Christmas in Vietnam

In Vietnam, Christmas was celebrated joyously with people thronging city roads right from Christmas Eve, which is often more important than Christmas Day!

 Famous Cathedral in Hanoi

Christmas is one of the four most important festivals of the Vietnamese year, including the birthday of Buddha, the New Year and the Mid-autumn Festival. Although the Christians observed the religious rituals of Christmas.

Traditional Vietnamese religions are Buddhism and the Chinese philosophies of Taoism and Confucianism. However, during French rule, many people became Christians, that occupy 8 to 10 percent of whose population. This is because the Vietnamese are a fun-loving, sociable people and the various Vietnam festivals and events are actually occasions for them to a gala time, all together. Christmas in Vietnam is a grand party.

History Of Christmas In Vietnam

Christmas in Vietnam has had a tumultuous history. The Catholics are a minority in Vietnam but they used to celebrate Christmas in Vietnam quite in peace right from the days of the French rule. That is until the Communists took over political power in 1975. The church-state relations soured during that time and the Catholics were relegated to celebrating Jesus’s birthday in privacy.

Since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, church-state relations have not always been smooth. However, they have been improving since the introduction of economic reforms in the late 1980s. Liberalist policies adopted since the 1980s saw Vietnam warming up to western influences and ideals and Christmas in Vietnam came back triumphantly. Now Christmas is one of the major festivals in Vietnam, celebrated with much fanfare by all religious communities.

Phat Diem Cathedral in Ninh Binh Province is considered the spiritual home for the seven million Catholics who live in Vietnam, a predominantly Buddhist nation. Hundreds of Catholics gather for Christmas Eve Mass in the northern city of Phat Diem. Children staged a nativity play to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ – or Kito, as he is known in Vietnamese — in front of the city’s cathedral, built in 1891.

Christmas In Vietnam

Christmas in Vietnam is a huge event, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and the Vietnamese Christmas celebrations here are like any other city in the western world. The Christians in Vietnam attend a Midnight mass on Christmas Eve and return home to a sumptuous Christmas dinner. The Christmas dinner usually consists of chicken soup while wealthier people eat turkey and Christmas pudding.

Christmas tree at Fortuna Hotel (Hanoi)

On Christmas Eve, Vietnamese people in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, especially young people, like to go into the city centre, where there is a Catholic Cathedral. The streets are crowded with people on Christmas Eve and in the city centre cars are not allowed for the night.

People celebrate by throwing confetti, taking pictures and enjoying the Christmas decorations and lights of big hotels and department stores. Lots of cafes and restaurants are open for people to enjoy a snack!

Vietnam used to be part of the French Empire and there are still French influences in the Christmas traditions. Many Catholic churches have a big nativity crib scene or ‘creche’ with nearly life size statues of Mary, Joesph, baby Jesus, the shepherds and animals. In some areas of Ho Chi Minh City, usually in Catholic parishes, people have big crib scenes in front of their houses and decorate the whole street, turning it into a Christmas area! These are popular for people to visit and look at the scenes.

Also like in France, the special Christmas Eve meal is called ‘reveillon’ and has a ‘bûche de Noël’ (a chocolate cake in the shape of a log) for desert. Vietnamese people like to give presents of food and at Christmas a bûche de Noël is a popular gift. Other Christmas presents are not very common, although some young people like to exchange Christmas cards.

The Yuletide spirit of giving and sharing has been embraced with an earnest by the Vietnamese. Generous as they are, the Vietnamese give out gifts and presents in plenty during the Christmas celebrations in Vietnam. However, the children are more keen to have their stockings and shoes stuffed in with goodies from Santa’s bulging sack. The European customs of Santa Claus and the Christmas tree were popular and children would leave their shoes out on Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas in Vietnamese is “Chúc Mừng Giáng Sinh”!
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Hue – an ancient citadel of Vietnam

Poetic Hue, dreamy and romantic Hue, Hue – city of two World Heritages…” are the ever names people call Hue city – the latest imperial capital of Vietnam under Nguyen dynasty (from the 17th to 19th century).

Location

Hue is located in central Vietnam on the banks of Perfume River (Sông Hương), just a few miles inland from the East Sea. It is about 700 kilometers (438 miles) south of the national capital of Hanoi and about 1100 kilometers (690 miles) north of Hochiminh City.

History

Hue people take their pride in a long-lasting history. The city has gone through 7 centuries of establishment and development.In 1802, Hue became Vietnam’s capital when Emperor Gia Long, the first King of the Nguyen emperors (Nguyen dynasty), chose the location for the imperial city. The city remained the nation’s capital until 1945, when Bao Dai, the last of the Nguyen emperors, abdicated and a communist government was established in Hanoi. In the Vietnam War, Huế’s central position placed it very near the border between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. Thanks to the long precious history, Hue has integrated material and spiritual values, which become its own unique special Culture.

Natural conditions

The city has 2 main seasons: dry season and rainy season. The former is fairly hot, lasting from March to August, while the latter begins from August, and is cool and wet. But the most special point is the short spring lasting from January till February, with a very cool and fresh atmosphere and green purity of new tree leaves here and there. This means if you would like to visit the city but still afraid of the hot or wet weather, please come in between January and February.

Culture

Imperial Citadel and & tomb Architecture

Hue is one of the main cultural, religious and educational centers of Vietnam. So far, Hue remains to be the only originally historical vestiged city in Vietnam. Many of Hue’s attractions are found along the banks of the romantically named Perfume River with 11km length. This valuable construction includes more than 100 architectural works, which are the reflection of the life of Emperors and mandarins under Nguyen’s reign.

Architecture in Hue is the combination of royal architect, folk, religious ones, tradtional and modern sides. On December 11th, 1993, it was classified by UNESCO as the world cultural heritage. On the north bank of the river is the Imperial Citadel, built along the line of Peking’s Forbidden City, enclosed by 10-metre thick walls and surrounded by a moat. A few kilometers further up the river are perhaps Hue’s best-known religious site. Inside the citadel, there are still wonders. For example, the seat of the Nguyen emperors occupying a large, walled area on the north side of the river. Inside the citadel was a forbidden city where only the concubines, emperors, and those close enough to them were granted access, the punishment for trespassing was death penalty.

If you like something mysterious and valuably architectural, you should take a visit to the tombs of ancient Kings. Situated in the middle of the hills on the Southern bank of Perfume River are very beautiful tombs of Nguyen Kings. Among these tombs are the four famous ones with the name and the arrangements of the tomb reflecting each Emperor’s points of view, personality, and tastes. This is majestic Gia Long tomb, imposing Minh Mang tomb, poetic Tu Duc tomb and magnificent Khai Dinh tomb. No architects who would like to discover ancient architecture of Vietnam could ignore Hue’s old citadel vestiges.

Royal Music

A lot of foreign tourists are curious about Hue’s ritual royal music. Originated from 8 kinds of ritual music under Le dynasty, under Nguyen dynasty, it has improved into 2 kinds of music: “Dai nhac” and “Nha nhac”, which are really magnificent, and skillful. Those are only played on formal occasions. This city is proud to be the cadral of traditional music. The Royal Refined Music was proclaimed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on December 1993.

Religion

Hue is also an important center of Buddhism. In Hue and the surroundings still exists tens of pagodas constructed more than 300 years ago, and a hundred of temples and pagodas built in the early century. Thien Mu Pagoda, with its distinctive seven-storey octagonal tower.

Besides all these, Hue’s culture is also found in its famous “non la” or conical hats. You can buy these at the enormous Dong Ba Market as a remarkable and graceful piece of souvenir of Vietnam. A foreign friend of mine had a chance to meet a long-haired Hue’s Vietnamese girl in the traditional violet long dress and a graceful conical hat. And can you guess what happened? He fell in love with her at first sight, and they are now a very happy couple – husband and wife!! Vietnamese cultural grace could win any heart!

Festival and Cuisine

Festivals are also attractions of Hue. There are two main kinds of festival here. Royal festival reflects the life and ritual activities of Nguyen dynasty, almost paying more attention to the ritual than the ceremony. Folk festival consists of multi activities such as Hue Nam festival in Hon Chen temple which follow Champa’s belief, handicraft’s father memory festivals, and some cultural activities as boat racing, westling,…

The cuisine of Hue are rich, but one of the most striking differences is the prominence of vegetarianism in the city. Several all-vegetarian restaurants are scattered in various corners of the city to serve the locals who have a strong tradition of eating vegetarian twice a month, as part of their Buddhist beliefs.

No one who has come to Hue could ignore its ancient beauty and romance. Taking a cruise along the Perfume River, having some special cuisine, and listening to Nha Nhac Royal Music, you can feel the actual picturesque view of this natural classical mysterious city!

Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba Island is situated in Ha Long Bay, 50 km to the east of Hai Phong City, in Northern Vietnam. It is the largest of 366 islands in the Cat Ba Archipelago, and has a surface area of about 140 square km. The Cat Ba Archipelago shares the distinctive rugged appearance and scenic beauty of the Ha Long Bay Area that was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, in 1994.

Cat Ba Island Vietnam

The area is one of the best examples in the world of a Karst landscape invaded by the sea. Some 1500-2000 large and small islands and cliffs rise steeply from the shallow marine waters. Many of these islands reach towering heights of 50 to 100m with sheer vertical cliffs on all sides. Spectacular rock relief and bizarre rock formations provide evidence of a long history of erosion and landscape evolution through the sculpturing power of water.

The greatest part of the islands’ mountain range like most of the smaller offshore islands of the Archipelago, are covered by tropical moist limestone forest. Cat Ba Island also has coral terraces, sandy beaches, freshwater wetland areas, tidal flats, mangrove forests and willow swamp. Spectacular scenery and a high diversity of landscapes make Cat Ba a special place and it has become a main destination for national and international tourists.
The People

Cat Ba Island is currently inhabited by about 13500 people, living in 6 communes, of which Cat Ba Town is the largest. Archaeological remains suggest that people have inhabited the Cat Ba area for at least 6000 years. Local livelihoods in the villages are built on subsistence agriculture and fishing. Comparatively new sources of employment and income at the local level are shrimp and fish-farming, and tourism.
The National Park and Biodiversity Conservation
Cat Ba National Park was established in 1986. After a re-arrangement of the park boundaries in 2006, the park now comprises of 109 square km of land area and an additional 52 square km of inshore waters and mangrove covered tidal zones. Cat Ba National Park was Vietnam’s first national park to include both terrestrial and marine ecosystems.


Cat Ba Island, its national park and the surrounding area are nationally and internationally recognized for their importance to biodiversity conservation, exemplified through the recognition of the Cat Ba Archipelago as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve, in 2004.This is not only because the area has a high number of different ecosystem and habitat types, but also because it possesses a great variety of plant and animal species, many of which, like the Cat Ba langur, are now rare and endangered.
About 1400 vascular plants, including 23 Endangered and Critically Endangered species (Red Data Book of Vietnam; IUCN Red List) have so far been recorded. Large and partly endangered mammals include the Cat Ba langur, the Southern Serow (Naemorhaedus sumatraensis), Rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), black giant squirrel (Ratufa bicolor), and civet cats (Viverricula indica, Paradoxurus hermaphroditus).

The cave, land snail and butterfly fauna is rich including the most northerly cave-adapted crab species, plus four species of true cave snails. The region is considered a hotspot for land snail diversity and might also be conserving a considerable number of bat species including rare ones.

In 2007 a reptile survey was conducted in Cat Ba National Park by Dr. Thomas Ziegler, from Cologne Zoo and Nguyen Quang Truong, from the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, in cooperation with the Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project. It led to the discovery of the Cat Ba Tiger Gecko (Goniurosaurus catbaensis), endemic to Cat Ba Island, adding to the list of endemic and rare species and once more emphasizing the need for nature conservation on the island.

Bai Tu Long Bay

Bai Tu Long Bay is located to the northeast of Ha Long Bay. Although the Bay seems less popular than its neighboring Bay of Ha Long, its beauty and attractiveness are undeniable and it boasts some of the World Heritage Site’s most spectacular scenery, including beautiful limestone formations, rock arches, gin-clear water, virtually inaccessible lagoons, sheer cliffs, peaceful coves, eerie caves, secluded strips of white, powdery sand, and thousands of limestone islets.

Like sculpted cartoon characters, these islets are fancifully named: Mat Quy Island (Monster Face island), Swan Island, the Isle of Wonders and the Isle of Surprise. Local traditional junks glide over the teal-hued bay between the grottoes, which are densely carpeted in neon-green ficas, mangrove and spiky cacti. Pearl oyster farms are tucked into tight channels between the towering, limestone cliffs.

Primitive floating fish hatcheries are spun across the waters between the grottoes like neglected spider webs. On a classy junk, you will enjoy a gourmet meal in her ambiance restaurant while cruising through some of the most spectacular scenery on the bay, relax in comfort amid dramatic natural scenery, swimming amongst a backdrop of limestone towers, or kayaking through tunnel in to secluded lagoon to see unique sea creatures and coral refs.

We also venture to the furthest reaches of the bay from the deserted island of Ngoc Vung to the seclusion of the idyllic island of Quan Lan. Between the 14th and 18th centuries the island was the site of Vietnam’s first international port, Van Don. Here, merchant ships from as far field as the Middle East, Java and Japan would converge to buy local produce, most notably ivory and tea. Now the Island is best known for its wonderful 1 km white-sand beach.

The Bay of Bai Tu Long is also home to the Bai Tu Long National Park which covers an area of 15,783 ha with 6 islands and 24 islets. Officially opened in April 2004, Bai Tu Long National Park not only plays the role of a nature reserve but also of great archaeological significance such as the Soi Nhu Cave where the inhabitance of pre-history Vietnamese people around 14 thousand years ago has been demonstrated. Geologically, the National Park is surrounded with soil and stone islands, and limestone mountain ranges encompassing immense valleys make an ideal habitat for a wide variety of plants.

The Doi Cave (Bat Cave) is a good example. Located in Cai Lim and belonging to Tra Ngo Lon island, it is a large mangrove forest of around 10 ha in area and home to plants of 25 to 30 cm in body diameter and date back to hundreds of years. Topographically, the cave does not seem to be in direct contact with the sea water. The cave is a perfect habitat of such animals as frog, snake, shrimp and limuloid.

Dak Lak- a core tourist attraction in Vietnam by 2020

Dak Lak province’s authorities have reached an approval of the overall plan for the development of tourism industry until 2020 with a vision for 2030.Developing tourism will become a top priority, which will make Dak Lak to be a core tourist attraction in Vietnam by 2020.

Developing tourism will become a top priority, which will make Dak Lak to be a core tourist attraction in Vietnam by 2020. The Central Highland province of Dak Lak has abundant and attractive tourism resources, such as forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, falls, festivities, traditional customs and crafts and historic relics.

Dak Lak- a core tourist attraction in Vietnam by 2020

In the near future, the province will focus on developing tourism products and services from elephants, and cultural objects of ethnic minority people, who are blessed with the space of gong culture and Central Highland Epic.

It will encourage all economic sectors to invest in building coffee-related tourism models, as well as conducting tours for visitors in Vietnam tourism to get directly involved in coffee growing, harvesting and processing.

It plans to spend more than VND12,360 billion on developing tourism infrastructure with the aim of attracting more than 560,000 visitors by 2015 and more than 1.129 million by 2020.

Since early this year, the province has received 26,000 visitors, including 2,900 foreigners, earning more than VND24 billion from tourism services.