Another world in crazy chaotic Hanoi - Son Tay Citadel

A home from home trip

The name may sound familiar to you regardless of whether you are still free and single or you have already got a large family with some kids whose main job is asking you to increase some family-bonding time. About 45 km from the downtown, Son Tay ancient citadel can be reached either by bus or by motorbike. My very first feeling about the trip? Yes, I came home from home. Although a large part was already ruined after many wars, a typical military building appeared in front of me

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War witness and defense: the four gates

The four gates, now covered by the root of huge trees, are made of bee-stone, the unique construction materials that makes them look ancient. You would definitely be impressed by the cannons placed at one of the gates. Having said that, the thing that surprised me were the holes used as hiding places from enemies’ weapons. Well, this really reminded me about the “hide and seek” game that I have enjoyed since I was a little kid.

The Hau Port (the Back Port, also the North Gate)

The gate was compared with “an old soldier who was tortured to death” by Charles Edouard Hocquard in 1883 because of the ruined bamboo walls and moss-covered stones. Before 1995, the gate looked as original as praised by Mr. Hocquard in 1883, but after some renovations, the great banyan tree was chopped down to make way for a new gate which contrasts the overall ancient look.

The Tien Gate (the Front Gate, also the South Gate)

The Gate is located on Quang Trung Street, and there is a stone bridge crossing a moat. After successfully taking over the Citadel, the French had a new gate opened in front of the bridge for better convenience though the original gate has been saved since then.

The East Gate

From the East Gate, tourists have a great view of Nghe Market and Son Tay post office (Phung Khac Khoan Street). In the 1980s, Nghe Market used to be relocated into the Citadel.

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The West Gate

The West Gate (also the right gate) looks out over Son Tay Upper Secondary  School and Son Tay Sporting Hall on Tran Hung Dao Street connected with Ngo Quyen Street (the original Huu Loi). From the place, you can travel to Duong Lam ancient village located on Highway 32, at the intersection with Ho Chi Minh Road. During the war with the French in 1883, this gate was totally demolished. After winning the battle, the French had the gate rebuilt to deter the Black Flag Army ‘s attack.

The picturesque scenery inside

At the heart of the Imperial Citadel is the Kinh Thien Palace, built in 1428 as a ritual place and a getaway for the King. The palace covered a large area, but only the old foundation exists. Noticeably, the Royal Threshold featured with 4 stone dragons carved in 1467 is still well maintained in the front. Created by talented craftsmen, these 3.4 meter long dragons had big heads, round eyes and strong curvy body forms. There are some outstanding architectural features including Vong Cung Nu, where the King could rest during the time he spent on inspecting nearby provinces.  To the the west of the citadel, Vo Mieu was built to worship soldiers and generals sacrificing their lives to protect this territory.

The post-trip feelings

Time flies, and after 200 years of wars and devastation, the Citadel has been converted into a peaceful place for newly wed couples taking photos and children enjoying their time after school. The voice of the wars is unheard, but all the historical relics remain.