digital tourism

Digital Tourism: Travel Hue and Other World Heritage Sites with CyArk

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With the world at a stop and tourism on indefinite hiatus, life has taken one step further into a sci-fi novel as we increasingly find ourselves dependent on the internet. Video calls for work and social meetings, ‘how to’ guides on youtube and online grocery shopping. But why stop there? It’s time to travel online! And if you are someone who is avidly keen on architecture, history and cultural heritage, then CyArk is a good introduction to the future of digital tourism.

Tu Duc online cultural heritage
the Tu Duc Stele captured by CyArk. Image courtesy of Tuoi Tre News.


Who are CyArk?

CyArk, a non-profit organisation from the USA, set out to digitally record and archive cultural heritage monuments from all over the world vulnerable to dangers such as environmental damage, vandalism, political upheaval and the unknown future! They document these sites so future generations have an alternative medium for exploring cultural heritage. They also archive these recordings to provide a blueprint for the reconstruction of sites damaged or destroyed in the future.

CyArk camera
CyArk member capturing one of the many temples in Bagan, Myanmer. Image courtesy of the SyArk Twitter account.


Since their beginning in 2003, CyArk have recorded over 200 global heritage sites. Some notable locations include the Church of Saint-Trophime in France, Mount Rushmore in the USA, the Nineveh Region in Iraq and Monte Alban in Mexico. All the digital recordings are available online and presented as an interactive 3D model on CyArk’s official website.

The famous statues of Easter Island. Image courtesy of CyArk


In 2018 a team of CyArk technicians came to Hue, Vietnam to work on digitally recording the An Dinh Palace and Tu Duc tomb in cooperation with the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre. CyArk used a combination of high-resolution digital photography, drones and laser scanning to create digital 3D models of the two locations. 

The Significance of Hue’s Cultural Heritage

A large portion of Hue Monuments Conservation Centre‘s work concentrates on the preservation of Nguyen Dynasty heritage, the remnants of the last emperors of Vietnam who claimed Hue as their capital between 1802-1945. While both buildings chosen for the CyArk project fall under the same dynasty, their architectural influences and the time periods they represent are different. 

Tu Duc is often referred to as the last autonomous emperor of Vietnam before his country fell to the French colonialists. The design of the Tu Duc tomb complex carries many traits typical to the Confucian principles he had inherited from his predecessors. Although CyArk didn’t capture the entire Tu Duc complex, their 3D models include Hoa Khiem Temple, Tu Duc Tomb Stele Building, Tu Duc Queen’s tomb.

Contrastingly, the An Dinh Palace was built and used during the time of Khai Dinh and Bao Dai, the penultimate and final emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty, who strayed from their ancestors Confucian philosophies and openly flaunted their taste for things from the west. At An Dinh Palace, which primarily functioned as a Bao Dai’s residence, French and foreign influence is apparent in the building’s features.

An Dinh Palace CyArt
The exterior of An Dinh Palace. Image courtesy of CyArt


The 3D digital models of An Dinh Palace and Tu Duc Tomb complex are available for open access on the CyArk website. 

Raising Awareness of Hue’s Cultural Heritage

CyArk’s project in Hue received attention from national and international media and not only raised Hue’s international tourism and cultural heritage profile but also shows the potential of digital technology in enriching the knowledge on a country’s history, culture and architecture.

Digital Tourism

CyArk’s work is only a glimpse into how technology can benefit cultural heritage internationally. During the time of this year’s global pandemic, CyArk’s project gives users the chance to engage with a location that can be as far as the opposite side of the world. While it strips a lot of the experiences of visiting a cultural heritage destination, it contributes additional resources to people who do not have the capabilities to travel abroad.

For access to all of CyArk’s 3D models. Head to their website:


Raising Awareness of Vietnamese Cultural Heritage
Viewed on 20/04/20


Hue’s Tu Duc Tomb Is Now Preserved Digitally in Google Arts and Culture
Monday, 22/04/19
Viewed on 20/04/20

Tuoi Tre News
Tomb of Vietnamese emperor among world monuments digitized by Google
Viewed on 20/04/20

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