The Goi Dai Temple is in Ninh Hai Commune in Hoa Lu District, 10 km from Ninh Binh town, the capital of northern Ninh Binh Province.
Thang Dai Vuong was appointed by King Dinh Tien Hoang, the founder of the Dinh Dynasty (968-980), to defend the west gate of Hoa Lu. Hoa Lu was the capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries.
When Thang Dai Vuong passed away, the king ordered the construction of a temple just below the banyan tree in his honor.
A plaque in front of the temple reads: "For thousands of years, the banyan tree has moved around the Goi Dai Temple, the worship place for Thang Dai Vuong, a talented general of the Dinh Dynasty."
The current temple was rebuilt on the foundations of the ancient one. The remnants of the ancient building are worshiped under a small shrine under the tree.
Goi Dai is also called the Great Temple. The term Goi Dai, meaning the continuation of greatness, expresses the desire for the next generations to continue the legacy of their ancestors.
The banyan tree is called "the moving tree" by locals because it has changed its structure thrice since the temple was built under it.
As the main trunk withered with age, the tree kept putting down more roots which grew new trunks, giving the impression it was moving around.
The original trunk, which no longer exists, was in the area where the Goi Dai Temple now stands. All that is left of the second one is rotten wood. The current main trunk has also started to die.
According to researchers, this banyan tree has been around for thousands of years. The tree changes their structure every 300 years or so.
The tree is over 20 meters tall and 50 meters across.
Many species of vines climb up the tree. It takes as many as 15 people linking hands to embrace the massive tree trunk.
Entry tickets cost VND100,000 ($4.3) as the millennia-old banyan tree and the temple are part of an eco-tourism resort which also includes other attractions like Bird Island, Mermaid cave, Ba Co cave, and a primitive forest.
For local people, the banyan tree is not only a spiritual attraction but also "living" proof for the history of their homeland. As for tourists, it is a fascinating, must-see sight site for anyone who has the opportunity to visit Ninh Binh.