Located 100km south of Hanoi, this large industrial northern city awaits the tourist with some unexpected pleasant surprises. The weary traveler who’s looking for a good place to take a much needed break from their busy schedule may have just found the perfect place for just such a rest. Interestingly enough Hai Phong is a city reminiscent of the Hanoi of 40 years ago. Sometimes referred to as the mini Hanoi it is often called the city of Flame Throwers because it’s many wide streets are splendidly lined with Flame Thrower trees showing off their beautiful red blossoms for all the world to see.
Traveler’s with a little extra time often choose this special city as just the right spot to take a step back in time to pause and rest between their next destination while getting insights into what life was like in the older Vietnam. Also, to many travelers Hai Phong serves as a convenient stop over on their way to the extremely popular Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island.
Most Americans over 60 first heard of the then mostly unknown Hai Phong Harbor during the Vietnam War when lieutenant commander John McCain’s plane was shot down while on a bombing raid heading for Hanoi. McCain was seriously injured while ejecting and was picked up by locals in the water of Hai Phong Bay. His picture, at the time, was shown all over the world. McCain, the son of the U.S.’s Pacific Fleets Supreme Commander, subsequently spent six years in Hanoi, in a prison infamously known as the Hanoi Hilton.
Many travelers take this Hai Phong rest stop to just “hang out” and observe the locals way of life. Taking this break as an opportunity to enjoy Hai Phong’s great coffee shops, restaurants and historical attractions.
While the breakers are waiting for their next stop Hai Phong has several attractions worth visiting including the Nghe Temple, Du Hang Pagoda and the Hang Kenh Communal House. In addition, there’s the popular local Con Son beach with it’s busy casinos.
Hai Phong is a booming big city featuring major shopping malls and super recreational opportunities. There is the grand Thuy Dong Plaza containing the very popular Parkson Plaza shopping mall which is a complete retail destination with much to do and see. Nearby is the Big C supermarket with a host of privately owned satellite stores serving the daily shopping needs of the local citizens.
The Hai Phong City Museum is housed in one of the city’s best preserved French colonial villas. The museum was the first Vietnamese local museum of it’s type and was established in Vietnam back in 1919. Entrance is only 5,000 dong but the entrance hours are limited from 8am to 10:30. However just seeing and photographing the original building is worth the trip.
The Nghe Temple is more than just a religious site. It has a strong historical importance as it was devoted to the founder of Hai Phong City, Le Chan, a female general who fought the Chinese and won in the year 43 AD.
The temple’s most outstanding features is the stone works. This coupled with the historical significance of this 2000 year old temple makes it worth a visit. It is open every day and is located about 600 meters southwest of the Municipal Theater.
The Du Hang Pagoda is located in the old district of the city with more than 1000 years of history. Considered a must see in Hai Phong it is a very significant religious site with the local citizens. The monks who live here are all females. No men allowed. It is surrounded by a large peaceful garden which is excellent for meditation and reflective thinking.
The Hang Kenh Communal was first built in 1717 and later expanded in 1905. The communal house is a really interesting place to visit and contains many valuable items including 156 pieces with a dragon being the main theme.
Every year between the 16th to the 18th of the second lunar month, ritual ceremonies and festivals, traditional games and folk songs are held here in the communal, always attracting large crowds. Don’t miss this if you happen to be lucky enough to be in town.
Do Son Beach
Do Son Beach is popular with Hai Phong locals (20km) as well as the citizens of Hanoi (105 km east) who are only a short two-hour-drive away. This beach resort was originally developed by the French as a summer vacation spot for their expatriates and the Vietnamese upper class when Hai Phong was first discovered by the French. Now the visitors look forward to cooling off in the water by swimming and playing all the normal water sports which are available on the beach.
After August the vacationing tourists mostly leave and Do Son quiets down and returns to it’s peaceful original beauty featuring fine sandy beaches and thousands of shady sandalwood trees surrounded by verdant mountains and the beautiful pine hills. Couple this with the bay’s welcoming blue water and it compromises a picturesque scene just waiting for you and your camera to take advantage of.
The annual Buffalo Festival is held on the 10th day of the 8th lunar month which is usually around October. This is a day of elimination fighting between 16 sets of two bulls waging battle until late afternoon when there is an eventual winner. The event is held in the local soccer stadium before a standing room only crowd of over 25,000 cheering locals. If you happen to be in town on fight day be sure and attend—it’s an event you won’t want to miss.
The seafood dining at the local Do Son restaurants is without equal. You have a choice of dining right on the beach which can be great or in one of the many local restaurants. There you will be eating eating delicious freshly caught fish or the very popular local tamarind crab. Hai Phong locals are often seen coming to Don Son Beach just for the sea food dinners alone.
Are you ready to come to Vietnam and be a part of all it’s splendor? To see it on you own first hand? Don’t wait another minute. Call your travel agent today and book your travel adventure of a life time now!
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