The tunnel of love

Posted On 2:04 am November 1, 2011 | by Vietnam Cambodia Travel | under Vietnam Travel News
A mysterious network of caves by Chua Tien in Hoa Binh province have proved to be a popular spot for tourism

According to legend it was Lac Long Quan who fathered Vietnam. He was said to be descended from the dragons and

possessed superhuman strength.One day, he made a trip out onto the water and there he met Au Co, a fairy princess. The couple married and Au Co gave birth to a sac with 100 yolks which turned into 100 infants. The children were born at Chua Tien (Fairy’s Pagoda) in Hoa Binh province’s Lac Thuy district, an area also linked to Bac Son culture which dates some 10, 000 years. Archeology digs have unearthed human bones and assorted stone tools. The pagoda is in a limestone valley, home to beautiful caves and grottos, the most remarkable of which is Tien gottto (Fairy’s Grotto). However, most tourists head for Tam Toa grotto, the largest cave in the tourism complex. You have to climb steps 300 metres up into the cave and crawl under the climbing liana. From just inside, the cave seems small and narrow. However, the further you venture in the more the cave opens up. As the full splendour of the cave is revealed, our travelling party is bowled over by this mysterious wonder of nature. The artificial lights add to the magical mystery of the cave. On the walls and ceiling we can see giant bas-reliefs of strange figures that we have never imagined. The stalagmites have been transformed into an intricate, ornate body of work – I can see a kneeing elephant and a galloping horse. Looking to the ceiling, we are amazed by the living figures of the Heavenly court such as the Emperor of Jade and the God of Thunder, surrounded by fairies in gorgeous clothes. Each wall of the grotto is a wonder.
Each compartment of the grotto is a sculptural masterpiece. We wonder whether it is a work of the Creator or a being from another planet! An old legend The Tien grotto also has its own story. Legend has it that in days of yore, a young man named Din lived in such poverty that he could not find a wife, though he worked hard around the clock. Knowing Din’s plight, the Emperor of Jade sent his third daughter named Ba down to the earth to marry Din. For three years the couple lived in happiness but they could not conceive a child. As a deity Ba was not destined to stay forever. After three years she had to return to Heaven, leaving her husband as sad and as sorrowful as ever. The Emperor of Jade felt sorry for Din and allowed Ba to return. But when she descended from Heaven she found that her husband had already left his home and died of sorrow on the mountain. Ba remained on earth, spending her days in a grotto and weaving cloth. This is now the Fairy’s Grotto. It was said that any couple wanting to have children should visit the grotto and place a piece of cloth before Ba’s chamber. In the next morning, they would receive a perfect suit or dress. If it was a suit they’d have a son, if it was a dress they’d have a girl. Growing tourism In honour of the couple, the Tien pagoda festival is held from the fifth day of the first lunar month to the last day of the fourth lunar month. Each year, the complex is visited by some 200, 000 people, mostly from the locality. Over the past few years, tourism activities have begun to take shape here and the complex is managed by a private-owned company which was granted permission by the former Ministry of Culture and Information (now the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism). Not that everyone is happy about growing tourism in the area. “I think that the site is being commercialised and losing its sacredness, ” says Ho Minh Van, a 55-year old from Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem district. “It’s good for local socio-economic development but altars dedicated to Budda and saints are improperly erected every where. Many shrines are nothing but boxes temporarily made of steel pillars and plastic sheets.” “When I ask those working at the grottos, they say that they don’t know what the statues are but keep asking me to put some money into hom cong duc (donation boxes) placed in front of the altars, though I have already put my money into at least 15-20 boxes placed every where at the site!” With growing numbers of visitors, the site is also under threat from pollution. “Rubbish can be seen all over the place and you can’t find a toilet anywhere, ” moans Pham Thi Bich, a 60-year old visitor from Haiphong city.