Banh My Us Play

On a bus on my way khổng lồ Haiphong, Seattle’s Vietnamese sister city, I chatted with another young American about our travels. He mentioned that it was his “second tour through Vietnam.”

Forty years ago, a “tour” in Vietnam meant something entirely different for young Americans. In the space of just one generation, the setting of our parents’ defining war is now more synonymous with young globetrotters & affordable backpacking.

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In an even shorter period of time, Seattle’s relationship with Vietnam has also transformed.

Seattle and Haiphong’s sister đô thị affiliation stands in stark contrast to the political situation in the early 1990s, when the Greater Seattle Vietnam Association (GSVA) first pursued a Vietnamese sister city. At the time, America maintained a trade embargo against Vietnam, và engagement was still controversial among Seattle’s Vietnam veterans và Vietnamese-American community. The GSVA faced protests, demonstrations, & even death threats.

When President Clinton normalized diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1995, Seattle was one of the first cities to reach out. Traveling with GSVA representatives, Washington Governor Mike Lowry was the first U.S. Governor lớn visit Vietnam in decades. Finally, in 1998, Haiphong was officially declared Seattle’s 20th sister city, joining cities lượt thích Christchurch, New Zealand and Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Like Seattle, Haiphong is a large port đô thị with an active shipping lane and maritime industry. As Vietnam’s third-largest city, it hosts a thriving culture with art, cuisine, và traditions all its own. Situated right between the capital đô thị of Hanoi và UNESCO World Heritage Site Ha Long Bay, Haiphong is a worthy addition to lớn any Vietnam traveler’s itinerary.


What khổng lồ see & do:

Most trips to lớn Haiphong begin with the statue of General Le Chan. This 1st-century female general & founder of Haiphong presides over a park just a short walk away from the bus terminal where the majority of visitors arrive.

Remnants of French colonialism abound throughout Haiphong. In the Colonial Quarter, French-style architecture lines the wide avenues of Dien Bien Phu Street and Tran Hung Dao Street.

The Haiphong Opera House. (Photo courtesy city of Haiphong)

The French-built Haiphong Opera House is the artistic center of the city. Lượt thích the more famous Hanoi Opera House, Haiphong’s hall was modeled on the Palais Garnier in Paris. In 1946, it was the site of the first conflict of the First Indochina war. Legend has it that Viet Minh soldiers & Opera staff armed with antique muskets held off French troops on the Opera House steps for three days & nights.

Today, the Opera House is known for Sino-Vietnamese hat tuong operas, Vietnamese hat cheo dramas, and cai luong folk musicals. Visitors interested in traditional theater can also catch one of the Haiphong Water Puppetry Troupe’s weekly performances.

The city’s oldest structure is the Du Hang Pagoda. This pagoda was built in the 17th century, and has undergone several restorations since.

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Temple junkies will also want khổng lồ visit the Nghe Temple. This temple started as a small shrine to lớn General Le Chan, & has expanded into a significant religious site. As with any place of worship, visitors should dress respectfully and cover their shoulders and knees.


What to Eat:

Haiphong, lượt thích Seattle, is known for its seafood. Banh domain authority cua, a clear noodle soup with crab, spinach, onions, và other vegetables, is one of the city’s iconic dishes. Bun ca (vermicelli noodles và fish with green onion, dill, and chili sauce) and nem hai san (seafood spring rolls, often with shrimp, crab, carrot, & mushroom) round out Haiphong’s must-try menu. For the tastiest và cheapest eats, forego sit-down restaurants & head instead to lớn the busiest sidewalk stands you can find.

In addition to lớn Haiphong specialties, standard Vietnamese fare lượt thích pho (noodle soup) và banh mi (baguette sandwiches) offer a taste of trang chủ to Seattleites familiar with our own city’s Vietnamese cuisine.

Backpacker enjoying street food at a curbside cà phê in Haiphong. (Photo from Flickr by HRamirez)

What to lớn Drink:

The Haiphong Brewery serves up fresh Bia Hoi daily. Renowned as the best beer in Vietnam, this local brew can be enjoyed with the brewery’s affordable — and surprisingly good — food.

Of course, no Seattleite’s trip khổng lồ Vietnam is complete without Vietnamese coffee. Coffee is often taken as a dessert in Vietnam, with a substantial layer of sweetened condensed milk on the bottom. đen coffee can be so strong that even those who prefer to omit the sugary goo often showroom granulated sugar instead.

Coffee topped with a foamy mixture of whipped egg yolk and sugar — or “egg coffee” — is increasingly popular. Coffee lovers in search of a heartier drink can also try Vietnamese coffee mixed with yogurt or dripped over tangy frozen yogurt.

When to go:

The warm, dry months from October to December are the best time khổng lồ visit northern Vietnam. After that, cold, misty weather sets in until April, followed by the hot, humid monsoon season until September.

Because Vietnam’s northern, central, and southern regions host distinctive climates, finding the right time khổng lồ travel the entire country can be difficult. Overall, autumn (September to December) or spring (March và April) are the best bets.

Closer khổng lồ home: 

Seattleites need not travel far lớn experience Vietnamese culture. Seattle hosts several organizations devoted lớn the Vietnamese-American community, including the Seattle University Vietnamese Association, the Vietnamese Student Association at UW, the Vietnamese Friendship Association, in addition lớn the GSVA. Kiểm tra out their websites for more ways khổng lồ get involved.