Story: Tran Duc Anh Son
Photos: Nguyen Hai, Nguyen Phong, Dinh Chinh

Some coastal villages in Central Vietnam have transformed themselves into popular tourist sites

Waves of urbanization and resort projects have engulfed villages on Vietnam’s Central Coast, causing many centuries-old fishing villages to disappear. Taking their place are seafront cities, villas, and flamboyant resorts. Still, some coastal villages have survived, while undergoing huge transformations. With their little paddies and gardens, some fishing and farming villages nestled among long stretches of sand dunes between Quang Binh and Binh Thuan have become “coastal tourism villages”, “mural villages”, and places where visitors can experience the local culture.

Vísitors enjoy discovering the local way of life in Vinh Thanh Village

Each village takes a different approach. In some, fishing remains the main source of livelihood. Many villagers continue this traditional work while others help to renovate the village, conserve their homeland’s pristine beaches, and offer new services like restaurants, accommodation, or essential facilities for tourists.

In other villages, local authorities act as facilitators by planning public beaches and establishing service areas for visitors; investing in infrastructure and transportation; and helping local people cater to guests who come to swim, sight-see, and relax. Some other villages benefit from the cooperation between domestic and foreign organizations that help embellish the village and provide training in community tourism.

Among these, Vinh Thanh village in Thua Thien Hue, Tam Thanh mural village in Quang Nam, and Canh Duong fishing village in Quang Binh are prime examples of success, having transformed themselves into renowned tourism sites.

Day trips to Vinh Thanh

Vinh Thanh is a “half farming, half fishing” village on Phu Vang Beach, about 30 km from Hue City. The village faces away from the sea and fronts Cau Hai Lagoon. Half of the villagers work in the rice paddies, growing crops on narrow stretches of land along the lagoon. The remaining half catches fish close to shore. They catch just enough to supply the village and local markets.

Vinh Thanh has become a popular day-trip destination for Hue residents, especially young people. Vinh Thanh Beach is unspoiled and beautiful. The seafood is fresh and affordable. It is easy to understand why Vinh Thanh attracts thousands of tourists on weekends and holidays, who come to unwind and visit local landmarks. They enjoy the sunrise over the sea, the sunset over Cau Hai Lagoon, and waiting for the villagers’ boats to return to the dock, laden with fresh fish, squid, and crabs.

Murals in Tam Thanh

Tam Thanh village in Tam Ky (Quang Nam) also found a new direction after partnering with a program of the Korean International Exchange Fund. In June 2016, a group of Korean artists came to Tam Thanh and painted over 100 murals on the villagers’ houses. Thanks to this, Tam Thanh became the first “mural village” in Vietnam. In 2018, the Korean artists returned, adding 30 more murals and repainting 50 houses in the village. The villagers have enjoyed the fruits of this Vietnamese-Korean community exchange project. Appreciating the artists’ work, the villagers and local authorities collaborated to set up more outdoor attractions, such as open display areas and community gathering spots that reflect their coastal culture. All of these elements have transformed this fishing village into a mesmerizing destination for both domestic and international tourists.  They come to see the murals, participate in community activities, play in the ocean waves, visit traditional fish sauce-making households, savor the local seafood, and enjoy a “slow living” experience in rustic homestays.

Canh Duong – ancient beauty reborn

After the success of Tam Thanh, another mural village was created by an all-Vietnamese team of artists and organizers: Canh Duong village in Quang Trach (Quang Binh). Dating back to 1634, this village was one of the “bát danh hương” (eight famous villages) of Quang Binh. Known for being home to intellectuals with deep revolutionary traditions, the village was long considered a “phú hương” (wealthy village), both literally and figuratively.
A visitor poses in Canh Duong Village

Canh Duong is the first mural village in Quang Binh. Vietnamese artists used realistic 3D painting techniques to re-imagine its valiant history, culture, and traditions. Thanks to the murals, the village has become a beautiful and lively work of art, attracting visitors from near and far.

Strolling through Canh Duong’s painted streets, visitors can stop by Đình thờ Tổ (Ancestors Shrine), Linh ngư miếu (Whale Temple), centuries-old houses, and coral-stone walls covered in layers of moss. During the Tet holidays, Canh Duong hosts cultural and sports activities that include a Fire-passing Ritual on New Year’s Eve; the Cầu Ngư (Whale Worship) Festival on the first full moon of the lunar year; human chess games; and performances of traditional lullabies sung by village men – a unique folk heritage of Canh Duong and Quang Binh.

The communities on Vietnam’s Central Coast have quickly adapted to tourism, transforming their villages into vibrant and attractive tourist destinations, thereby improving their livelihoods and breathing new life into these old villages.