The Bach Dang Battle Site
Roughly halfway along the road from Ha Phong to Ha Long Bay is the ancient small town of Quan Yen, close to the Bach Dang River estuary, the site of two of Vietnam’s most celebrated victories.
The two battles took place on the river 350 years apart in 938 and 1288, but the same strategy was used each time. The Vietnamese forces laid a trap by sinking large ironwood stakes with their tops trimmed to sharp points into the river bed. By engaging the enemy ships at high tide, and then pretending to retreat, the Vietnamese forces were able to lure the enemy above the invisible stake field and then hold them there until the water level dropped.
Once transfixed upon the stakes, the enemy craft became sitting ducks – on both occasions, their fleet was obliterated.
As you travel around Vietnam, you’ll often come across street names and statues commemorating Trang Hung Dao and Ngo Quyen, the two victorious commanders. As befits their pivotal role in Vietnamese history, both rank very highly in the pantheon of great heroes, and many temples are dedicated to their worship.