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Vinh

VINH

038 pop 201,900

The port city of Vinh is the capital of Nghe An province. Apart from lashings of dreary Soviet-style architecture, there’s nothing of interest there, though there are a few sights in the surrounding area. Recently Vinh’s economic fortunes have greatly improved by the sharp increase in traffic on Hwy 1. For travellers, the town is a convenient place to stop for the night, if you are on the overland route between Hue and Hanoi. Vinh is also an essential transit point if you’re heading overland to/from Tha Khaeck in Laos via the Cau Treo border crossing.

 Nghe An and neighboring Ha TInh provinces have been lumped with poor soil and some of the worst weather in Vietnam; the area frequently suffers from severe floods and devastating typhoons. The locals say, ‘The typhoon was born here and comes back often to visit’. The summers are very hot and dry, while in winter the cold and rain are made all the more unpleasant by biting winds from the north.

 As a result of the poor climate and many years of ill-managed collectivized farming policies, Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces are among the most destitute regions in Vietnam. The recent economic reforms have greatly improved things, but nobody has yet figured out a way to reform the lousy weather.

 History

Vinh’s more recent history has not been the happiest. It was a pleasant citadel city during its colonial days, but was destroyed in the early 1950s as a result of French aerial bombing and the Viet Minh’s scorched-earth policy. Vinh was later devastated by a huge fire.

 The Ho Chi Minh Trail began in Nghe An province, and much od the war materiel transported on the Ho Chi Minh Trail was shipped via the port of Vinh. Not too surprisingly, the US military obliterated the city in hundreds of air attack and naval artillery bombardments from 1964 to 1972, which left only two buildings intact. The Americans paid a high price for the bombings – more US aircraft and pilots were shot down over Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces than over any other part of North Vietnam. The heavy loss of planes and pilots was one reason why the USA later brought in battleships to pound North Vietnam from offshore.

 Orientation & Information

As Hwy 1 enters Vinh from the south, it crosses over the mouth of the Lam River (Ca River), also known as Cua Hoi Estuary. Street address numbers ate often not used in Vinh. There are several Internet cafes on Đ Le Hong Phong

 Money The Vietcombank (Ngan Hang Ngoai Thuong Vietnam) is close to the roundabout at which Đ Le Loi becomes Đ Nguyen Trai.

 Post The main post office(Đ Nguyen Thi Minh Khai; open 6.30am-9pm daily) is near the corner of Đ Dinh Cong Trang. It was being rebuilt at the time of writing, but the renovations were almost over. There’s a small post-office kiosk next to Phu Nguyen Hai Hotel.

 Medical Services For emergencies, try the hospital(cnr Đ Tran Phu & Đ Le Mao).

 Places to Stay

Dong Do Hotel(   846989; 9 Đ Nguyen Trai; rooms 100,000-120,000d) has rooms (with bath) that are clean and good value. It was formerly the Vina Hotel.

Nang Luong Hotel(   844788; 2 Đ Nguyen Trai; air-con rooms US$15-34) is an old but friendly place. The cheaper rooms are clean and great value with satellite TV, and there’s a decent swimming pool.

 Phu Nguyen Hai Hotel(   848429, fax 832014; ectpnh@hn.vnn.vn; 81 Đ Le Loi; rooms US$18-35) is a newish and clean place, with big bright rooms. Get a room at the back as the street side is noisy.

Hong Ngoc Hotel(   841314, fax 841229; 99 &13 Đ Le Loi; air-con rooms US$15-25) is also fine. On one side of the street, the old section is good value, the newer section was due to be refurbished.

 Saigon Kim Lien Hotel(   838899, fax 838898; e sgklna@hn.vnn.vn; 25 Đ Quang Trung; rooms US$30-70) is a good quality, standard business hotel. Discounted rates are often available.

 There is also a gaggle of cheap and fairly nasty places to stay along the block between Đ Phan Chu Trinh and Đ Dao Tan on Đ Quang Trung.

 

Places to Eat

Vinh Central Market (Cho Vinh) carries the usual plethora of household goods, and there are food stalls around the back, heading towards the bus station. The market is at the end of Đ Cao Thang, which is the southern continuation of Đ Quang Trung.

Com Ga Thuong Hai(99 Đ Le Loi) has good Chinese-style dishes. It’s connected to the old wing of Hong Ngoc Hotel. The restaurant’s name means ‘Rice Chicken Shanghai’ (which is also the good house speciality) and the menu has some wild and wacky translations into English, particularly of the frog and snake dishes.

 If you poke around town, you’ll notice the peanut candies that are on sale almost everywhere. There are at least three different kinds, each one outstanding. One popular brand is Keo Cu-do. You’ll find plenty of similar-looking candies elsewhere in Vietnam, but the Vinh varieties are far and away the best.

 

Getting There & Away

Bus There are two bus stations in Vinh. The station on Đ Le Loi is where most Hanoi and HCMC buses leave and arrive. The bus station behind the market is where to go for buses to Tay Son, and on to the Lao border (see the Cau Treo section later in this chapter). Be aware that Tay Son was formerly called Trung Tam, and this is usually what you’ll see signed on the bus. Some northbound and southbound buses also use this bus station.

 TrainThe Reunification Express stops here (see the Getting Around chapter). The Vinh train station(Ga Vinh;   824924) is 1km west of the intersection of Đ Le Loi and Đ Phan Boi Chau and about 1.5km north of Vinh Market.

 Car & Motorbike From Vinh, it’s 87km to the Lao border, 139km to Thanh Hoa, 96km to Dong Hoi and 319km to Hanoi.

  

Around Vinh

   038

Cua Lo Beach

This is one of the three major beach resorts in the northern half of the country. The other two are at Sam Son and Do Son. It’s designed to Vietnamese taste, and may not suit many travellers’ style.

 The beach here is beautiful, with white sand, clean water and a shady grove of pine trees along the shore, but in high season (May to September) there’s lots of litter. Nevertheless, if you’re in the area and the weather is suitably warm and dry, Cua Lo could be worth a visit to cool off – at least as a half-day trip from Vinh – and to eat a good seafood lunch at one of the restaurants on the beach.

 

Places to Stay There are masses of hotels (rooms US$5) along the waterfront, guesthouses(rooms US$30) to huge government enterprises. Most offers ‘massage’ and karaoke, and most have prostitutes hanging around outside, even in low season. Hotel rates drop considerably during the winter months – the name of the game is negotiation if for some reason you really want to stay here.

 

Getting There & Away Cua Lo is 16km northeast of Vinh and can be reached easily by motorbike or taxi.

 

Kim Lien

Just 14km northwest of Vinh is Ho Chi Minh’s birthplace in the village of Hoang Tru. The house in which he was born in 1890 is maintained as a sacred shrine, and it is a favorite pilgrimage spot for Vietnamese tourists. Ho Chi Minh’s childhood home is a simple farmhouse that’s made of bamboo and palm leaves, reflecting his humble beginnings. He was raised in this house until 1895, when the family sold it and moved to Hue so that his father could study.

 In 1901, Ho Chi Minh’s family returned to a house in Kim Lien, about 2km from Hoang Tru. Not far from this house, there is a museum.

 Admission to all the sites (open 7.30am-11am & 1.30pm-5pm daily) is free. However you are obliged to buy three bouquets of flowers (10,000d each) from the reception desk and place one by each of the three altars. No English-language information is available.

 At the car park by museum are quite a few vendors plugging the peanut candies for which Vinh is famous.

 There is no public transport to Kim Lien, but it’s easy enough to hire a motorbike or taxi in Vinh.

 

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