Thua Thien –Hue Province is calling investment into the tourism sector, seeking investors for projects of hotels and resorts outside Hue City because inner-city areas have been crowded with around 12,000 hotel rooms, an official said.
The province at a tourism promotion forum in HCMC on Wednesday recommended some venues such as Lang Co, Bach Ma and Thuan An for investors to develop luxury projects to serve high-end guests.
“We are building urban areas outside Hue City, and want investors to develop tourism projects there,” said Nguyen Quoc Thanh, deputy director of the province’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Thanh told the Daily on the sideline of the gathering that investors were already investing in some resort projects along the beaches from Thuan An to Lang Co, including huge projects like the Laguna with nearly US$1 billion in capital.
In Hue City, the tourism sector is encouraging current hotel operators to build more entertainment facilities and calling on other investors to develop new entertainment projects to diversify services for travellers. Other projects like the development of trade villages will also benefit from incentives given by the provincial government.
So far, the province has signed an agreement with Akitek Tenggara of Singapore to map out an overall scheme for the province’s tourism development. The company has completed a list of development sites in the province and would help Thua Thien-Hue to seek investors for some of such projects.
Besides, the company will work with the provincial tourism sector and other entrepreneurs in the coming time to build a tourism trademark for Hue City.
In on Thursday’s meeting, the departments of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Thua Thien-Hue and HCMC inked a tourism cooperation agreement to boost tourism of the two sides.
The central province is staging more culture and tourism events this year to prepare for main events of the National Tourism Year 2012 due to take place in the locality in that year. The tourism year will likely coincide with Festival Hue 2012.
List of some projects and development sites awaiting investors
1/ Agro-tourism urban settlements: building 2,000 traditional houses for well-to-do people from Hanoi and HCMC to enjoy rural life and other facilities.
2/ Eco-tourism urban settlements: building resorts for local middle-class people who want to immerse themselves in traditional Hue culture, and other facilities.
3/ Eco Village at Lap An: developing 12 small boutique hotels mixed with the existing village. On the hillside behind the village would be 500 villas of three-star standards.
4/ Vinh Thanh Floating Hotel: A 50-room floating hotel and other facilities.
5/ Thuan An Floating Hotel: A three-star floating hotel of 50 rooms and other facilities.
6/ Venice on the Rice Fields at Cau Hai Lagoon: a project covering 16.5 hectares with a hotel in the centre along with adjacent developments of 2,000 residential units and other facilities.
7/ Bach Ma Hill Station Resort: restoring existing villas on the hill, building a five-star resort of 200 rooms at the apex of the Helicopter Hill and a five-star hotel of 500 rooms with traditional Hue style on the lower slopes along with 500 traditional Hue villas to be built on stilts.
8/ Luong Quan Rain and Artists Village: It will consist of 150 four-star villas, 50 artist studios, 20 Hue food outlets and other facilities.
9/ Conference Centre and Media Arts Centre: three large sports and conference areas with 10 meeting halls, two hotels, and a media arts schools among others.
Tet in HCM City for the New Year of the Cat is going to be bigger and better than ever with lots of entertainment venues and festivals to visit. Local tour companies are offering amazing Tet packages.
The HCM City People’s Committee has announced programs for Tet Festival 2011 in the city’s downtown area, including Nguyen Hue Flower Street 2011, Bánh tét (cylindrical glutinous rice cake) festival, fireworks, the lighting city, snapshots of New Year 2011 and doorshows.
The annual seventh Nguyen Hue Flower Street 2011 is themed “New Heights” as HCM City sets its sights on a bigger and better city. Sections of the street will be decorated in different spring themes — Hn Vit (Vietnam’s Soul), Tt phng Nam (Southern Tet), Ni vòng tay ln (Get together), Vn lên tm cao mi (Reach New Heights), Xuân an vui (Happy and Peaceful Spring). Other attractions include a flower arrangement booth, a wishing pond to collect money for charity, coffee stalls, folk music and games.
Nguyen Hue Flower Street extending down Nguyen Hue Boulevard from the City Hall to the river opens from 7 p.m., Jan. 31 till 10 p.m., Feb. 6. It will be closed to traffic for the holiday week. In addition, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Feb. 6, the nearby Le Loi Street from Ben Thanh Market to the Municipal Theater will be for pedestrians only.
The Bánh tét Festival from Jan. 26 to 31 is being jointly organized by all the city’s 24 districts. Activities will include bánh tét cooking contests and a bánh tét Tet gift drive for poor families. Saigontourist Holding Company, in cooperation with the HCM City Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, will give 10,000 bánh tét to disadvantaged children.
The fireworks displays on the Lunar New Year’s Eve (Feb. 2) will take place at seven places around the city while Le Loi, Dong Khoi and Le Duan streets and Chi Lang Park on Dong Khoi Street are decorated with hundreds of lights from Jan. 26 to Feb. 13.
During the last days of the lunar year and the first days of the new lunar year, you can join the Spring Flower Festival at Tao Dan Park and Quoc Te Square, a.k.a. Tortoise Fountain, in the city’s District 1. This year the “Bird Competition” comes back after a long absence.
According to HCM City Greenery and Park Co., the event’s organizer, some highlights of the festival from Jan. 28 to Feb. 8 will be bonsai, flower and fish exhibits by locals and foreigners, an area for souvenirs, games and food at Tao Dan Park. The “Nha Rong – Ho Chi Minh Museum” miniature made from flowers and leaves by a Japanese artisan and orchids from the HCM City Orchid Club. Tortoise Fountain will be turned into a lotus pond with an exhibition titled “HCM City Socio-economic Achievement” and music performances.
Tours around Vietnam
Besides Tet programs in HCM City, tourists can enjoy Tet travel tour promotions around the country.
HCM City-based tour operator Vietravel is introducing the “Spring Travel 2011” program with over 100 tours and lucky prizes till Feb. 28. The spring heritage tour of the North will take you to Hanoi, Halong, Sapa, Trang An, etc. Witness the rich history of the central region by visiting Tet festivals along the Hoai River in Hoi An Town, Danang City, citadels in Hue City and Phong Nha Ke Bang caves in Quang Binh Province. Waterfalls and thousands of flowers are symbols of the Central Highlands while opera songs for Tet are specialties in the Mekong Delta.
Vietravel is holding a Tet lucky draw with prizes including diamond jewelry, vouchers and 20,000 gifts.
Another local travel giant Saigontourist Travel and Service Co. is offering 100 tour packages to enjoy the New Year of the Cat. There are nearly 20 island tours to Con Dao, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Phan Thiet and Danang. A world heritage trip in spring, the legendary Central Highlands and spring in villages in the Central Highlands. Saigontourist has also launched special tours for overseas Vietnamese returning for Tet.
Cholontourist Travel and Service Co. this year has tours to highlands and beaches, including adventure tours.
Thua Thien-Hue leads other provinces and cities in attracting tourists, said the Director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Phan Tien Dung.
The figure will be announced in December by tourism experts and managers based on criteria set by the Institute of Tourism Development Research.
By the end of November, 2010. Thua Thien-Hue had received nearly 1.4 million visitors, a year-on-year increase of 11.7 percent. The number of foreign arrivals to Hue also increased by 7.9 percent. Its tourism sector earned VND774 billion, up 20.4 percent compared to the same period last year.
The number of foreigners visiting Hue through Chan May Port reached 20,000, four times higher than in previous years. Many luxury cruise ships have docked at Chan May Port, such as the Queen Elizabeth II from the UK and the Rhapsody of the Seas from the US, often carry out around 2,000 passengers from countries across the world.
In addition to Hue’s imperial relics, the province has more than 500 festivities, including more than 100 traditional festivals which have been revived and promoted.
The Hue Festival is held biennially on even years and the Hue Traditional Craft Festival is also organised every second odd year. They have become a special and unique part of Thua Thien-Hue.
Traditional craft villages with famous products have been preserved and promoted to attract more visitors, such as the My Xuyen sculptures, Phuoc Tich ceramics, Thanh Tien paper flowers, Lang Sinh traditional pictures, Phuong Duc bronze casts and Zeng A Luoi weaving.
The province now also promotes nearly 1,700 traditional and imperial recipes.
With all these advantages, Thua Thien-Hue became the nation’s cultural and tourism centre.
Life on the river in Hoi An
Nick Claxton has never ventured outside of Europe before but a combination of too many years in London, a lack of proper responsibilities and an unhealthy admiration for Michael Palin now means he is spending a year travelling the globe. A terminally-disorganised 24-year-old taking on the world – solo. Here is his 26th blog entry:
Hoi An is unlike most Vietnamese cities.
Formerly a port city in the 16th and 17th centuries, its Old Town is packed tightly with Chinese-style shop-houses while the atmospheric riverside also harks back to the colonial era with its paper lanterns, French-style restaurants and covered bridges – perfect for a stroll as the sun goes down.
The streets are even mercifully clear of the hordes of motorbikes that plague Ho Chi Minh City, although the hundreds of tailor shops provide a certain menace of their own.
More than 400 tailors are reportedly plying their trade in Hoi An, crammed one after another into this small riverside town.
This means rock bottom prices are on offer for made-to-measure shirts, blouses, dresses and suits, but the intense competition has its downside: be prepared to smile and shrug off the attentions of salesmen almost constantly during the day – but thankfully, they’re not so insistent at night.
I had no desire to remind myself of work back home by buying a suit (even for just US$50/£30), but if you’re in the purchasing mood, then give Hoi An’s tailors a few days and attend multiple fittings to get it right. I met one pair of girls who had to wait three days extra for their dresses before they finally could squeeze into them. Despite the low prices, you can definitely get quality garments eventually, but remember – this isn’t Savile Row!
Apart from the tailors hawking their wares, the pace of life in Hoi An seemed much slower than many of the other towns we’d seen further south. As I’d planned on taking it easy after spending eight days on the bike, Hoi An’s chilled vibe was ideal. I spent the hot days in restaurants or enjoying the view over the fields from outside my room, before mixing with other backpackers down in the bars along the river in the evening.
Hoi An is perfectly placed for tourists travelling along Highway One as its roughly halfway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. This means popular haunts such as the Salsa Club or the always-rocking King Kong Bar are packed out most nights.
Most of my nights were spent dancing on King Kong’s pool table – meaning my days were mainly filled by nursing a hangover. But, more often than not, I still managed to drag myself downstairs and rent a bicycle for around 25,000 dong (£1.10) or grab a taxi to the nearby Cua Dai Beach.
Here I could watch the kite surfers, unwind with fellow bleary-eyed travellers and marvel at the peace on this spotless arc of white beach – where fifty years earlier the gentle sound of the waves may have been broken by the whir of choppers or the crack of rifle fire.
Within a few days, I felt both recuperated and buoyed by the engaging tales of the north told by other travellers. Also, many others were all following the same trail through Laos, so we had the promise of meeting up with some of our newfound friends again.
Eventually, we bid goodbye to Hoi An and made the short trip up to Hue. Nik and I had passed through here before on the bikes and so we headed back to the same hostel for a short one night stay – just so that Ciaran could get a flavour of the old imperial city.
The Perfume River slid slowly by and the oriental influence was just as prevalent just as it had been when Nik and I dashed through Hue five days before. It turned out that only real difference to our stay this time came as we sat in the bar just around the corner from the Nguyen Tri Phuong Hotel (three-bed shared room US$20).
Our first hint of trouble came when a Vietnamese guy pulled up on his bike, conducted a frenzied search through the bar for us and then urged us to come back the hostel in broken English.
Naturally, Ciaran and I left it to Nik to find out what it was about. We had beers to finish after all.
But a shock awaited us when we arrived back at the hostel. Our room was covered floor to ceiling in a thick layer of ash. Clothes, bags, beds, everything had been dusted grey and the roof was marked with a deep black scorch mark.
A quick glance at the scene showed clearly what had happened. The wall-fan had built up so much heat that it had blown clean away from its fixing and shot across the room and onto my bed, where it had set alight the covers – just where my right leg would have been if we’d had an early night!
By threatening me with a fiery death (well, sort of), the Nguyen Tri Phuong Hotel had already lost any chance of my money or recommendation – but they managed to make me dislike them even more by attempting to pin the blame on us. Thankfully, we soon convinced them otherwise – I think suggesting that we ask the police their opinion may have had something to do with that.
Anyway, despite the minor conflagration, none of our stuff had been damaged – other than picking up a new coating of grey – so we dusted it off, threw it into another room and then headed back to the bar.
However, our inflated stories of fire-fighting heroism had worn thin by the next morning. So it was decided that we should take the whole incident as a not-so-subtle hint. That afternoon, we left Hue for Hanoi – hoping for a slightly less eventful time in Vietnam’s capital.
Though I have been to Hue City many times in my past, a visit to Thien Mu Pagoda always lightens my heart from the concerns of my daily struggles to make ends meet.
A view of Thien Mu Pagoda’s garden.
A long time ago a small pagoda of the Cham ethnic group stood on the top of Ha Khe Hill, looking towards the romantic Huong River (Perfume River). That is where Thien Mu Pagoda stands now, according to records of Duong Van An in his historical and geographical book O Chau Can Luc released in 1553.
The pagoda was built by Lord Nguyen Hoang when he was appointed governor of Thuan Hoa Region (known as Hue today) in 1601. The Phuoc Duyen Tower, which comes into view when climbing up the hill to the pagoda, was built in 1844 by Thieu Tri King to commemorate the eightieth anniversary of his grandmother and named Tu Nhan (indulgent person) then.
The tower has stood there since, overlooking the Huong River, and has become synonymous with the landscape of Hue and the Huong River. Its impact is such that it has become the unofficial symbol of the city.
The most pleasant way to get to the pagoda is by boat along the Huong River. The river is fresh and the destination is shaded by old trees covering the dock where the boats stop.
After taking some pictures of the tower, I trekked around the pagoda garden which is a collection of plants and flowers donated to the pagoda from pilgrims around the country. Walking inside the peaceful garden, I caught sight of timid rabbits hiding in bushes and heard many kinds of birds singing on the canopies of leaves above. It was like walking in a wilderness forest.
On the right side of the pagoda is a chain of rooms. The first room showcases the historic car which carried Great Monk Thich Quang Duc to the intersection of Phan Dinh Phung and Le Van Duyet streets in Saigon on June 11 of 1963 to burn himself in opposition to the anti-religion policy of Saigon’s regime at that time.
Next to this room is where the monks of the pagoda live, equipped with wooden beds and small personal items under each bed.
In Dai Hung Temple, at the center of the pagoda, is a large censer where visitors can burn incense and pray for blessings. Fragrant incense smoke fills the air there all day long.
On a trip to Thien Mu Pagoda visitors can choose to do many different things, like sit on the wall to observe the special Huong River, or walk around the pagoda to explore the garden. But to me the most impressive thing to do is to listen to the monks reciting the Buddhist scriptures, or watch them as they sweep the yard or go about their daily routines, for those images bring me to a peaceful feeling never achievable in the hustle and bustle of my daily life.
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Still remaining its form of City underMiddle Age and the constructions of monarchic, a invaluable museum of Vietnam, this is Imperial City – the last remaining section of 19th-century Hue, and it is now a modern experiment in recreating traditional Vietnam. The Imperial City was recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO on December 1993. Let’s take a trip through the most important historical and cultural monument of Vietnam.
The layout of the Imperial City
The main reason to visit Hue is the citadel of the old capital, along with the royal tombs scattered around the countryside. In the early 19th century the Emperor Gia Long chose the present site at Hue. The Emperor wished to recreate, in abbreviated form, a replica of the Forbidden City in Beijing. This vast structure is an unusual hybrid, built according to the notions of Chinese geomancy but in the style of the noted French military architect Sebastien de Vauban.
Dominating the skyline is the 37m (120ft) high Cot Co or Flag Tower, first erected in 1809. Cot Co achieved international renown on the morning of 31 January 1968, when communist forces seized the Citadel and ran their yellow-starred banner up its tall mast.
The lower part of the gate is stone, while on top is the “Belvedere of the Five Phoenixes” where the emperor appeared on important occasions, and where the last emperor abdicated to Ho Chi Minh’s Revolutionary Government in 1945.
Just inside the gate is a lotus pond with a bridge once reserved for the emperor’s private use. Across the bridge is the Thai Hoa Palace used for official receptions and other important court ceremonies. The columns supporting the roof are lacquered and inlaid with gold.
Thai Hoa Palace
Behind the Thai Hoa Palace are a pair of smaller halls used by mandarins to prepare for court ceremonies. The halls form a courtyard, the fourth side of which was once a wall dividing the more public area of the citadel from the emperor’s private residence, the “Forbidden Purple City.” The name conjures up images of grand palaces like Beijing. Unfortunately, it takes quite a bit of imagination to picture the buildings that once occupied what is now a grassy expanse. What wasn’t destroyed by a fire in 1947 was bombed in the 1968 Tet Offensive. The picture at above left was taken from the upper-most level looking back at the Thai Hoa palace and the Flag tower.
Off to one side of the central axis of the forbidden city, about midway, is the Thai Binh Lau or Royal Library. This small building stands in a garden and is fronted by small pond mostly taken up by a mountain-island well-grown with moss and bonsai. You will find similar ponds, fountains or even large bowls of water in many structures all over Vietnam.
Although you must enter the citadel through the main gate, you can exit it at several other points. Between the Thai Hoa palace and the halls of the mandarins, a path leads to the Hien Nhon gate (left). Leaving by this gate is the shortest route to get from the forbidden city to the museum at Long An palace. Along the path are a couple of buildings worth a look.
A visit to Hue might be considered incomplete without a boat trip on the outstandingly lovely Perfume River. Boats are readily available for hire, either for an exploratory trip in the vicinity of Hue, or for a longer journey upstream to the tombs of Minh Mang and Gia Long.
It’s hard to explain the uncanny beauty of the river, though doubtless the irridescent, aquamarine waters, together with the profusion of colourful craft and boat women sporting non la–the ubiquitous cream-coloured conical hat of Vietnam–all contribute to the effect. On a clear, sunny day the Perfume River can indeed be magical.