Haiphong doesn’t deserve the lukewarm description it receives some of the guidebooks popular with the mass tourism market. Although it’s Vietnam’s largest port, it retains considerable charm and is worth a visit. Despite its size and heavy industry, like Hanoi, it has a compact and attractive central area that gives it a small town atmosphere belying its status as Vietnam’s third largest city.
The city centre is a pleasant mixture of parks, tree-lined boulevards and colonial buildings. Tam Bac Lake, the western section of a defunct canal built during the colonial period, is lined with French-style streetlamps that gives the area a Parisian feel.
There are several attractions worth attention. The Municipal Theatre is a classic example of French colonial architecture – unfortunately, the contents are less appealing. The nearby produce and flower markets make for an interesting stroll towards Den Nghe, a small temple with some notable statues.
Further away, the Du Hang pagoda is located in an attractive street of artisans cottages – the wood-carving is impressive. Somewhat surprisingly, there appears to be a distinct K’hmer influence upon its ornamentation.
Although set in the midst of factories and ramshackle buildings, Dien Hang Kenh is a first-rate communal house facing an ornamental lake, now used as a temple. Unfortunately, it is beginning to feel its age, but the accumulating dust and grime doesn’t disguise a remarkable sweeping roof supported by massive ironwood pillars, or the fine ornamentation and wood-carvings within.
Out of the city, the rural scenery is unexpectedly agreeable. Our customers often enjoy a gentle cycle ride along the winding lanes and through the small villages and old temples..
Do Son is a small seaside town near Haiphong. The beach is polluted and the town has a ‘fin de siècle’ feel about it. Apart one of Vietnam’s few casinos (which Vietnamese citizens are not allowed to enter as customers), it has little to offer.
A good dual carriageway connects to Hanoi – the 100km seldom takes more than an hour and a half - making Haiphong a rewarding excursion. An alternative is a three-hour train journey.
Haiphong is also an easy access point for Ha Long Bay via a hydrofoil service to Cat Ba Island. Fast boats and slower ferries connect Haiphong to Cat Ba and Ha Long City direct.
For travellers using Haiphong as an intermediate sojourn on the way to Ha Long Bay, the increasing business activity in this priority economic development zone has stimulated the construction of several new hotels, two of which meet our Superior