Introducing Thuan An to Vinh Hien
Thuan An Beach, 15km northeast of Hué, is on a splendid lagoon near the mouth of the Perfume River, at the tip of a long, thin island. It’s lovely for beachcombing, and is quite undeveloped except for a few kiosks, but between September and April the water’s often too rough to swim in.
It is joined to the mainland by a short bridge, and beyond the beach a 50km scenic road (actually Hwy 49, though you’d never guess) stretches the length of the undeveloped island (no maps give it a name) from Thuan An to Vinh Hien. This makes a great day trip by motorbike or car from Hué. It also offers an alternative route to or from Hué for travellers making their way on two wheels along the coast road.
Coming from Thuan An, the island is skinny and the road winds along with the lagoon on one side and the ocean on the other. There are several villages on the way with stacks of enormous nuoc mam (fish sauce) jars lining the outer walls of many houses, and miles of fertile raised vegetable gardens. But most extraordinary are the vast, colourful and opulent graves and family temples lining the ocean side of the road; there are thousands upon thousands of them. In Vietnam the area is known as the ‘city of tombs’, with families vying to outdo their neighbours’ ancestral monuments. There was a huge outflow of boat people from this area and the overseas Vietnamese now provide the funds to construct these excessive structures.