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  • Writer's pictureDeb Smithers

"City of Ghosts"- Vietnam's Affluent Afterlife

An Bang Cemetery

Giant colourful Tombs rest in the An bang Cemetary. Intricate detail and craftman ship is amazing

It was time for a new adventure, I decided to take a trip to the Imperial capital of Hue. I traveled by rail from Danang to Hue, the most famous route in Vietnam, with the most famous section being the picturesque Hai Van Pass. I thought it funny that I would depart from the Village of An Bang in Hoi An and travel to find the Village of An Bang near Hue.

Hue is a stunning part of Vietnam with many things to do and places to visit such as the Dong Ba market, Perfume River, The Imperial City (The Citadel), and my favorite, Tam Giang Lagoon.

Village build on the water

Photo of Tam Giang Lagoon - Trip Advisor

Make it a must to visit the impressive Tien Mu Pagoda, the temples and gardens are breathtaking. This pagoda was made famous by quite a chilling story. Thich Quang Duc, a monk that burned himself to death on a busy intersection in Saigon on June 11 1963. He was protesting against the persecution of the Buddhists by the South Vietnamese Government. The car in this iconic photograph remains on the grounds of the pagoda.

car in the street and monks around,one monk sets himself on fire.

The graphic photograph remains etched in the minds of many around the globe.

Drawing of a pink flower

Tall Pagoda in Vietnam

Tien Mu Pagoda

This visit to Hue was with a plan to take a motorbike out to find the fascinating 'An Bang Cemetery', also known as 'City of Ghosts', where the dead rest in extravagant and extremely costly graves. I heard that it was worth the struggle it takes to try to find it, and with that in mind, I decided to hire a fairly decent motorbike for the week ahead.

In the quiet fishing village of An Bang, Phu Vang district 40 km outside of Hue, there are 250 Hectares of mind-blowing, luxurious graves and Tombs, stretching for 3 km along the pristine beaches lined with palm trees and built on the powdery white sand. The architecture of these gigantic graves is incredible, some reaching 3 stories high. The very lavish tombs are adorned with regal stone lions, intricate mosaic tiles, and elaborate gold carvings. Some even have kitchens and bathrooms in them.

Getting there.

Take Highway 49 from Hue City to Thuan An Beach and then continue along the coastal road about 30km to Vinh An commune (Phu Vang district). In the last 15 minutes, you may need to stop and ask lots of directions until you finally find the cemetery.

Sounds so simple....

Don't panic if you keep taking the wrong turns and feel like you're going in circles, like I did. You will eventually find it.

Hundreds of massive colourful Tombs and Shrines that are packed tightly into the An Bang Cemetery in Vietnma.

The "resort paradise" of the dead as reported by the Daily Mail.

It is known by locals as the City of Ghosts and they assure me of many sightings of the spirits roaming the cemetery at night. Initially, the children never went out after dark, but in time they learned to no longer fear it.

Colourful mosaic statues that line the Shrines.

It is hard to imagine the villagers living such a humble life, surviving with only the bare essentials while the dead are living in marble and gold tombs worth hundreds of thousands.

Fishermen build these lavish graves which are funded mainly by wealthy family members, mostly living abroad. They spend their days building grandiose mausoleums and the local families compete for who has the most elaborate tombs, making it like a 'keeping up with the Joneses' type scenario.

It is a great income for local workers and skilled tomb carvers.

The many Tombs form one family within the cemetary

Depending on religious views, the tombs have different styles such as Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian styles. Those made in traditional Tibetan styles are magnificent. Large amounts of money are sent from their children overseas to express filial piety to the parents.

Blue modaic tiles and ornate statues make these shrines so unique.

The majority of the graves are designed to resemble the sophisticated mausoleum of Khai Dinh (An Emperor of Vietnam in 1920).

They are decorated with gold carvings of mythical creatures.

Temples, shrines and Tombs


Typically ranging from 25 000 to 50 000 US with several in their grandness costing almost 300 000 thousand US. In An Bang village, there are no preservation regulations for the buildings in place, leaving the locals to go wild with their creativity. The authorities do not condone the giant structures and have run many campaigns to discourage the construction of the tombs with no success. It has made the Village of An Bang one of the richest in the country although you wouldn't think it when you drive through the little humble village.

What made my visit to the cemetery even more remarkable was that there was not another soul in sight, or person I should say.

The truest end of life is to know the life that never ends.

City of Ghosts

A deserted beach, white sand, blue ocean and a perfect sky.

Thuan An Beach


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