaya, Thailand

1 Day in Ayutthaya, Thailand

2 Days in Bangkok, Thailand

2 Days in Bangkok, Thailand

3 Days in Phuket, Thailand

3 Days in Phuket, Thailand

2 Days in Saigon, Vietnam

2 Days in Saigon, Vietnam

2 More Days in Hanoi, Vietnam

2 More Days in Hanoi, Vietnam

3 Days in Hoi An, Vietnam

3 Days in Hoi An, Vietnam

3 Days in Da Nang, Vietnam

3 Days in Da Nang, Vietnam

4 Days in Hue, Vietnam - Part 2

4 Days in Hue, Vietnam - Part 2

4 Days in Hue, Vietnam - Part 1

4 Days in Hue, Vietnam - Part 1

6 Days in Hanoi, Vietnam - Part 3

6 Days in Hanoi, Vietnam - Part 3

1 Day in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

1 Day in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

6 Days in Hanoi, Vietnam - Part 2

6 Days in Hanoi, Vietnam - Part 2

6 Days in Hanoi, Vietnam - Part 1

6 Days in Hanoi, Vietnam - Part 1

Comments