Vinh is roughly halfway between Hanoi
and Hue located twenty kilometres from the sea in the narrowest
part of Vietnam. The Lam River loops round the south and
east of the city, and the mountains of Laos are clearly
visible to the west.
It’s a sizeable urban area with about a quarter of a million
people, and the capital of Nghe An Province. Its harsh climate,
frequently subject to a hot dry wind from the west and violent
storms from the East Sea, coupled with its poor quality
soil, has made Vinh one of the poorest provincial cities
in 1802, it was more or less destroyed during the French-Vietnamese
War. After rebuilding and reaching city status in 1962,
it was again flattened during the American War. This time
it was rebuilt with assistance from the now-defunct German
say it lacks charm is an understatement. If you're a fan
of East German ‘social realist’ architecture, you'd probably
be impressed, but for anyone else, it’s an undistinguished
straggle of buildings surrounded by rice paddies, and not
is bisected by Highway 1. It is also served by the north-south
rail link and regular flights to and from Hanoi. It’s possible
to cross the border into Laos at the Cau Tre border gate,
about 105km west of Vinh. About 10km from the city is the
Cua Lo port. Nearby is a long stretch of white sand beach
lined with poor quality hotel development. The beach is
poorly maintained and dirty – even so, it’s very popular
with Hanoi city-dwellers as the nearest thing to a seaside
resort in the north of Vietnam.
our view, there are only two reasons for including Vinh
in a tour programme. The first is as a stopping-off point
for a road trip along Highway 1 – one of Vinh's few plus
points is a couple of reasonable hotels.
other is to visit Kim Lien, a small village 14km west of
Vinh, where Nguyen Sinh Cung was born in 1890. His father,
a minor mandarin expelled from the Imperial Court for his
anti-colonialist sympathies, could hardly suspect his son
would become Vietnam’s saviour and one of the greatest leaders
of the twentieth century as Ho Chi Minh.
not much to see apart from a few reconstructed houses and
a small museum, but it’s a place to stand on one of the
world’s historical crossroads.