If you skip central Vietnam, you miss out on some of the country’s most iconic sights, its best beaches and a more relaxed pace.
Determined to neither exceed nor ease from the posted 70-km-per-hour speed limit along Vietnam’s National Route 1A, my driver, Dai, pulsed the gas pedal with his foot as we traveled north on the two-lane highway to the imperial city of Hue.
The road climbed gently from the outskirts of Da Nang toward mountains that serve as a kind of waistband for the lanky country that stretches more than 1,000 miles north to south but is barely 35 miles east to west at its midsection.
At one time, the Truong Son Mountains were a natural bulwark dividing Vietnam. The two halves were brought together under French rule in the mid-19th century, then split into rival states in 1954. You probably know what happened next.
In 2005, the four-mile-long Hai Van Tunnel was opened, cutting through the mountains, a celebrated engineering feat for a country that was just beginning to sow its economic oats.
Former imperial capital Huế City received 1.5 million foreign tourists last year, increasing by 42.5 per cent in 2016.
Foreign tourists comprised half of the total visitors to Huế, a UNESCO world heritage site, famous for its imperial architecture and culture.
The highest number of foreign tourists – 26 per cent of the total – was from South Korea. Visitors from France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Thailand had the second to sixth highest percentages, respectively.
Total revenue from tourism last year was US$155 million.
According to the local Tourism Department, the tourism sector made attempts to diversify its products by adding tour programmes to lagoons and rural areas and introducing destinations outside the UNESCO heritage system.
The sector expects to receive 42 million visitors this year, half of them foreign tourists.
To achieve this target, the department called for private investment to develop standard restaurants that could accommodate up to 2,000 customers at the same time. It also requested local authorities to introduce direct flights from Huế to countries with the highest proportion of tourists to the city, including Japan, South Korea and Thailand.
HANOI, 11 January 2018: Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, has urged authorities of the former imperial capital of Hue to capitalise on the city’s heritage and culture to draw more international tourists.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, the former imperial capital is the main tourist destination in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue.
The Government’s news website chinhphu.vn quoted the PM saying the city should take full advantage of its historical values and cultural heritage to make a breakthrough for the province’s tourism sector.
The central city, home of the Nguyen Dynasty, which reigned from 1802 until 1945, has been dubbed the “Kyoto of Vietnam,” due to its abundance of historical and cultural sites, including the former Hue Imperial Citadel and royal tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty kings.
In 2017, the province welcomed 3.8 million visitors, an increase of 16% over 2016. Around 1.5 million visitors were foreigners.
Culture Trip, a London-based travel site, has recommended that tourists visit Hue and Hoi An in central Vietnam at least once in their life.
Hue, the former imperial capital on the banks of the beautiful Huong (Perfume) River, is one of the most stunning places to visit, with an endless number of breathtaking pagodas, palaces, temples, and centuries-old citadel walls, as well as delicious cuisine. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is the perfect place for those in search of cultural adventures, according to Culture Trip.
Established as the capital of unified Vietnam in 1802, Hue was not only the political but also the cultural and religious center of the country until 1945, under the Nguyen Dynasty, Vietnam’s last. The Complex of Hue Monuments features a range of architecture from the Nguyen Dynasty, such as the Imperial City (Hoang Thanh Hue).
Fascinating performances by artists from different countries will highlight Huế Festival 2018, which will take place from April 27 to May 2 in Huế city, the central province of Thừa Thiên-Huế.
The festival will celebrate 712 years since the founding of Thuận Hóa – Phú Xuân (now Thừa Thiên-Huế Province). It will also highlight the province’s cultural heritage.
Aiming to uphold traditional values and showcase modernity, Huế Festival 2018 will focus on events in which people can take part in, according to Nguyễn Dung, vice chairman of the provincial People’s Committee.
“Like its previous nine editions, the biennial festival will serve as the venue for cultural exchanges among nations with the participation of many art troupes from around the world,” he said at the press briefing yesterday.
The festival will be themed ‘Cultural Heritage with Integration and Development: Huế – One Destination, Five World Heritages’.
As the U.S. readies to mark the 50th anniversary of a Vietnam War milestone, UCR’s Biggs reflects on his work in the Southeast Asian country.
The plane’s doors opened, and the oppressive heat hit him “like a ton of bricks,” David Biggs said. It was July 4, 1993, and Biggs had just landed on the runway at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“The airport was a tiny, one-story concrete building that hadn’t been expanded in years,” he added. “You could see all these perfectly circular fish ponds set in the rice fields; the old B-52 bombing strikes had created circular footprints that filled up with water and became fish ponds.”
Then 23 years old, Biggs had left the University of North Carolina only a year earlier with a bachelor’s degree in history and vague plans of attending law school.
A vital lifeline in war and peace, Vietnam’s North-South Railway provides an all-in encounter with the country’s incredible beauty, people and history.
Just before noon each day, the southbound train from Hai Phong to Hanoi rumbles past Mrs Bay’s front room, missing her porch by no more than inches. To me, the scene looks like something from a disaster movie. With its horn blaring like the last trumpet, the huge locomotive barely squeezes through the tiny space where the railway track runs between two rows of dwellings. It’s close enough to block all the light from the windows, flap the drying laundry and silence our conversation.
Mrs Bay, a well-preserved 64-year-old, whom I’ve bumped into on a stroll, bats away my concerns.
Apart from Da Nang’s basket boats and beaches and Hoi An’s mustard yellow houses and silk lanterns, the highlights of Vietnam’s central region are varied and plentiful.
For first-timers in Da Nang, a day trip or overnight in the UNESCO World Heritage City of Hoi An is a must. Not that it’s the only excursion in the area worth an extra day. There’s so much in Central Vietnam for every type of visitor, whether you’re into nature, culture or even a bit of adventure. And you can cover a site or two in as short as half a day.
IF YOU’VE GOT HALF A DAY
1. CHAM MUSEUM
The indigenous Cham people were strongly influenced by Indian culture. The only museum in the world dedicated to Cham sculpture opened in 1919 close to the riverside where the iconic Dragon Bridge currently stands.
Vietnam is a long, narrow country that snakes its way down the eastern shores of the Asian continent. Within the last few decades, it has emerged from its complicated and violent past as a top destination in Southeast Asia among many types of travelers. Vietnam is well worth crossing the Pacific for, offering diversely beautiful landscapes, exquisite cuisine, and competitive prices. But it would be a disservice to ignore the war, which is remembered through numerous monuments, museums, and, in some cases, ruins. Herewith are nine of the top destinations in Vietnam. (Since Vietnam is such a long country, we’ve oriented the list of top destinations per region to make it easier to tackle.)
Vietnam’s bustling capital lies in the very northern reaches of the country.
VietNamNet Bridge – The ancient capital of Hue used to be in the ruins owing to war and time devastation. Below are pictures of the Hue royal citadel on the way from devastation to reconstruction as it is today.
The Hue Monument Conservation Centre is exhibiting posters that tell the stories of Hue’s royal monuments from the end of feudal era to the present. The process of restoration lasted for 30 years and it was the tireless effort of Hue. The exhibition is entitled “Hue Monuments: Memories and the Present.” The posters are being exhibited in the Imperial Palace’s long corridor for free to visitors.
The photographic posters depict the monuments at various stages in history, including the period under reign of the country last’s Nguyen Dynasty, bombardment during two wars, human destruction in the postwar era and recognition as a world heritage site.