A beach with smooth sand and turquoise waters in Phu Yen. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Trang
Phu Yen is the place on the Vietnamese mainland that receives the first rays of the sun every day. The coastal central province was once a lesser-known tourist destination and its low-profile status preserved it from the forces of mass tourism.
But Phu Yen catapulted to global fame after it was featured in the movie “Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass” directed by Victor Vu. The Vietnamese coming-of-age drama won in the 2016 Best Feature Film category of the Young People's Jury Award - part of the annual TIFF Kids International Film Festival in Toronto. It was premiere in Cannes Film Festival 2015.
One landscape highlight of Phu Yen is the 800m long Binh Thanh Bridge, said to be the longest of its kind in Vietnam. The bridge, which crosses the Binh Ba River, is also called the God of Tiger Bridge due to its proximity to a shrine where locals worship the feline deity to cure diseases and drive evil away.
For many years now, the bridge has been a frequent feature on Instagram, the world’s largest photo sharing network.
The bridge was built in 1999 with a total cost of more than VND1 billion ($43,000). It was built as a shortcut linking villages in the north of An Ninh Tay Commune in Tuy An District with Song Cau Town.
It achieved great popularity in 2017 when it was featured in the Vietnamese reality show Vietnam Amazing Race.
To save time, many backpackers choose to drive their motorbikes across the bridge to reach Ghenh Da Dia, Vietnam’s smaller version of Ireland's Giant's Causeway with hundreds of columns and plates rising up like a staircase, and other famous sights such as the 120-year-old Muong Lang stone church and O Loan Lagoon.
There is a wooden watchtower on the bridgehead where pedestrians are charged a toll fee of VND1,000 (4.3 cents) while two-wheelers have to pay VND3,000. Those carrying extra cargo are charged VND5,000.
During the October-November flooding season, the bridge is invariably swept into the sea and often has to be completely rebuilt. When the waters receeds, local residents use the toll fees collected to rebuild or repair the bridge.
For now, the Binh Thanh Bridge is seen as an endangered structure, and young travelers and photographers are doing their bit to preserve its stunning vistas for posterity.
The wooden bridge is a vantage point for watching local life unfold – fishermen rowing boats and pulling fishing nets, children bathing in the river, salt fields and even women struggling to cross the bridge.