Overview: Imbued with advantages in geographic, climate and natural conditions, Viet Nam possesses numerous potentials for tourism diversity. Viet Nam has almost 3,000 national heritages and 7 world heritages recognized by UNESCO. There are also 30 national parks, 8 UNESCO-recognized world biosphere reserves, and 400 hot-water springs throughout the country. With a coastal length of over 3,000km, Viet Nam ranks 27th among 156 coastal countries. Viet Nam has a total of 125 beaches and ranks among 12 nations that possess most beautiful bays (Ha Long, Nha Trang, Lang Co, etc). There are 21 national tourism areas and a great number of international-standard resorts such as Vinpearl Land, Evason Hideway (Nha Trang), Furama (Đa Nang), The Nam Hai, Swiss Belhotel Golden Sand, Palm Garden (Hoi An), Nirvana Spa and Resort (Lang Co, Hue), Ana Mandara Villa (Da Lat), Ho Tram (Vung Tau), Long Beach Ancient Village (Phu Quoc), Cat Ba Island Resort and Spa (Cat Ba), Victoria (Sa Pa)…
Viet Nam’s tourism has developed into a spearhead industry that takes advantage of its competitive edge in natural conditions, ecology, tradition, culture and history of Viet Nam.
Foreign arrivals reached 4.3 million in 2008 (3.46 million in 2005, 3.6 million in 2006, and 4.1 million in 2007). China, U.S, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Australia are the biggest markets for Viet Nam’s tourism industry.
Viet Nam’s Tourism Action Plan sets the target of 5.5 – 6.0 million foreign visitors, 25 million domestic visitors, revenue of 4-4.5 USD billion, 1.4 million jobs including 350,000 directly in 2010. Viet Nam is also set to become a prime tourist destination of the region by 2010.
World Heritages in Viet Nam
World’s Natural Heritages: Ha Long Bay, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Forest.
World’s Cultural Heritages: Ancient Capital of Hue, Hoi An Old Town, My Son Sanctuary.
World’s Intangible Cultural Heritages: Hue Royal Refined Music, Central Highlands Gong Space, Ca tru singing, Quan ho singing.
World’s Documentary Heritages: Nguyen Dynasty Woodblock;
Van Mieu Doctorate Steles.
HA LONG BAY
At the 18th Session of the UNESCO’s Council of World Heritage held on 17 December 1994 in Thailand, Ha Long Bay was officially recognized as one of the World’s Natural Heritages. This title confers formal international recognition on this site. In 2000, UNESCO recognized Ha Long Bay as the World Heritage for the second time for its geological and geomorphologic values.
Situated in the North East of Viet Nam as a part of the Tonkin Gulf, Ha Long Bay covers a total area of 1,553 km2 with 1,969 islands of various sizes tectonically aged 250 to 280 million years. This site is strewn with stone islands and famous for its grottoes. Ha Long Bay looks like a huge painting that embraces stone islands and breath-taking caves such as Thien Cung, Dau Go, Sung Sot, and Tam Cung, etc.
Also a site of great biodiversity, Ha Long Bay boasts such typical eco-systems as mangroves, corals, lagoons and tropical forests, and thousands of various animals and plants, including rare species that exist nowhere else.
PHONG NHA – KE BANG
Viet Nam’s Phong Nha – Ke Bang national park was recognized as a world natural heritage by UNESCO’s Council of World Heritage at its 27th Session held in Paris from June 30-July 5, 2003.
The site is also the habitat of the three newly-discovered animals, which are Sao La (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), Giant Muntjac and Truong Son Muntjac (Muntiacus truongsonensis), in which Sao La and Giant Muntjac are of international significance
In addition to the outstanding geological and geomorphologic values recognized by UNESCO, a report of the British Royal Grotto Association mission announces that the site comprises more than 30 grottoes with the total length of over 100 km, in which Phong Nha – Ke Bang grotto alone deserves a place in the list of World Wonders with the seven “bests”: the longest grotto, the widest and highest grotto mouth, most beautiful underground lakes; widest and most wonderful dry caves; most splendid stalactite; longest amazing stone field and sand bankunderground river; widest and most amazing stone field and sand bank.
Located on the north side of Truong Son range in Quang Binh province, Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park covers an area of 85,000 hectares. This park is recognized as one of the two largest limestone sites of the world, with a high bio-diversity and an array of different splendid grottoes and a primeval tropical forest covering more than 95% of the site’s area. This is home to 38 endangered species listed in the Viet Nam Red Book, 25 species in the World Conservation Union’s Red List (IUCN) and 13 Vietnamese endemic species.
Apart from its natural values, this site also prides itself on invaluable cultural legacies, customs and unique features of tens of thousands of different ethnic minority inhabitants.
Among them are Ruc and Arem people who are surrounded by limestone mountains and live on hunting and collecting. The Sach people reside on lower land with a more advanced civilization. Ma Lieng people also live on high mountains. These indigenous people still preserve and regularly practice their unique rites, such as the Worshiping Ceremony for Bumper Crop, the Ceremony for New Crop and the Ceremony of March’s Full-Moon Day. Traditional forms of entertainment like folklore singing and other customs such as wedding, proposal, worshiping and safety-and-peace-seeking ceremony remain common in daily life here.
HOI AN ANCIENT TOWN
Hoi An Ancient Town was recognized as a World Heritage at the 22nd Session of UNESCO’s Council of World Heritage held in Marakesh, Morocco in December 1999.
Lying on the coast of Central Viet Nam and along the quiet Thu Bon river, Hoi An has been a renowned destination for many decades with its ancient features and attraction. After its foundation in the 15th century, Hoi An port quickly became a big commercial center in the southern part of Viet Nam. The town is now full of vestiges of Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Dutch and Indian merchants who came here for business or permanent residence and erected lots of pagodas, etc.
Today, the original architecture of Hoi An remains roughly unchanged with an array of various constructions, including houses, assembly halls, temples, pagodas, wells, bridges, family worshiping places, ports and markets, etc. The traditional lifestyle with time-honored customs and cultural activities are well maintained. Hoi An is also a living museum of architecture and urban lifestyle. The town is decorated by numerous tile-roofed ancient houses built hundreds of years ago covered in moss. The Bridge Pagoda (Chua Cau), the most stunning construction of Hoi An, was built by the Japanese during the very first days of the town. Clay tombs of the Cham people are dated back to the 13th-15th century. Hoi An’s touch of romance and its ancient spirit are evident in ancient china glaze plates, glittering lanterns on a full-moon night, quiet streets and unique dishes of Hoi An such as Cao Lau noodle, dumpling cake, and Quai Vac cake.
MY SON SANCTUARY
Not far from Hoi An is the My Son Sanctuary of the ancient Champa Kingdom, also in Quang Nam province. My Son was recognized as a World Heritage at the 22nd session of the UNESCO’s Council of World Heritage held in Marakesh, Morocco in December 1999.
Fierce wars destroyed most of the Sanctuary, including more than 70 temples, towers and steles. Only about 20 temples are still standing today. However, that is enough to make My Son a World Heritage to be preserved. Here, archeologists have found relics of a wooden temple dated back to late 4th century under Siva Bhadravaman I, which was later burnt down. Today, My Son still preserves vestiges of a unique culture, and many architectural traces of different times, with the latest one of the 13th century.
ANCIENT CAPITAL OF HUE
On 11th December 1993, the UNESCO recognized the architectural ensemble of Hue as a World Cultural Heritage. That is the first time a Viet Nam’s city ever received such a title.
The ancient capital of Hue was the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), the last feudal dynasty of Viet Nam. Situated 638 km to the south of Ha Noi, only with 6,777 ha in area and 280,000 in population, this historical ancient capital has become one cultural and tourism center of Viet Nam and the world.
The most amazing thing about Hue is the blend of royal-folk architecture and romantic nature. This romance is all evident in the beauty of the Huong river, Ngu mountain, chanties and folklore songs, ancient citadels, palaces, temples, pagodas, ancient garden houses, court music and dancing, special cuisine only found in Hue, and especially in the souls of the people here.
Beautiful nature, ancient architecture, and elegant people are combined together to make Hue a heaven of poems, music and paintings, and a World Heritage that serves as an everlasting inspiration for generations of artists.
NHA NHAC (ROYAL REFINED MUSIC) OF HUE
On 7th, November 2003, the Royal Refined Music was proclaimed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, the first title of this kind Viet Nam has ever received.
The Royal Refined Music was first introduced in the 13th century, but only reached its peak under the Nguyen Dynasty. The Royal Refined Music had long enjoyed a preference as an official form of royal music. It was recognized as the symbol of a powerful and long-lasting monarchy and as an indispensable part of all ceremonies. Each year, the Royal Refined Music was played in nearly 100 different ceremonies.
Varied in its themes, the Royal Refined Music is considered a means of communication to show respect to gods and kings.
Compared to other forms of art, the Royal Refined Music boasted high artistic value, first and foremost because the court had enough political power and finance to bring together talented composers and players from around the country. Given favorable conditions to practice and improve performance skills, they became professional artists in composing and performance.
After being recognized as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, the Royal Refined Music performances have been held in France, Belgium, etc and were highly valued by the audience and art-culture researchers.
THE CULTURAL SPACE OF GONG IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS
On 25th November 2005, the UNESCO decided to recognize “The cultural space of gong in the Central Highlands” of Viet Nam as “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.
The Central Highlands gong culture roots in long-standing cultural and historical traditions of ethnic communities living in the region and illustrates the talented cultural creativeness of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands. The ethnic groups in the Central Highlands have obtained thorough understanding and fine techniques of gong usage in their culture and music. For ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands, gongs and gong culture present a means to affirm the community and its cultural identities.
As time went by, gongs have become an attractive and appealing symbol of the culture of the Central Highlands.
The custodians of the space of gong culture in the Central Highlands are the ethnic groups of Bahnar, Brau, Chu Ru, K’Ho, E De, Gia Rai, Gie-Trieng, Ma, M’nong, Ro Mam, Xo Dang, Cham, Raglai, Bru-Van Kieu, Ta Oi, Coh, Hre, Cho Ro, X’tieng and Co Tu in five Central Highlands provinces.
The Central Highlands’ gongs, together with the epics, the treasure of folklore, folk sculpture and folk knowledge, constitute the unique cultural heritage that have attached to the life of the highlanders for thousands of years.
NGUYEN DYNASTY WOOD BLOCKS
On July 30 2009, UNESCO announced a list of 35 documentary heritages in the Memory of the World Register, including Viet Nam’s Nguyen Dynasty Wood Blocks. These Chinese-script or Nom-script carved plates were used to print books, an old printing technique. These 34,555 plates of wood-blocks produce 152 books in various topics of history, geography, politics-society, military, legal system, education and literature. The blocks include valuable works such as Dai Nam Nhat Thong Chi (History of the Unification of Great Viet Nam) and Dai Nam Thuc Luc (Royal Annals of Great Viet Nam), Kham dinh Viet su Thong giam Cuong muc, Kham dinh Dai Nam Hoi dien Su le; in addition, the blocks also include Ngu Che Van and Ngu Che Thi written by Minh Mang, Thieu Tri and Tu Duc Kings.
In feudal times, these documents were national treasures; only responsible officials who worked in National History Bureau had access to the documents. A book could only be printed from these wood blocks under a King’s order.
These wood blocks are reliable historical sources which could be used to research, compare and revise historical documents. Apart from their historical value, the wood-blocks also have artistic and technical merit as they mark the development of wood-block carving and printing profession in Viet Nam.
QUAN HO (FOLK-SONG OR LOVE DUET OF BAC NINH)
On September 30, 2009, quan ho was recognized as the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Quan ho are folk music of nothern delta; mainly in Kinh Bac region (Bac Ninh and Bac Giang). Quan ho folk song is diverse in melodies, inherited from generations to generations through verbal transmission. Each quan ho song has its distinctive melodies. Today, no less than 300 quan ho songs have been musically noted among thousands of songs, including various versions in different quan ho villages.
Quan ho is a form of duets between “lien anh” (male singers) and “lien chi” (female singers). Traditionally, quan ho was a folk cultural activity of Kinh Bac inhabitants; quan ho singing requires strict rules that male and female singers must follow. Traditional quan ho has no accompanying music and is mainly duet singing during the village festivals. In quan ho singing, a male duo singing with a female duo is called “hat boi, hat canh”; a male group singing with a female group is called “hat chuc, hat mung, hat tho”.
On November 1 2009, ca tru singing was declared an intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding in UNESCO’s list. Ca tru singing is an academic artistic form preserved over the past 10 centuries. Villages in northern delta provinces like Ha Noi, Ha Tay, Bac Ninh, Vinh Phuc, etc have been cradles for ca tru singing. All villagers in Lo Khe (Dong Anh District, Ha Noi) are ca tru singers.
Ca tru singing is a combination of poetry and music. In ca tru singing, singers, instrument players and listeners are also part of the performance. They play together, mixing poetry and music, and bringing the performance to a perfect and elegant peak.
VAN MIEU DOCTORATE STELES:
On March 3 2010, 82 Doctorate Stone Steles of Le Dynasty and Mac Dynasty (1442-1779) in Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam (Van Mieu Doctorate Steles) were recognized as World’s Documentary Heritages in the Memory of the World Register in Asia Pacific. All 82 Doctorate Steles were flat and vaulted-top stones which are positioned on big-shaped stone turtles.
These doctorate steles are a valuable documentary source which reflects a history of 300-year period during Le-Mac Dynasty. These steles also demonstrate the recruitment and training of talents in Vietnam, reflecting a sense of national governing being based on talents.
Each stele is also an artistic work of knowledge and expertise of leading cultural scholars, calligraphers and artisans during these times. The steles are also a special form of documentary heritage in the Memory of the World Register.
Viet Nam has submitted to UNESCO for recognition of Thang Long Imperial Citadel – Ha Noi as a World’s Cultural Heritage and Dong Van Stone Plateau as a World’s Geological Park…