Things to Do in Central Vietnam - page 2
An open-air colonial building in Da Nang is home to the largest collection of Cham carvings in the world. The Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture opened its first gallery in 1919, and in the decades since, the collection has grown to include more than 300 pieces. Many of these terra cotta, sandstone and bronze sculptures and artifacts depict Hindu deities, as well as linga and yoni.
Among the museum’s most important items are the sandstone pieces — statues of gods and animals, pedestals and other decorative items taken from Cham temples. The museum also has an exhibit on modern Cham culture, which includes photographs, clothing and film clips.
Though the name sounds old, XQ Historical Village was actually founded in the early 1990s by artists Vo Van Quan and Hoang Le Xuan as a way to showcase needlework and painting to travelers from overseas. More than 2,000 women work to create the intricate masterpieces that are put on display in this and other villages like it through Vietnam.
Quan and Xuan utilized age-old needlework traditions that hale from China and were once used to tell stories of the Orient, to instead tell the tales of Vietnam through brightly colored, handmade items. Visitors to this historically inspired village can witness craftswomen working in pairs over silk-draped tables creating some of the most colorful and intricate designs around. Travelers can purchase lavish wall hanging for their home or decorated scarves and greeting cards from the local shop. The picturesque tea garden offers the perfect place to check out more of the handmade works and relax in the natural beauty of XQ’s picturesque surroundings.
The Thap Ba Hot Springs are a destination for travelers who want to experience Vietnamese thermal mud baths as a reasonable rate. Travelers can choose from communal, individual or couple options and sit back and relax into the steaming hot mud of this ancient site. The relaxing oasis offers visitors access to several pools ideal for a quiet swim, as well as a nearby waterfall perfect for unwinding after a serious mineral soak. A couple of on-site restaurants, massage facilities and comfortable sun beds make Thap Ba Hot Springs the perfect place to spend an entire day. Travelers say the helpful staff knows little to no English, they’re still somehow able to always point visitors in the right direction.
Unlike the famed Cu Chi tunnels—which served as supply caches and strategic combat routes for Viet Cong soldiers and today are swarming with tourists—the Vinh Moc tunnels served a different war time purpose and receive far fewer visitors. Stretching almost two from the coastal town of Vinh Moc to a beach overlooking the South China Sea, the Vinh Moc Tunnels were dug in the late 1960s to serve as a live-in bomb shelter for more than 60 families. The families lived their lives underground, some for up to six years, and one frequently-cited figure says as many as 17 children were born in these underground tunnels their occupation.
Today, visitors can enter the dark and earthen tunnel complex, via a rock-wall rimmed stairway, and, unlike at Cu Chi, walk upright through them. Nooks notched into the sides of the main tunnel served as family quarters or meeting rooms and are today populated by strategically-placed human-sized dummies that show how cramped the villagers must have been. Two deeper layers, up to 70 feet below the ground’s surface, served as storage for weapons and supplies and as a deeper subterranean hiding space from direct bombing attacks. There are more than 10 separate gated entrances to the tunnels that visitors can see along the route. A small on-site museum has photographs and memorabilia that help to paint a picture of life in the tunnels and a map depicting the extent of the Vinh Moc tunnel system.
Situated 60 kilometers from Nha Trang, the Hon Ba Nature Reserve (Khu Bảo Tồn Thiên Nhiên Hòn Bà) covers an area of almost 47,000 acres. This ancient forest region is awash with wild nature and was established in order to protect and preserve the unique biodiversity of the area, including resources, wildlife, and flora. The reserve is home to almost 600 different types of plants and 255 species of animals, including many endangered species.
A long and winding path leads through the mist to the peak of Hon Ba Mountain, which sits at an altitude of 1500 meters, allowing it to enjoy a cool yet humid client all year-round, contributing to the area’s rich biodiversity. From the top of the mountain, spectacular panoramic views of the region unfold, and there’s also the small wooden house of the French doctor, Alexandre Yersin, who established the path to the peak of the mountain a century ago.
Located on the coast about halfway between Danang and Hoi An sits Non Nuoc Beach, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam if not the world. With the Son Tra Peninsula to the north and the Marble Mountains to the west, this white sand expanse has transformed from a former fishing beach to a resort area lined by five star hotels and resorts.
While Non Nuoc Beach itself measures about 3 miles (5 kilometers) in length, the sand stretches for miles in either direction. That means the beach is rarely crowded, and with a short walk, it’s possible to have a stretch of sand all to yourself.
Set amid the tropical greenery of Hon Tre Island, Vinpearl Land Nha Trang (sometimes called Vinpearl Amusement Park) transforms the beach resort of Nha Trang into a destination perfect for families and thrill seekers. The excitement begins before you even reach the entrance of the park, as you ride a record-breaking 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) cable car suspended above the South China Sea.
Around a half-hour boat ride from Cau Da Port in Nha Trang lies little Hon Mieu Island (Hòn Miễu in Vietnamese). Much of the island won’t be of particular interest to the average tourist, although there are a few pleasant beaches plus a sprinkling of seafood restaurants close to where the ferries come in.
The main attraction on Hon Mieu however is the Tri Nguyen Aquarium, a unique boat-shaped building that, along with its surrounding waters, houses a large variety of fish and other marine life, including giant shrimp, sharks, and turtles. Visitors can even climb to the ‘top deck’ to check out the views.
Along the mountainous coastline north of Nha Trang, Hòn Chồng (Husband Rock) is made up of huge rock formations piled on top of each other that run from the land down into the sea.
The views are what people come here for, with a fantastic landscape of rocks, beach, ocean, and neighboring islands to feast your eyes on. Around 300 meters south of Hòn Chồng lies the tiny Hon Do (Red Island), which features its own Buddhist temple. To the northeast is Hon Rua (Tortoise Island), so called because of its tortoise shape, while the two islands of Hon Yen (Bird’s Nest Island) lie out to the east.
As the area is not particularly large and won’t take long to see, many visitors combine a trip here with a visit to the Po Nagar Cham Towers, which are around a five-minute taxi ride away.
My Khe Beach is situated in the northernmost part of the stunning 30-kilometer stretch of coast known as China Beach near Da Nang in Central Vietnam. Widely considered to be Vietnam's most picturesque beach, this lengthy stretch of spectacular coastline is famous for being visited by American troops during the Vietnam War.
My Khe is the ideal beach for holidaymakers visiting Central Vietnam, particularly between May and October, with its smooth white sand, gentle gradient, and abundance of coral and marine life. The beach’s low pollution, pleasant temperatures, and calm waters also add to the appeal here (although the waves become much more dramatic come September-time, making for some ideal surfing conditions).
There are an abundance of accommodation, food, and retail outlets in the area, as well as places to hire surf and snorkel equipment.
More Things to Do in Central Vietnam
Thanh Toan Bridge spans a canal in the countryside village of Thuy Thanh, around seven kilometers east of Hue. It’s a small, covered bridge – the sister to Hoi An’s famous Japanese Covered Bridge (although some argue Hue’s is more distinct in many ways). The structure is both Japanese and Chinese in style and has a square-timber arch decorated with ancient ceramics, along with inscriptions in traditional Chinese script.
There is a story behind the origins of Thanh Toan Bridge: It is said to have been built during Emperor Le Hien Tong’s reign in the mid-18th century, with construction initiated by Tran Thi Dao, the wife of a high-ranking mandarin in the Emperor's court. Tran Thi Dao established the bridge to create smooth transportation and communication around the village, which was divided in two by the canal. Emperor Le Hien Tong recognized Thi Dao’s initiative and charity by exempting the village from imperial taxations.
Kim Bồng carpentry village is located within the Cẩm Kim commune in Hoi An. Since the 16th century, the village has been known for its carpentry and traditional woodworking products, the results of which can be found within prominent buildings across the region and beyond.
The style of Kim Bồng carpentry is said to be influenced by the Cham Kingdom, China, Japan, and of course local Vietnamese artisans. The craftspeople here all begin as apprentices, earning the rank of masters only by years of hard work and dedication. The work being produced in the village can largely be divided into three main categories: ancient architectural construction, civil wooden furniture, and shipbuilding. In addition, many of the artisans have more recently shifted their focus to the recovery of historical monuments and relics, especially traditional ancient houses around Hoi An.
Today, bicycle tours of the village are common, allowing visitors to pass through streets lined with open-fronted workshops and witness the artisans at work. Visitors are also able to purchase items produced in the village at its various souvenirs shops, which sell everything from small, low-cost items, such as coasters, to huge expensive pieces, such as religious statues and intricately crafted wooden doors.
Famous for its giant statue of Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Linh Ung Pagoda occupies 30 acres (12 hectares) on a hill on the Son Tra Peninsula. Opened in 2010, the relatively new pagoda complex features a mix of modern and traditional Vietnamese temple architecture, including a typical three-entrance gate.
According to local legend, a smaller pagoda was built on the same site during the nineteenth century, when a local villager living on the peninsula found a statue of the Buddha drifting near the beach.
As visitors pass through the main gate of the pagoda, they are met by 18 stone statues of the 18 Arhats, believed to be the original followers of the Buddha, whose expressions run the gamut from joy and love to anger and sadness. Towering above the grounds is the 220-foot (67-meter) Guanyin statue. Within the giant monument, visitors can ascend 17 floors, each displaying Buddha statues depicting his various aspects.
The National Oceanographic Museum of Vietnam is located around five kilometers from Nha Trang’s city center in a grand old French-colonial building. It has a large collection of marine life and other items, including numerous jars of pickled specimens, stuffed birds and sea mammals, plus plenty of fishing related artefacts.
The displays are arranged across two floors. The ground floor is home to various sized tanks housing countless varieties of marine life, including reef sharks, turtles, anemones, pufferfish, lionfish, clownfish, seahorses, and a whole array of colorful coral. Upstairs is where to find the exhibiting specimens, local boats, and various fishing articles, not to mention an 18-meter-long skeleton of a whale.
Themed rooms chart the history, science, and technology associated with marine life, with exhibits focusing on things like algae and phytoplankton, as well as the history of fishing in Vietnam, plus natural disasters at sea and around the coast.
The Da Nang city outpost of the popular Vietnamese theme-park group, Sun World Danang Wonders sprawls along the Han River. The theme park features rides such as roller coasters, carousels, drop towers, and a giant fairground wheel, while the cultural park highlights Asian architecture through scale models of famous buildings.
Located between Hoi An Ancient Town and An Bang Beach, Tra QueVegetable Village is an agricultural district that still uses traditional techniques to produce Vietnamese crops. The fertile farmland, which provides a welcome break from the crowds of Hoi An Ancient Town, is awash with fragrant herbs and home to numerous independent workshops.
Stretching 700 km along the Thua Thien-Hue seashore, Tam Giang is the largest lagoon in Southeast Asia with over 300,000 Vietnamese living along its shores. Just 15 km from Hue, it’s a popular place to enjoy Vietnamese rural life and go out on a fishing boat with a local, learning traditional Vietnamese fishing methods along the way. At dusk, you’ll see traps being set to collect fish and shrimps before dawn the next day, and women working hard in the water to collect the oysters and clams which are then sold at the local markets.
Popular fishing villages to visit include Ngu My Thanh, Bao La, and Tan My: learn about daily life on the banks of the lagoon, take a boat trip, sleep overnight on a homestay, or learn how local women making fishing nets and pick up the art of bamboo weaving -- there’s plenty to do on the banks of Tam Giang Lagoon. If you go to Ngu My Thanh village, be sure to visit the traditional floating market which is open in the early mornings.
A photographer’s dream, Tam Giang Lagoon is also famous for its biodiversity -- look out for lake-loving birds and flora while you’re here, and of course, try fresh seafood like squid, clams, crab and shrimp fresh from the lake at one of the cottages lining the lagoon.
Winding over a mountainous stretch of highway just north of Da Nang, the Hai Van Pass (Đèo Hải Vân—literally “Sea Cloud Pass”) is one of Vietnam’s most scenic coast roads. It twists and turns over a spur of the Truong Son mountain range, delivering epic sea views from as high as 1,627 feet (495 meters).
In a city full of historical and architectural landmarks, Phuc Kien Assembly Hall (Fujian Assembly Hall) is not to be missed. What once served as a gathering place for Chinese merchants, today functions as one of the city’s largest and most ornate temples. Intricate craftsmanship begins with the massive gates that protect this historic structure from the hustle of Hoi An streets, and it continues through the shaded hallways and colorful rooms.
Visitors can light incense burners in honor of their loved ones and explore the beautifully carved details of giant dragon statues and well-tended gardens.
The Forbidden Purple City (Tử Cấm Thành), which sits at the center of Hue’s Imperial Enclosure, was once reserved for exclusive use by the emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty. Only eunuchs passed through its halls, since even his most trusted servants weren’t allowed beyond the gates. Today, this historic citadel sits mostly in ruins, destroyed during several wars throughout the nation’s history. Despite some recent rebuilding efforts, travelers can easily spend a long afternoon wandering paths that crisscross the grounds, exploring portions of the foundation, now overgrown with foliage, and examining the painting, woodwork and architecture that still remains. A 10 kilometer moat surrounds what was created to resemble the Forbidden City of Beijing, and 10 gates protect these once royal grounds.
Hailed as the epitome of antique grandeur, the 200-year-old Tan Ky Old House pays homage to Hoi An’s rich architectural heritage. The beautifully preserved 18th-century house contains Chinese and Japanese artworks, dark-wood furniture, and watermarked walls that attest to the building’s ability to withstand Hoi An’s seasonal floods.
Perhaps the most-visited gate of the Imperial City, this entrance was the site of numerous historically significant announcements (like the resignation of the last emperor, Bao Dai). A list of successful doctoral candidates whose names were announced at these gates still hangs on the wall of the upper floor. Although it was significantly damaged during war, yellow tiles, which demarcate areas reserved for use only by the emperor, can still be seen on rooftops. Climb to the upper level and enjoy unmatched views of both the Citadel and the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
Formerly used to host the receptions and ceremonies of Vientamese emperors, Thai Hoa Palace dates back to 1805 and is notable for its lacquered columns. Plus, due to the palace’s innovative design, if you stand at the exact center of the courtyard you can hear whispers from anywhere in the building.
Clustered around 13 miles (21 kilometers) from Hoi An’s Cua Dai harbor, Vietnam's eight Cham Islands are known as Cham Island or Cù Lao Chàm. They offer white-sand beaches, granite cliffs, and coral reefs ideal for diving and snorkeling. The islands’ rich marine life and ecosystems have earned them UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status.
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- Things to do in Hue
- Things to do in Nha Trang
- Things to do in My Son
- Things to do in Da Nang
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- Things to do in South Coast
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