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Vietnamese attractions used to create Neverland. But did you know?

The magical world of Neverland has been created using footage of some of Vietnam’s most famous natural landscapes, but few moviegoers would know that the Southeast Asian country has lent its beauty to the movie that hit theaters globally this month.

 The world renowned, breathtaking beauty of Ha Long Bay and En Cave were filmed to serve the 3D rendering of Neverland in Pan, a US$150 million Warner Bros. Pictures film, but Vietnam is never mentioned in documents used to promote the movie.

Tourism experts and businesses have called it “an opportunity wasted,” as the country would have been able to use the free publicity to remind the world of its beauty.

Ha Long Bay is a famous attraction in the northern province of Quang Ninh, while En (Swallow) Cave sits around two kilometers from the famed Son Doong Cave in the UNESCO-listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in the north-central province of Quang Binh.

A scene capturing a paddy field in the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex in the northern province of Ninh Binh is also featured in the film, theatrically released in the U.S. on October 9.

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This scene from Pan was created using real footage shot in Ninh Binh.

Local cinephiles only knew that Pan had shot some of its scenes at these attractions after Hugh Jackman, who plays ruthless pirate Blackbeard, let the cat out of the bag in an interview as part of the movie’s promotional campaign.

“If you watch the movie Pan, you’re gonna see two shots in the world of Neverland, most of which are done with CGI but [there are] two real shots both from Vietnam,” Jackman told Kathy Uyen, an American-Vietnamese actress, in a promotional event in Hong

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entrance to En Cave in Quang Binh. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Chau A, general director of tour operator Oxalis, admitted that viewers can hardly recognize the scenes of Ha Long Bay and En Cave after they have been turned into Neverland using computer-generated imagery (CGI).

Oxalis is the sole tourism agency licensed by the Quang Binh administration to bring tourists to Son Doong Cave and other grottos in the province.

“We didn’t know that Vietnam would be included in the promotional activities of Pan, so we did not put the issue on the table while discussing with the film crew,” A said on his Facebook on September 29.

A said this is a lesson learnt for when other big productions shoot in Vietnam.

Pan’s production crew had reportedly only said they would film a documentary in these destinations when obtaining a license from authorities, so the Vietnamese side did not request that they mention the country in promotional activities, according to a source close to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

Rigid requirements

International film crews have to seek permission or a license from Vietnamese authorities if they want to shoot in the country, as per current regulations.

However, those bodies in charge of granting such a license have several rigid requirements for filmmakers and tend to “care about their own interests and benefits while ignoring the chance to promote the country’s tourism,” an industry insider said.

“The authorities send officials to supervise the filming by the foreign production crew, and require that they earmark $200 a day to pay them,” Bui Viet Thuy Tien, director of Asian Trails, told Tuoi Tre.

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“As a shoot may take more than ten days to film, not many film crews will accept an extra cost of over $2,000.”

Tien said the authorities turn down all requests to exempt such a ‘supervision cost’, and many end up scrapping their plan to shoot in Vietnam.

“The country therefore misses another chance to promote its beauty to the world,” Tien said.

A breathtaking view of the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex in Ninh Binh. Photo: Ly An Khang

Ngo Minh Duc, director of Huong Giang Travel, is facing the same problem.

The company has called on the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) to support a production crew of more than 300 members, who plan to film in Ha Long Bay and some other destinations.

“We have tried to persuade the VNAT that this is a big opportunity to present Vietnam to the world, but the administration insists that all requirements be followed,” Duc lamented.

Vietnam rejects copycat claim on design of $18.7bn airport

A local expert has accused Vietnam’s transport ministry of copying a Hong Kong airport in making a blueprint design for Long Thanh International Airport, a multibillion-dollar project it is seeking approval for implementation, but the allegation was dismissed Friday.

Dr. Tran Dinh Ba, from the Vietnam Economic Association, was quoted by many local news websites as saying early the same day that the ministry has used the artist’s impression of Chek Kap Lok International Airport to sell its plan to build the US$18.75 billion

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100 percent truth is the artist’s impression of Chek Kap Lok has been used in presentations about Long Thanh airport,” Ba said.

The newswires also published photos said to be of the Hong Kong terminal.

But the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said these pictures “have no truck with the artist’s rendering and design idea of the Long Thanh International Airport which are included in plans approved by the government.”

“The Ministry of Transport and its agencies do not supply, and thus hold no responsibility over, any photos or design ideas different from the approved ones,” the aviation watchdog said in a press release late Friday.

Long Thanh airport, to be located in the eponymous district in the southern province of Dong Nai, some 50km from Ho Chi Minh City, is designed with four runways put into two parallel pairs. The passenger terminals are located between these two pairs of runways.

Dr. Ba apparently made the copycat claim as this is also the way the Hong Kong airport is designed.

However, the CAAV said this is “a typical design for many major international airports, such as the Charles De Gaul, Shanghai, and Suvarnabhumi.”

The CAAV noted that the design is only included in the prefeasibility report of the project, and the final design will only be prepared when it is approved by the law-making National Assembly.

The transport ministry has been trying to sell the plan of Long Thanh airport, to be constructed in three phases ending by 2030, when it will be able to serve 100 million passengers a year.

Most of the naysayers to the project questions the necessity of building a new enormous airport not too far from Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, currently the largest of its kind in Vietnam.

The transport ministry backs its plan by saying Tan