Historical sites in Vietnam – For a long time, Vietnam could do little but watch as tourists heading into South East Asia veered toward Thailand (for the party hotspots) or Japan (for the culture shock). With its name primarily associated – especially onscreen – with the brutal 20th Century war with America, its charms were appreciated only by the most adventurous
The country has progressively recovered from its struggles, with its infrastructure for visitors (and natives) now much improved – but it’s also belatedly seeing a wave of people visiting precisely for the history that once held it back. Indeed, in a recent study, Vietnam was ranked as the 5th fastest-growing tourist destination in the world. We’ve gathered together three sites you won’t want to miss if you’re looking to get the full picture:
Located deep in Vietnam’s heartland, this historic city was once the country’s capital, and – despite heavy bombing during the war – has retained much of its Imperial glory. Travellers can explore the Perfume River, long-valued as a trade route, visit Phu Bai Airport (now an immersive museum) and sample traditional cuisine.
Most come to the region, however, for the Imperial Citadel – a complex boasting both palaces and temples. Proud people, the Vietnamese have elected not to hide the damage done by American bombs, instead displaying ruins right next to their surviving treasures – and it makes for a sobering view.
Thankfully, there are many surviving examples of architectural grandeur – with some particularly impressive pagodas and tombs. And, likewise, look out for tours to mausoleums and temples of the same vintage on the banks of the river – while the beachside graves of Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) who wanted to return to their homeland also repays a visit.
The Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
The best place to experience how Vietnam’s long struggle with colonial powers felt to the strugglers themselves, though, is surely the plethora of sites in and around Ho Chi Minh City.
The best place to start is the city’s War Remnants Museum. Here you’ll not only find military equipment displayed but – more importantly – be able to hear recordings of survivors relating their personal experiences of this dark time.
And, for an even deeper immersion into life during wartime, the Cu Chi tunnels (just outside town) are one of several attractions that attempt to recreate the lived experience of those on the front line. As well as presenting the cramped, difficult and unsanitary conditions the guerrillas had to endure, tourists are even invited to try out period-appropriate weapons on a dedicated firing range.
Of course, Vietnam had a long and rich history before it was drawn into wider conflicts, and My Son offers a trip back to the country’s distant antiquity.
Like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, it’s a large temple complex that’s been partially preserved and partially lost to the jungle. That said, with building continuing between the 4th Century AD and the 14th Century AD, its monuments span a vast stretch of the people’s existence.
And, although American bombing also took its toll on the sacred places here (not long after they’d been restored by the previously-occupying French), those left show great craft and devotion. From towering sanctuaries where deities were said to live (by the ‘fire-houses’ where followers cooked them offerings), My Son remains a dignified reminder of an older culture.
Visit this beautiful country for the historical sites in Vietnam. Read more about Vietnam here.
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