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Things to Do in Central Vietnam - page 3

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Red Bridge Cooking School
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2 Tours and Activities

Hoi An is a popular spot for Vietnamese cooking classes, and Red Bridge Cooking School offers three different courses.

The most popular option is the half-day class: you’ll start off with a trip to Hoi An’s lively Central Market with your chef and teacher, who will give tips on how to pick the best herbs and ingredients. Then it’s time for a 4km boat ride along the Thu Bon river to the open-air Red Bridge Cooking School. Complimentary drinks and snacks are on-hand as you take your two-hour lesson and learn how to prepare local dishes. Ever wanted to learn how to make your own rose tomato? Here’s your chance. You’ll learn the art of Vietnamese plate decoration and food carving before sitting down to enjoy the meal you just created.

There is also a full-day deluxe cooking class: prepare dishes like beef pho and clay pot fish with dill (Cha Ca) as part of a four-course menu that you’ll learn to create over three hours of cooking.

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Cantonese Assembly Hall (Hoi Quan Quang Dong)
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For centuries, assembly halls have been a place where migrant Chinese communities socialize and pass on the regional traditions of their home to future generations. With a population that’s over a quarter ethnic Chinese, Hoi An’s Cantonese Assembly Hall is one of five such hubs in town.

Founded in 1786, at the Cantonese Assembly Hall (Hoi Quen Quang Trieu), the colorful building materials you see today were first put together in China then shipped to Hoi An before being reassembled into the assembly hall, which has typical grand entrance gates that lead onto an ornamental garden, followed by a main hall and elaborate altar room.

Look out for the Cantonese Assembly Hall’s special flourishes, like the main altar dedicated to a red-faced Quan Cong, who symbolizes loyalty and righteousness. Also keep an eye out for the mosaic dragon statue by the entrance hall, and the even bigger dragon statue in the garden.

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Bao Quoc Pagoda (Chua Bao Quoc)
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On Hàm Long hill by the Perfume River in Hue, Bao Quoc Pagoda is a Buddhist temple that dates back to the Nguyen Dynasty, when it was commissioned in 1670 by Chinese Zen Master Thích Giác Phong.

Though Bao Quoc was renovated in the mid-20th century, it still retains its traditional charm. A spring flows from the top of the hill down into the grounds of the temple, where the peaceful courtyard is surrounded by balconied buildings and stupas built in honor of Buddhist patriarchs, the oldest of which was built in 1714 and dedicated to Thich Giác Phong. At the temple, look closer at its four pillars carved with dragon figures.

Bao Quoc Pagoda is also famous for its monk training center, which has been running since 1940 when Vietnam initiated a revival in Buddhist education.

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Cat Tuong Quan Zen House

Travelers will find unparalleled beauty, spaces for quiet contemplation and nothing short of inspiration on a visit to the iconic Cat Tuong Quan Zen House in Hue. This one-of-a-kind religious center is a destination for Buddhists and mindfulness experts, thanks to spacious gardens, stunning pagodas and quiet grounds.

Stationed among the Thien An Hill pine forest, travelers can participate in Qigong, mindfulness workshops, meditation and yoga on a visit to this incredible destination. Expert chefs prepare satisfying vegetarian meals and local Buddhists offer insight into the practice, culture and traditions that make Cat Tuong Quan Zen House an almost holy escape.

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Nha Phu Bay

This peaceful bay offers travelers picturesque views of crystal blue water and lush green landscapes. Clusters of islands dot the sea and hopping from one to another on a tour of Nha Phu Bay is perhaps the best way to experience this isolated bit of Vietnamese magic. Whether it’s checking out the untouched sandy shores at the beach of Thi Islet, where travelers can tuck into tasty plates of fresh fish grilled tableside or taking a tour of Thi Island, where ecological diversity means easy access to plenty of indigenous plants and animals—there’s something for every sort of traveler at Nha Phu Bay. Check out the orchid caves at Hoa Lan Spring, where brilliantly beautiful blooms hang from rocky interiors or sunbathe at An Binh Beach before heading to the nearby wildlife sanctuary where peacocks and deer roam on protected land. A day spent touring Nha Phu Bay will be a truly memorable outdoor experience.

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More Things to Do in Central Vietnam

Hainan Assembly Hall (Hoi Quan Hai Nam)

Hainan Assembly Hall (Hoi Quan Hai Nam)

In 1851, a renegade general of King Tu Duc’s Vietnamese empire plundered the ships of Chinese merchant sailors off the shores of Hoi An, killing over 100 men. In order to protect his back, the rogue general claimed the merchants were actually pirates -- it’s even rumored that he ordered the merchants’ boats be painted black so his case would be strengthened. When the truth came out that innocents were killed rather than pirates, as an apology King Tu Duc granted the Hainan Chinese community of Hoi An the money to build an assembly hall in memory of the merchants.

Built in 1875 near the Thu Bon River, Hainan is built in the typical style of Chinese assembly halls, with grand entry gates and an elegant courtyard full of ornamental trees. The main hall is dedicated to the merchants, and intricate dais contain plaques in their memory. A lacquered board at the entry hall also tells the innocent merchants’ story.

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My Son Sanctuary

My Son Sanctuary

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My Son Sanctuary is more than just the "beautiful mountain" its namesake describes. These Hindu ruins, which were constructed between the 4th and 13th centuries, pay homage to deities like Vishnu, Krishna and Shiva. Ancient and impressive towers and temples sit upon emerald hills in the Duy Xuyen District of the Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam. Visitors to the UNESCO World Heritage site can wander through eight groups of 71 structures, which some visitors say are less impressive than Cambodia's Siam Reap.

Still, what was once considered the homeland of the Cham people today remains an incredible example of Vietnam's indigenous culture.

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Khai Dinh Tomb

Khai Dinh Tomb

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Linh Ung Pagoda

Linh Ung Pagoda

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Famous for its giant statue of Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Linh Ung Pagoda occupies 30 acres (12 hectares) on a hill on the Son Tra Peninsula. Opened in 2010, the relatively new pagoda complex features a mix of modern and traditional Vietnamese temple architecture, including a typical three-entrance gate.

According to local legend, a smaller pagoda was built on the same site during the nineteenth century, when a local villager living on the peninsula found a statue of the Buddha drifting near the beach.

As visitors pass through the main gate of the pagoda, they are met by 18 stone statues of the 18 Arhats, believed to be the original followers of the Buddha, whose expressions run the gamut from joy and love to anger and sadness. Towering above the grounds is the 220-foot (67-meter) Guanyin statue. Within the giant monument, visitors can ascend 17 floors, each displaying Buddha statues depicting his various aspects.

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Vinh Moc Tunnels

Vinh Moc Tunnels

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Hai Van Pass (Deo Hai Van)

Hai Van Pass (Deo Hai Van)

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Winding high through the Annamite Range above the South China Sea, the drive along Hai Van Pass between Danang and Hue is all jungle-clad mountains and glittering views out to sea. Known as one of the best coastal roads in the world for driving, thanks to a stint on BBC’s Top Gear, the 21-km-long Hai Van Pass rises up to 1,600 feet high in places. But what’s in the name? Hai Van is Vietnamese for Ocean Cloud, referring to the great mists which often rise from the sea below.

Once a natural boundary between Vietnam and the kingdom of Champa, the top of the pass has a number of lookout points with panoramic views looking out to the mountains and sea beyond. Look out for cyclists celebrating their hard-won arrival at the summit while you’re here.

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Thu Bon River

Thu Bon River

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