Vietnam Historic & Cultural Tours
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The mausoleum, built from 1973 to 1975 in a style similar to that of the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow, is located at Ba Dinh Square, where Ho Chi Minh publicly declared Vietnam's independence on September 2, 1945. Right after his death on September 3, 1969, Ho Chi Minh's body was embalmed by a team of Soviet experts. Visitors to the mausoleum are expected to
Hanoi Old Quarter
Although the old section of Hanoi is often called the "36 Old Streets," there are more than 36 actual streets. Some researchers believe that the number 36 came from the 15th century when there might have been 36 guild locations, which were workshop areas, not streets. When streets were later developed, the guild names were applied to the streets. Others attribute the 36 to a more abstract concept. The number nine in Asia represents the concept of "plenty." Nine times the four directions makes 36, which simply means "many." There are now more than 70 streets in the area.
Some streets have achieved fame by their inclusion in popular guidebooks. Hang Gai Street offers silk clothing ready-made and tailored, embroidery, and silver products. Hang Quat, the street that formerly sold silk and feather fans, now stuns the visitor by its brilliantly colored funeral and festival flags and religious objects and clothing. To Thinh Street connects the above two and is still the wood turner’s street. Hang Ma glimmers with shiny paper products, such as gift wrappings, wedding decorations and miniature paper objects to burn for the dead. Lan Ong Street is a sensual delight of textures and smells emanating from the sacks of herbal medicinal products: leaves, roots, barks, and powders.
Cha Ca La Vong, Pho Hanoi
Water Puppet Show
Puppetry is common throughout the world, but puppetry theatre of Vietnam on water is unique. The art of water puppetry appeared in the Ly dynasty (1010-1225). Vestiges of evidence have been found in several places such as the pavilion on water by the Long Tri lake in the Thay Pagoda, Ha Tay province.
Water puppetry was developed in lake and pond-rich areas in the Red River Delta. The surface of water serves as the stage while spectators sit at the edge of water. The puppeteers both male and female stand waist-deep in the water to manipulate the puppets making them move about and even dance on the surface of the water. The water serves not only to hide the puppeteers and strings of the puppets but also to create a trembling stage full of reflection, while providing natural amplification for singing puppeteers accompanied by percussion music and fire crackers
The Museum of Fine Arts
(Bao Tang My Thuat). The evolution of Vietnamese art is sparingly chronicled in this musty three-story museum, which opened in 1966 after serving as a boardinghouse for French girls living in Indochina. The architecture, sculpture, drawing, and fine arts of Vietnam are displayed in a series of exhibits, mainly organized chronologically, starting with an impressive collection of Stone Age and Bronze Age artifacts on the third floor. Also here are examples of lacquer and wood sculpture, including a fantastical bodhisattva with 1,000 eyes and arms, a 16th-century statue from the Hoi Ha Pagoda.
The Ethnological Museum
The museum is located on Nguyen Van Thuyen Street (named after a famous national ethnologist), in Cau Giay District, about 7-8 km from downtown Hanoi. It covers an area of nearly 3.3 hectares. Ha Duc Linh, an architect of the Tay ethnic group, designed the museum in the form of the ancient drum of the Dong Son Culture, and interior decorations were designed by French architect, Veronique Dollfus.
Being part of the National Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities, the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is involved in various undertakings. It carries out scientific research on Vietnamese nationalities, collects, classifies, assesses, preserves, restores, exhibits, introduces and exploits the cultural and historical values of all the nationalities. It also provides ethnological references and trains staff in the specific fields of the ethnographic museum. The Museum also attaches attention to the cultures of other countries in Southeast Asia, seeing them as potential targets for exhibitions at the museum in the near future.
Temple of Literature
This is a famous cultural and historical relic, a pleasant retreat from the streets of Hanoi. The temple was built in 1070 (four years after the Norman invasion of England) by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, who dedicated it to Confucius (in Vietnamese, Khong Tu) in order to honor scholars and men of literary accomplishment. The temple constitutes a rare example of well-preserved traditional Vietnamese architecture and is well worth a visit. In 1076, the Vietnam’s first university was established here to educate sons of mandarins. In front of the rectangular yard lined with 82 stone steal, considered as the most precious artifacts in the temple, carved with the names of the doctors of philosophy who passed the king's examination from 1498 to 1787. In 1802, King Gia Long (Nguyen Dynasty) transferred the National University to his new capital Hue. Major renovations were carried out in 1920 and 1956
Is located on Bohon Island where there is a group of famous caves, 15km away from Baichay Tourist Wharf. Sungsot is one of the largest and most beautiful caves in Halong Bay and covers over 10,000sq. meters and is divided into three chambers. Each chamber has its own beauty which surprises tourists, especially the third chamber, which suddenly widens into a large, curved, vault like, monumental palace, with a variety of great sculptural works. In “Halong Tourism”, a book published in 1938 by the French, it was referred to as Surprise Cave’ (Grotto de Surprise ).
It is situated on the south-west side the bay, 4 km from the wharf outside of Ha Long City. The way to Thiên Cung is a perilous one, covered on both sides by thick forest. After entering a narrow gate, the grotto’s 130-meter-long girth opens up. Getting in we are more astonished in front of the very animated and splendid beauty which is made from stalactite. On the east wall of the grotto, there is a grandiose and imposing picture with characters of tales.
Going out of the Thien Cung Grotto, we have a sensation of just watching a unique, meticulous, interesting fine-art museum which is made by nature, get out of the imagine, ability and intellect of man.
This grotto is recently discovered, one of the most beautiful grottoes in Ha Long Bay.
Legend has it, that beautiful young lady named Mây (cloud), caught the eye of the Dragon Prince and he fell in love with her. They were betrothed, and their wedding lasted seven days and seven nights in the very centre of the grotto.
in the centre are four large pillars supporting the "roof of heaven.” From the base to the top, many strange images seem to live in the stone: birds, fish, flowers and even scenes of human life. On the north wall of the grotto a group of fairies seem to dance and sing in honour of the wedding. Under the immeasurably high roof, stalactites make a natural stone curtain. Somewhere there is the sound of a drum beating, but it is actually just the noise made by the wind blowing through stone.
Tay Ninh, near the Cambodian border, is home to the unique Cao Dai sect, whose patron saints include Joan of Arc, Victor Hugo and Winston Churchill to name a few. Founded in the 1920's by Ngo Van Chieu, a Saigon civil servant, the religion is an eclectic mix of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and Christianity and at one time had a very strong following in the Mekong Delta area, especially with the rural poor. Van Chieu had a vision from 'Cao Dai' - the Supreme Being to create a religion that would embrace all the major world theologies.
The Cao Dai Temple at Tay Ninh has been described as a Walt Disney fantasia of the East (author Graham Greene). The temple's exterior is decorated with multi-colored dragons of all shapes and sizes competing for space with a number of swastikas. The interior is just as engaging as statues of Jesus Christ, Buddha and the Hindu god, Brahma stand side by side.
Cao Dai Holy See
The Cao Dai religion is less than 100 years old and is a broad, inclusive faith that sprang from Buddhist origins to embrace Jesus, Mohammed, and other nontraditional, latter-day saints such as Louis Pasteur, Martin Luther King, and Victor Hugo. Practitioners of Cao Daism are pacifists, pray four times daily, and follow a vegetarian diet for 10 days out of every month. Cao Daism is practiced by only a small percentage of Vietnamese people, mostly in the south, but you'll see temples scattered far and wide -- easily recognizable by the all-seeing eye, which, oddly enough, looks something like the eye on the U.S. dollar. Often included with trips to the Cu Chi Tunnels (below), the temple at Tay Ninh is the spiritual center, the Cao Dai Vatican if you will, and the country's largest. Visitors are welcome at any of the four daily ceremonies, but all are asked to wear trousers covering the knee, remove their shoes before entering, and act politely, quietly observing the ceremony from the balcony area.
The temple interior is a colorful wedding cake, with bright murals and carved pillars. Cao Dai supplicants wear either white suits of clothing or colorful robes, each color denoting what root of Cao Daism they practice: Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, or Daoist. On the ride there you'll pass through the town of Trang Bang, site of the famous photo of 9-year-old Kim Phuc, who was burned by napalm. The road also passes Nui Ba Den, the Black Virgin Mountain, which marked the end of the Ho Chi Minh trail from the north and was a Viet Cong stronghold during the war era.
My Tho, the capital of Tien Giang province. It is the closest Mekong Delta city to Ho Chi Minh city, for this reason package tourists on a 10 day Vietnam tour come here for day trips. Having spent two hours in My Tho, they can go home and say “ I have seen the Mekong River”.
My Tho has a diverse collection of fruits and vegetables: Trung Luong plum, peach, Vinh Kim star apples, sweet mangoes, king oranges, Cai Be guava... My Tho has a rich source of seafood.
My Tho noodle is famous for it's taste, and many others specialties of Mekong delta river.
Boat tour on the Mekong River is the amusing activity in My Tho. Attractions in My Tho are orchards and rice fields on Phoenix Island, Thoi Son Island, Vinh Trang Pagoda and Dong Tan Snake Farm
Can Tho is at the centre of Mekong Delta, amongst a network of rivers, brooks, canals and ditches. The province is about 170 km from Ho Chi Minh City.
In the past, Can Tho was bestowed the title Tay Do (Capital of the Western Provinces), and remains the rice centre of the south-west. As well as substantial rice and fruit tree resources, Can Tho is a production centre for fresh-water seafood. Can Tho's urban picture is distinct, with a network of canals, trenches and channels, which act as streets rather than inconveniences
Cai Rang Floating Market
Together with Cai Be and Phung Hiep, Cai Rang Floating Market in Can Tho City is one of the three biggest in the Mekong Delta. The shops and stalls at these markets are boats of different sizes.
Cai Rang Floating Market is open all day but it is busiest from sunrise to about 9am. The main items sold there are farm products and specialties of Cai Rang Town, Chau Thanh District and neighboring areas. Every boat has a long upright pole at its bow on which samples of the goods for sale are hung. Sellers do not have to cry out about their goods because their goods can be seen in a distance and their cries would not be heard in the vastness of the river and the noise of boat engines. Small boats that sell beer, soft drinks and wine go among the other boats to serve market-goers and visitors. The most common goods sold are fruit. Big boats are the wholesalers, selling fruit to dealers from neighboring provinces. Each boat is loaded with plenty of seasonal goods. Activities at the market are also an occasion for tourists to study the cultural aspects of southerners. To visit Cai Rang Floating Market, visitors can join a tour of the Mekong Delta. On the way to Can Tho, visitors can stop to visit My Tho and take a boat trip to visit orchards, bee farms and coconut candy establishments in Ben Tre. Visitors can also explore Can Tho on their own by taking a coach. In Can Tho, besides Cai Rang Floating Market, Visitors can visit other places such as Can Tho Market, Ninh Kieu Quay, Binh Thuy Temple, and private tourist gardens. In these gardens, visitors can walk, breathe fresh air, enjoy different kinds of fruits and countryside specialties and stay at nice guest houses in the shade of trees.
Phong Dien floating markets
Floating markets are held every morning from 5:00 to about 11:00. Phung Hiep market is the biggest since it is located at the intersection of 7 major canals. It is also a photographer's delight because it can be seen above from a bridge. Cai Rang and Phong Dien are two other notable floating markets in the delta
Boats loaded with produce from nearby orchards of the Mekong Delta converge to the floating market. They carry mostly fruits but also coconuts, vegetables and fishes.
Buyers are local traders with bigger boats snapping everything by the bushels and resell at local markets or to wholesale dealers from big cities, often for a handsome profit
Cai Be floating market
Cai Be floating market, experience how people exchanging goods, fruit and many other commodities on their vessels. Visitors then roam into the small villages to visit the orchard, fruit plantation. Keep cruising to Vinh Long through small canals to enjoy the charm of the Upper Mekong Delta. Visit some hand – made family business products such as the coconut candy mill, the crispy rice popcorn
The PERFUME RIVER is beautiful sight from its source, and winds among mountains, forest trees, plants, etc. bringing with it fragrances of tropical flora. The river runs slowly through the verdant and shady villages of Kim Long, Nguyet Bieu, Vy Da, Dong Ba, Gia Hoi, Dinh market, Nam Pho, Bao Vinh, mingling -with the odours of flowers of Hue... The river with the shimmer blue limpid colour is like a pearl in the sun. Hue boats rowing up and down with remote, meditative and deep folk melodies at deep night. It is an eternal pleasure for many generations of tourists who go boating to behold the poetic landscape, to listen to the folk melodies of Hue in tranquil nights.
The views on both sides of the river with the citadel, town, gardens, pagodas, towers and temples, etc. and their reflections in the waters make the already loveable river even more poetic and musical. Many people think that Hue city has peaceful, gentle and tranquil landscapes mostly thanks to the Perfume river. This river brings to the city a meditative poetic characteristics and the harmonious limpidity exhaling from a land of age-old culture.
Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu pagoda overlooks the Perfume River and the beautiful scenery beyond. Although the 21-meter tall tower is the centerpiece of the temple, the history of Thien Mu extends back to 1601, when the temple was founded by Nguyen Hoang, governor of Thuan Hoa province. Legend says that Nguyen Hoang built the temple to fulfill a prophecy from a 'fairy woman' (Thien Mu) that a great lord would arrive to build a pagoda for the prosperity of the country.
The temple also displays a 2000 kilogram bell cast in 1710 and a stele from 1715
The Imperial City was constructed in 1804 and is square in shape, with a perimeter of nearly 2.5 km. It has four entrances: the Noon Gate that is opposite the flag tower, the Gate of Humanity on the left side, the Gate of Virtue on the right hand side, and the Gate of Peace at the rear. The city is surrounded by the Golden Waters pond that flows into the lakes at the northern corner of the city. Each gate has a bridge spanning the Golden Waters, whilst the Noon Gate has three bridges. In imperial times, the centre bridge was for the use of the Emperor alone, whilst the other two bridges were for the use of his entourage.
Once you enter via the Noon Gate, separating you from the Great Rites Court is the Thai Dich Lakes (Great Liquid Lakes). These were dug in 1883 and are spanned by a central bridge, the Trung Dao (Central path) Bridge. The bridge has two ornately designed gateway, carved with dragons slithering up and down them.
The Great Rites Court (also known as the Esplanade of Great Salutation) consists of two paved terraces. The upper was reserved for high ranking civil and military mandarins, whilst the lower was for village officials and elders. The steles on each side of the court indicate where each official's designated place was. At the two corners of the court stand two bronze Kylins, which are believed to bring peace.
The Royal Citadel
Located inside the Imperial City, behind the Throne Palace, the Forbidden Purple City is reserved for Emperor and his family. Constructed early in Emperor Gia Long'reign in 1804 with brick walls 3.72m high, 0,72 m thick, about 1,230 m in circumference. Its front and back sides are 324 m each while either left and right side is more than 290 m including 50 architectural constructions of different sizes and 7 gates for facilities of entrance and exit. Dai Cung Mon (the Great Place Gate) is in the front side for Kings. Can Chanh Palace (the place for every day working of Emperors). Can Thanh (Emperor's Private Palace), Khon Thai Residence (Queen's Private Apartment) reserved for the Queen. Duyet Thi Duong house (Royal Theatre), Thuong Thien (the kitchen for the King' food), Thai Binh Lau (King's reading room)... Besides, Hue is also famous for royal tombs and temples of Nguyen Kings. Seven tombs with different aspect are not not only a wonderful arch but also combining beautiful, imposing nature and poetic of Hue
Tomb of Tu Duc
The Tomb of Tu Duc is probably the "one to see" if you only have limited time. It is the closest to Hue of the larger, more impressive tombs. The tomb is an enormous walled enclosure, practically a palace in its own right. In fact, the guidebooks and plaques on the walls will tell you that the emperor spent a lot of time here during the tomb's three years of construction. It seems likely that the tomb site served as a sort of summer palace.
To your right as you enter through the gate is a large meandering lake. There's a small island in the middle, reputed to be where the emperor is really buried. Facing the largest open area of the lake is a wide grand staircase (above). This leads, not to the tomb, as you might expect, but to a temple which was used as a palace by the emperor before his death
The Museum of Champa Sculpture in Danang was built in 1915, although its origins go back to a late nineteenth century collection of artifacts from central Vietnam, made by French scholars.
The museum, which was designed by two French architects (Delaval and Auclair) imitates many well-known features of Champa towers and temples. The museum was extended in 1935 in order to be able to display artifacts excavated at Tra Kieu (capital of the Champa kingdom until about the year 1000 AD.
The Marble Mountains are located 12 km west of Danang City.
The Marble Mountains, also referred to as Ngu Hanh Son or Mountains of the Five Elements, consist of five marble mountains: Thuy Son (water) which is the highest, Moc Son (wood), Kim Son (metal), Tho Son (soil), and Hoa Son (fire).
Thuy Son has been exploited as a popular tourist resort because of its alluring beauty. Stone steps carved into the mountain lead to the Tam Thai Pagoda where Phat Di Lac is worshipped. At the back of the pagoda is Huyen Khong Cave. In the past, the pagoda paid tribute to Hindu and Buddhist gods and is now dedicated to Cham deities. Huyen Khong Cave was the base for Vietnamese revolutionaries during wartime.
The Marble Mountains are famous for their traditional stone engraving activities. In Dong Hai Village close to Thuy Son, 600 families chisel stone producing statues, jewelry, and art work. Stone from the Marble Mountains has been exported to many countries.
One of the nicest beaches in Vietnam is located 2 km from the mountains and 10 km from Danang, which is very convenient for visitors who want to go climbing and bathing .
Hoi An Ancient town
Hoi An was an important port developed in 17th century and remained so for a long time. There used to be canals parallel to the streets, so merchandise could be loaded straight from the back of houses onto the boats. Hoi An’s contin uance as a port lasted right up until the early years of the 20 century, when the river became silted up forcing the cargo ships to call at Da Nang instead. In the past Hoi An has been used by the Japanese, Portuguese, Dutch, French and the large remaining Chinese community where all sorts of produce and wares were traded. Remnants of these past traders’ influences can still be seen lining the streets of Hoi An. There are nine different types of historical sites in Hoi An with an average age of 200 years. They include private houses, family chapels, community halls, communal houses, temples, pagodas, bridges, wells and tombs. Many of these buildings have been maintained close to their original form, allowing you imagination to recreate a prosperous trading town. The houses are small and colorful with wooden doors and two round "wooden house's eyes" above, window shutters and ornamental furniture.
Hoi An is full of shops selling artwork, from lifelike memorial family portraits, to stylized images of Hoi An houses and streets. Next door to the art shops are places selling souvenir statues, ceramic plates, and ‘antique’ bowls. At the market place beside the river, you can pick up almost anything you want. Tourists are often being lured into the markets to buy silk and to have quality garments tailor made. You can have anything from dresses and trousers to shirts and hats made for a cheap price. Another noticeable quality of Hoi An is its relative silence.
My Son holly land
By this time, you might be thinking that Vietnam was always under the influence of China, up until the French moved in. A visit to My Son shows that there was a lot of Indian influence long ago. The kingdom of Champa flourished from the 2nd to the 15th century. What remains of this kingdom can mainly by found at My Son, which is a day trip from Danang or Hoi An.
The tower above is one of a few scattered around the countryside, standing apparently alone and isolated in the middle of rice fields. Its just off the road between Danang and My Son.
About an hour's drive from Danang or Hoi An will bring you to the foothills in which My Son is nestled.
The whole site is in a significant state of disrepair. You can see that the buildings were in a similar style to Angkor Wat, but its worth noting that the buildings here pre-date Angkor by several centuries. Their state of neglect and decay wasn't helped by being bombed during the war. Only recently has some attempt been made to restore some of the buildings.
If you have been to Angkor Wat, you might be a little disappointed in My Son. It is nothing so grand as you will find in Cambodia, or even Thailand. Still, if you want to see everything that has contributed to Vietnam's history, My Son is an important part.. Who know? Maybe you will solve the "riddle of the Chams." Look closely at any one of the temples. You'll note there's no mortar between the bricks. What did they use to stick them together.
Charming of Vietnam with My Son holly land,My Son,My Son Ruins,My Son Heritage
Non nuoc fine art village
Perhaps no one comes to the Five Marble Mountains without paying a call on the Hoa Hai Fine Arts Village, where nationwide and worldwide famous marble handicraft works are produced.
Mr. Le Ben, an over-70-year-old craftsman, told us that the trade village of his country has a three or four-hundred-year history. This is affirmed by some steles which still remain at some ancient pagodas in the Quang Nam area. Currently, there is a temple of the “Marble Fine Arts Founders” at the well-known spot of the Five Marble Mountains, and many ancestor anniversary activities take place largely in this village on the sixth day of the first lunar month every year.
Many gardens of statues have their back to the mountains. So, the overall artistic spaces of these gardens are arranged skillfully thanks to the outside landscape. Visitors will be very interested in and surprised by the artistic stone works exhibited here.
Polished statues, lively toy animals, and petite and sophisticated presents with both traditional and modern motives that were produced here have been taken to most parts of the world by visitors.
Lifeless stone has become a lively thing with the human spirit imbued into it by the craftsmen of the Non Nuoc Fine Arts Village. It is certain that this process takes place in many work stages, including extremely difficult ones. The happiness with the completed works, the admiration of connoisseurs and also the benefits from the job have united the people of this fine arts village in their careers.
Bac Ha Market, Sapa Love market.
Bac Ha has one of the most interesting ethnic markets in Vietnam and possibly everywhere in South East Asia: " Sunday is market day in Bac Ha, which is the occasion for the various local ethnies to gather in huge crowds to exchange the last news, gossip, shop, and eat a copious lunch. It was visibly a festive event. I was surrounded in a sea of color, and had the feeling to be on a movie set. Everyone seemed excited. A few men rode small horses. Those fortunate enough to be able to pay 10000 dongs (75 cents) arrived at the back of a motorcycle, sharing the ride with two other passengers. Most came on foot, from villages as far as 20 kilometers away. Even the old hunched lady was not going to miss the weekly party. Although there were several ethnies at the market, the Flower Hmong women stood apart with their vibrant dress. They wear a number of skirts and underskirts all made with very colorful fabric and some batiks. Their tops are embroided, often with flower motifs, and their heads are covered with elaborately shaped and balanced scarfs. In the rapid global uniformization of today's world, it was refreshing to see this untouched beauty in humanity.
Cat Cat Village
Located in the northwest of Vietnam, Cat Cat is a residence of Hmong ethnic minority. The black Hmong village of Cat Cat is reachab le from Sapa where most trekking journeys begin. On the way to Cat Cat, unspoiled natural beauty can be admired, further, not far from the village, you can trek onwards to discover the classic ruins of a former French hydroelectric power station as well as a non-manmade waterfall.
Ta Phin Village
Traveling From Sapa for about 6 kilometers upon descending to scenic rice terraces, you will find Ta Phin village sitting with humble in a hillside meadow. The village is renowned as the settlement of indigenous ethnicities of Red Dzao and Hmong who still hold on to some rare to find ways of life. Admiring unspoiled natural treasures of this village is possible by driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle or trekking from Sapa
Geologists say the Hoang Lien Mountain Range, with Fansipan as its highest peak, did not emerge in the mountainous North West of Vietnam until the neozoic period (circ. 100 million years ago). Fansipan, a rough pronunciation of the local name “Hua Xi Pan” means “the tottery giant rock”. The French came to Vietnam and in 1905 planted a landmark telling Fansipan’s height of 3,143m and branded it “the Roof of Indochina”. Very few people climbed to the top of Fansipan at the time. Then came the long years of war and Fansipan was left deserted for hunting and savaging. The trail blazed by the French was quickly overgrown by the underbrush.
It takes six or seven days to reach the 3,143m summit, the highest peak of the Indochina Peninsula.
Huong Pagoda (Perfume Pagoda)
The Huong Pagoda (Perfume Pagoda) is a complex of pagodas set amidst mountains, forests, lakes and caves, surrounded by vast green rice-growing plains, about 75 km from Southwest of Hanoi. A boat ride on the Yen Vi Stream through the green paddies to the mountain where the pagodas is located is interesting. The main pagoda is situated on the top of a mountain. Going to the Huong Pagoda must be a good chance of boating, hiking and relaxation. Especially, every year the Huong Pagoda Festival taking place in spring attracts tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims coming to implore the spirits for good luck, wealth, and happiness, and also to admire the beautiful landscapes of the area. The festival takes place for two months from 15th of the first lunar month to the 15th of the 3rd lunar month.
photos courtesy of Eduardo Godoy