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‘Stairways to heaven’ Insta-tourist traps raise eyebrows in Vietnam

Friday, August 09, 2019, 19:25 GMT+7
‘Stairways to heaven’ Insta-tourist traps raise eyebrows in Vietnam
Visitors climb a staircase illegally built in Da Lat City, Lam Dong Province in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Photo: M.Vinh / Tuoi Tre

‘Stairways to heaven’ – staircases that ascend into the sky and stop midair – are Vietnam’s hottest new Instragram trend, with international and domestic tourists alike rushing from various destinations in the country to snap photos on the impressive structures.

Vietnamese authorities, however, do not share enthusiasm for the trend, with regulators in several localities voicing their concerns over safety and expressing frustration that these structures are being built without proper construction licenses being granted by the appropriate government agencies.

Da Lat, Hoi An, and Nha Trang are just a few of the tourist hubs where visitors can take photos sitting on the stairs against a magnificent backdrop of mountains, trees, and forests. 

Yet the dangers of climbing several meters into the air on stairways with no railings or safety equipment have not gone unnoticed.

At the Seagate Park, a theme park located in Quy Nhon, the capital of the south-central province of Binh Dinh, construction of one such stairway was ceased on August 3, just days after work began, when regulators called out the park for building without first obtaining the proper permit.

The stainless steel stairway was expected to measure four meters tall, according to Seagate Park director Nguyen Van Canh.

Workers tear down one stairway illegally built in Quy Nhon, the capital of the south-central province of Binh Dinh, on August 3, 2019. Photo: T. Thinh / Tuoi Tre

Workers tear down one stairway illegally built in Quy Nhon, the capital of the south-central province of Binh Dinh, on August 3, 2019. Photo: T. Thinh / Tuoi Tre

Workers tear down one stairway illegally built in Quy Nhon, the capital of the south-central province of Binh Dinh, on August 3, 2019. Photo: T. Thinh / Tuoi Tre

Workers tear down one stairway illegally built in Quy Nhon, the capital of the south-central province of Binh Dinh, on August 3, 2019. Photo: T. Thinh / Tuoi Tre

Tran Viet Bao, director of the provincial construction department, said such structures require evaluation and permission from specialized construction agencies before they can be built.

Canh, on the other hand, said the stairway is simply a small-scale item that does not meet the criteria for needing a construction permit.

In Da Lat, the first Vietnamese locality where such structures were built, three ‘stairways to heaven’ have been erected in Ward 11 alone, all run by different household businesses.

The households, all of which operate as coffee shops, say the stairways are a highlight of tourists’ visits to the city and serve as a spot for a photo shoot thanks to the stunning backdrop of blue skies against an endless carpet of flower gardens and vegetable farms.

In April, the Da Lat administration slapped each of the three households with a VND15 million (US$645) fine for constructing the staircases without a permit. Two of them were also given ten days to tear down the illegally-built structures.

Four months later, all three of the ‘stairways to heaven’ are still receiving visitors.

The operators of the venues have reportedly filed for construction permits for the stairways.

Staircase is illegally built in Da Lat City, Lam Dong Province in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Photo: M.Vinh / Tuoi Tre

Staircases are illegally built in Da Lat City, Lam Dong Province in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Photo: M.Vinh / Tuoi Tre

Visitors climb a staircase illegally built in Da Lat City, Lam Dong Province in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Photo: M.Vinh / Tuoi Tre

Visitors climb a staircase illegally built in Da Lat City, Lam Dong Province in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Photo: M.Vinh / Tuoi Tre

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