Lăng Cô - the World Beautiful Bay. Photo: NHAT LONG
Located in the north of Hải Vân Pass is An Cư Village, bordering the sea, the mountain and the lagoon. It is said that about 500 years ago, a man of the Đỗ family from Thanh Hoá came here to explore and established the village.
Inhabitants in An Cư have been so far living on fishing and aquaculture. They are also well known for their annual boat racing festival on January 6th (according to lunar calendar). In Lord Nguyễn Phúc Chu’s era (18th century,) the western region of Lập An Lagoon and An Cư, including the valley at the foot of the mountains along Hói Mít River, continued to be explored by the two men of the Nguyễn and Dương families, forming An Cư Tây Village. The two villages are now Lăng Cô Town.
So far, in the process of learning about Lăng Cô, I heard that, in the past, Lăng Cô was a fishing village where many white storks came to live. When the French invaded Thừa Thiên-Huế, they wrote on the map the Vietnamese name Làng Cò, meaning Village of Storks. However, since they did not add diacritics, people misread it as Lăng Cô.
Recently, again, as a way to “blame” the French, I have heard that, according to the researcher Trần Đại Vinh, the name Lăng Cô might come from the name of the village An Cư. The French made a mistake when they wrote the words An Cư on the map and gradually the Vietnamese accepted that wrong name. An evidence is that the Buddhist Association of An Cư Village is called by the name Lăng Cô.
Tourists are taking photos of beautiful Lăng Cô. Photo: HO NGOC SON
Lăng Cô is well known as a "beautiful woman of the fishing village” who has temped so many people, just like in the statement: “Going to the mountain to meet the hero Bạch Mã, going to the sea to meet the beautiful woman Lăng Cô.” But few people know that the one who discovered the beauty of Lăng Cô was the infamous king of the Nguyễn Dynasty, Khải Định.
Among the Nguyễn kings, Khải Định was the king who traveled the most. He once went to France to attend the Colony Fair in Marseille. The journey was fully recorded in the book "Ngự giá như Tây ký.” It is worth noticing that it was during his journey in the summer of 1916 that this on-the-move king discovered Lăng Cô.
Stopping there, the king recognized it was an ideal place for vacation with many beautiful sights around such as Chân Mây Cape, Hải Vân Pass, etc. King Khải Định did have an extremely interesting vacation there.
Returning to the Imperial City, the king ordered Bộ Công (Transport and Construction Ministry) to bring materials to Lăng Cô to build a palace for summer vacation for the royal family and named it "Tịnh Viêm,” meaning relieving the heat.
Three years later, dropping by that place, he was so moved that he wrote an essay on a stele entitled “Tịnh Viêm Hành Cung,” which still remains today. Here is one sentence from it: “In the summer of my first year on the throne (June, 1916), while I was heading to the south in a cruise throughout the province to consider customs, passing many rivers and mountains, I happened to see this place.”
Peaceful Lăng Cô. Photo: DUC QUANG
Ten years ago, on June 6th, 2009, Lăng Cô was awarded the title “the World Beautiful Bay.” That made me think of the two characters Tây Thi and Phạm Lãi in the old days. Without Phạm Lãi’s acute eyes, it was hard for Tây Thi to leave any historical marks despite her divine beauty.
The story of King Khải Định and Lăng Cô shows that Lăng Cô contains the cultural content and rich historical values. There the mountains meet the sea with white sandy strips, extremely beautiful and almost pristine.
Within a 150-kilometer radius of Lăng Cô are the 4 world heritage sites: the complex of monuments of Huế Ancient Capital, Hội An Ancient Town, Mỹ Sơn Relic and the natural heritage of Phong Nha - Kẻ Bàng. Lăng Cô is the third bay of Vietnam, after Hạ Long and Nha Trang, which joins the Club of World Beautiful Bays.
More than 4 years after being recognized as "the World Beautiful Bay,” at the end of 2013, Lăng Cô, combined with Cảnh Dương, was approved by the Prime Minister as one of the four national parks according to the overall development plan of Northern Central tourism to 2020-2030.
And 5 years later, on December 19th, 2018, the Prime Minister also approved the overall plan for the development of Lăng Cô-Cảnh Dương National Park, Thua Thien-Hue Province to 2025-2030 to make Lăng Cô-Cảnh Dương an international destination.
The 21 projects in tourism with over VND 67,000 billion in Chân Mây-Lăng Cô Economic Zone in the past 10 years have proved that tourism in Lăng Cô has been developing. Lăng Cô has become a favorite destination for tourists. Lăng Cô - the World Beautiful Bay Festival 2019 would be an opportunity to honor the landscape and ecology of Lăng Cô. It will also affirm the status and potential of Chân Mây-Lăng Cô Economic Zone, aiming at building a national and international tourist brand name that attracts more and more investors, both in and out of the country.
There is no doubt about the value and the praising that people have for Lăng Cô. But during the festival season, I happened to recall the story about King Khải Định. It is like a highlight, a beautiful melody enhancing the charm of Lăng Cô. I want to do again what King Khải Định and his men did nearly 100 years ago...
Imagine leaving dreamy Huế City in the morning to take the dragon boat downstream on the river, passing villages in the south of Huế, then stopping at Lăng Cô to enjoy the privilege granted by God, eating and playing like a king. It is really heaven on earth.
The peaceful names such as Lăng Cô, An Cư, Lập An, etc., remind us of the territory-expanding journey from the North by our ancestors hundreds of years ago. They stopped by a fairyland with high passes, large seas and wavy lagoons and contributed to creating Lăng Cô, the world beautiful bay today.
By Dan Duy