A cemetery might not be the first destination you think about as being a place of intrigue. However, the An Bang Village Cemetery near Hue may surprise you. Known by nearby residents as “the city of ghosts” or “the city of the dead,” this intriguing locale has thousands of stunning mausoleums and is very important to local life.
It is one of the most famous and lavish cemeteries in the entire country and is known worldwide. People here pull out all of the stops when it comes to decorating tombs for their ancestors.
So how did this tiny fishing village become the luxury retreat for the dead?
The cemetery lies within An Bang village, just over 20 miles away from the city of Hue. An Bang is a relatively low-income fishing village that relies heavily on its catch for a salary. The cemetery is less than a quarter of a mile from the beach.
Villagers in An Bang lead a very simple life, making it surprising that Vietnam’s most luxurious cemetery resides there.
The per capita income in Ang Bang is only $2,000, but mausoleums at this cemetery cost upwards of $70,000.
How is this possible?
In the early 1990s, the Vietnamese government opened the country up to foreign money transfers. This policy shift meant that Vietnamese people overseas could send money back to their relatives living in Vietnam.
While the tombs have been there for centuries, locals began to upgrade them in the mid-90s. After that, creativity began to run wild.
Soon, it became a competition over who had the most ornate tombs.
Compounds became larger, taller, and more spectacular than the ones next to them. There are all types of styles represented in the cemetery – from Buddhist to Gothic. Tombs can take several years to complete and rise over 25 feet tall.
There are extraordinary pillars, porcelain mosaics, glass roofs, and many other decorative details. Unlike typical cemeteries devoid of color, this place has every shade in the rainbow.
At the heart of all this opulence is the desire to pay respects to ancestors and create monuments that will honor them forever.
This unique cemetery has had an incredible impact on the local community. It has created jobs for many villagers by employing builders, bricklayers, and repair workers. Others earn an income looking after incense smoke in the tombs and transporting materials by buffalo to the construction sites.
Not every resident considers this level of grandeur to be appropriate. Many locals believe that having such intricate and costly tombs is a waste of money. Recently there has been more advocacy to scale down the size and cost. However, this tradition is a substantial part of Ang Bang culture, so it likely won’t be going anywhere soon.
If you are planning to get a tour of the city of the Dead at An Bang village, you won’t be disappointed. The An Bang cemetery is one of the most unbelievable things that you have ever seen anything like this. Currently, there are no group tours to An Bang cemetery from Hue so the best way to see these breath-taking mausoleums is by taking a private car or tour.