Located about 29km south east of Ninh Binh in Kim Son district and only a few km away from the Gulf of Tonkin, Phat Diem is of historical importance and a real hit with Vietnamese tourists.
It is in this area that the French and Portuguese missionaries first introduced Catholicism to Vietnam. While most Christians fled south, settling between Dalat and Saigon after the communists seized power in 1954, today they're returning and many newly erected churches can be seen on the way to Phat Diem.
The Phat Diem Cathedral (Nha Tho Phat Diem) was built between 1875 and 1899 and in considered to be a fine example of sino-Vietnamese architecture. The main building is 74m long, 21m wide and 11m high. The six rows of huge ironwood pillars and the carved stone entrance and altar are very impressive, and the whole complex has a peaceful, solemn feel to it. Try to be there at 10:00 for mass. Other mass hours are at 06:00 and 16:00.
How to get there
To reach Phat Diem from Ninh Binh head across the bridge towards the bus station but rather than turning left towards the bus and train stations keep going straight. Follow QL 10 and it is pretty straightforward and well signposted. The last 10km are very scenic thru a landscape filled with rice fields and surrounded by numerous canals and many churches towering above the small villages.
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 26th June, 2014.