Bound by the forested peaks of the Truong Son Range to the west, with the white shores of the South China Sea to its east, Central Vietnam is a study in contrasts. It offers several fine beaches as well as a rare assortment of historical treasures, including four of Vietnam’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely the awe-inspiring Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, My Son, Hue Citadel, and the Old Quarter of Hoi An.
Flecked with rice paddies and home to a burgeoning fishing industry, the inhabited regions of Central Vietnam are largely limited to its narrow coastal strip. The unspoiled hinterland gives way to the dramatic peaks of the Truong Son Range, which divide Viet nam from Laos. The region is home to hill people, as well as to the Hai Van Pass, one of the most scenic vantage points in the country, and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, which has some of the world’s biggest caves.
Some of the country’s most outstanding architectural legacies are located in Central Vietnam. Among them, Hoi An still houses exquisite structures built by Chinese, Japanese, and French traders, dating as far back as the 16th century, while Hue, with its grand Citadel and Royal Tombs, stands as an abiding memory of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802–1945). In ruins, but just as evocative, is the Cham temple complex at My Son, which was constructed between the 4th and 12th centuries AD. Most of these sites still bear traces of the damage they suffered during the Vietnam War.
Of more current histori cal interest are the villages – and now national shrines – of Hoang Tru and Kim Lien where Ho Chi Minh spent part of his childhood, as well as the former Demilitar ized Zone (DMZ). Not far north of Hue, the DMZ witnessed some of the blood iest battles of the Vietnam War and stands as a grim reminder of the vicious struggle of that era. Battle sites such as Khe Sanh and Vinh Moc have become poignant places of pilgrimage and mourning for both the Vietnamese and Americans.