Contemplating the Afterlife in An Bang Village, Vietnam
An Bang is a quiet village near Thuan An Beach, about twenty kilometers East of Hue. The locals call it City of Ghosts. In a bizarre variation of keeping up with the Joneses, the villagers compete to build increasingly lavish and elaborate tombs for their ancestors, and even sometimes for family members who have not yet died. The graveyard, with its brilliantly colored structures built on white sand, stretches along the side of the road for 3 kilometers. Some of the mausoleums could be mistaken for mansions. Regal stone lions abound and glittering mosaic dragons adorn the roof-ridges. 90% of the villagers have overseas relatives, who send money home, much of which is used to build tombs. Some grave markers include information on the building costs alongside the names and dates. Typical figures are between twenty-five and fifty thousand US dollars. The homes of the villagers remain humble, but the dead are resting in luxury.