“Ðất Quảng Nam chưa mưa đã thấm
Rượu Hồng Ðào chưa nhấm đã say
Bạn về nằm nghỉ gác tay
Nơi mô nghĩa nặng, ân đầy thì theo.”
“Soaking the land of Quang Nam, without rain
Drunken on Peach Wine, without sipping it
Why don’t you return home and think
of the place that’s filled with grace and kindness.”
The above short poem is a very well known in Vietnam that accurately describe the Quảng Nam Province (Southern Province), where the city of Đà Nẵng is located. The Quảng Nam people’s generosity to their guests is as abundant as water, soaking up the land with their generosity. They would offer guests their best wine, the Peach Wine, and one could feel tipsy from its scent without tasting the wine. They would give their guests a good impression of their hospitality and kindness, leaving their guests with the desire to visit Quảng Nam again.
The generosity of the people of Quảng Nam was passed on from generation to generation, until today. Quảng Nam Province has transformed into a bustling tourist region with the recent development of Đà Nẵng city with its iconic Golden Bridge, praised by The Guardian Newspaper as the most striking pedestrian bridge, providing a breathaking view of the mountain to its visitors.
Đà Nẵng was only recently developed into a major city in the last 15-20 years. Previously, the city was very impoverished. Even though it was called a city, yet its streets were small and unpaved due to lack of maintenance. The city council building, schools, hospitals were all deteriorated, without adequate budget for repair. Many of its residents were still living in thatched housing made from coconut leaves. Only through recent efforts to attract investments, develop tourism and building bridges, connecting an isolated part of the city with its counterpart was Đà Nẵng city able to escape poverty.
When speaking of Đà Nẵng, one has to mention Sun World Bà Nà Hills, the Vietnamese mashup of Universal Studio and Disney World. It is an amusement park plus resorts situated on Trường Sơn mountains, west of Đà Nẵng.
The name Bà Nà was said to have been the Vietnamese pronunciation (or mis-pronunciation) of banana, since the mountain was abundant with banana trees. The mountains were previously used as a resort hot spot for French officers during the French colonial period in Vietnam. It was later abandoned and was only transformed recently into a beautiful resort. The unique aspect of Bà Nà Hills is its cable cars, with its Bà Nà – Suối Mơ track setting the world record for the longest and highest single-track cable car.
Sun World itself is a very well-designed theme park with various attractions, games, rides, and restaurants to keep its visitors entertained for days. The theme park was built to resemble a village, and without the massive influx of visitors, you would never have guessed that it is a theme park from its architectural designed. The park is famous for its garden of thousand flowers blooming flamboyantly, setting a spectacular backgrounds for many love birds. In fact, it is not uncommon for couples to come here to take their wedding photos.
Aside from Sun World Bà Nà Hills, Đà Nẵng is also known for its three miraculous pagodas. All three temples are located in favorable location, forming a triangle around Đà Nẵng, with the most auspicious pagoda built in the Sơn Trà District. According to the local legend, there once was a Buddha statue drifted onto the Sơn Trà sandbank, which was said to protect fishermen out at sea and provided peace in the region for a very long time. The sandbank was named Bãi Bụt (The Buddha’s land) and a pagoda was later built for worship. Its construction was completed in 2010, making it the largest pagoda in Đà Nẵng. Especially well known at this pagoda is its giant statue of the Female Buddha, considered as the tallest statue in Vietnam at 67m height. It is said that the Buddha will answer one who prayed at this pagoda.
Moving north from Quảng Nam Province into Quảng Bình, into the old capital city of Huế, tourists will be able to visit the Imperial City of the Nguyễn Dynasty. During the period of infighting between the Trịnh and Nguyễn Lords (mid 17th century), the Nguyễn lords immigrated south and established their stronghold in the south to resist the Trịnh invasion. after the country was unified, the Nguyễn proclaimed themselves emperors and built the imperial city. The city was originally made of clay since Vietnam was driven to impoverishment following the long civil war between the Trịnh and Nguyễn lords. Later, when the country recovered economically, the city was reinforced with stones and bricks and a palace was constructed from precious ironwoods for the emperor.
The Imperial City today is not the same as the city during the golden age of the Nguyễn Dynasty. Much of the city was destroyed from the Second Indochina War (1955-1975). Many precious decorations and artifacts of great historical importance within the city was looted in the Battle of Huế, and only the nine tripod cauldrons and nine great cannon made of coppers remained (probably too heavy for thieves to steal). A few black and white photographs preserved to remind people a piece of Vietnamese history. Currently, there is an on-going project to restore the city. Unfortunately, many parts of the city remained destroyed and overgrown, causing it to be lacking in grandeur.
Leaving Huế, we will be heading to Hội An, the ancient city of lanterns and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the golden age of under the Nguyễn Lords, Hội An was grown into a bustling international trade hub with goods coming from China, Japan, Europe and as far as Egypt flowing through the port of Hội An. Building construction in Hội An are a fusion of the indigenous design with Chinese and Japanese architecture, featuring wooden housing, narrow streets, an open market and a ferry quay for the transportation of goods in the old days. Unfortunately, Hội An’s splendor and importance crumpled along side the the Nguyễn Dynasty following the Tây Sơn Rebellion. Eventually, when the Nguyễn was able to suppress the rebellion, they decided to move the seaport to Đà Nẵng, and Hội An was soon forgotten in the past.
There was never a real need for Hội An to modernize or for its narrow streets to expand, so the city structural integrity remained intact. Today, Hội An is a city rich in history, culture and delicious cuisine. It remains a top must visit site for many tourists.
Saving the best for last, I would like to introduce you to the Vietnamese National Park Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng in Quảng Bình Province. The Phong Nha caves and grottoes complex were officially explored and researched in 1990 to harness its potential for tourism development. Phong Nha boasted five best records to its visitors, including:
- Longest and largest natural cave
- Tallest and widest cave entrance
- Most beautiful fine sand beaches
- Most spectacular stalagmites and stalactites
- Longest underground river in Vietnam
When arriving at Phong Nha, visitors will be taking a 30-minute boat along the Son river to arrive at the Phong Nha cave entrance. The river is turquoise blue and clear; one can see fish swimming under the water. Yet the river is named “Son”, meaning brick-red, because the river would turned as red as a brick after the rain due to the fallen dirt from the mountain, washing into the river by the rainfall.
Entering Phong Nha cave is like entering paradise of the gods. Over hundred millions of year, the flow of water had the interior of Phong Nha cave, numerously beautiful stalactites and stalagmites structures that glitter dazzlingly when bright light is shone on them, giving visitors the illusion of entering the world of the gods. Another reason why visitors called this place paradise because several of stalactites and stalagmites structures appear to shape like Buddhas, gods and angels.
That conclude my tour to Quảng Nam and Quảng Bình Provinces of Vietnam. Tạm biệt and hẹn gặp lại.