Destination in Vietnam
A country of extraordinary diversity, Vietnam has more distinctive experiences to offer than any other country in South East Asia. From the westernized and progressive south, with its bustling and frenetic cities, to the palm fringed beaches of the country’s centre; from the cultural and refined north to the cooler climes of the mountainous highlands; each offers a unique experience to the international visitor. Rice paddies, shopping, hill tribes, high-rise, historical marvels, natural wonders, imperial dynasties… Vietnam has it all. From a tragic past, Vietnam has risen like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes and is today a country of astounding contrasts and diversity, embracing a newfound freedom and future.
With some very important milestones in its not too distant past, Vietnam has quickly realised its dream of shining on an international stage. Infrastructure developments in the past ten years have been phenomenal. International hotel properties, new aircraft fleets and improved roads. And despite the unstoppable progress Vietnam somehow retains its charm and traditions that enrich the visitor of today.
Saigon in the south
Saigon, the largest and busiest of Vietnam’s cities is surely one of the most evocative place names in Asia. The most Western in atmosphere of Vietnam’s cities, Ho Chi Minh City (to use its official name – although to residents and visitors alike it is universally and affectionately known as Saigon) has a population of 6 million, and a booming free-market economy. It is a city of amazing contrasts: elegant new international hotels, exclusive restaurants and trendy bars side-by-side with roadside noodle stalls, street children and vociferous cyclo drivers. Golf courses, bowling alleys and shopping malls vie for space with markets, pagodas and karaoke rooms. Bustling, booming crowded, noisy – all words that barely scratch the surface of the addictive and often mesmerising chaos that is Saigon. And yet there are the elegant colonial French boulevards and buildings, the Cathedral, the riverfront, the quiet moments at a sidewalk cafe watching the world literally go by you at breakneck speed.
Hanoi in the north
At the other end of the country lies its capital – Hanoi. A city of lakes and parks, of tree-lined streets resplendent with French colonial villas and mansions, Hanoi is a European capital in the heart of Asia. The Old French Quarter is a maze of crammed narrow alleyways that are still named after the goods that were once traded there – Silk Street, Gold Street, even Fried Fish Street! With intonations of a bye-gone era, Hanoi is home to sidewalk cafes and pavement barbers. Wide bicycle-filled boulevards, faded but elegant architecture, the grandeur and solemnity of Ho Chi Minh’s monumental Mausoleum, the incongruous rustic simplicity of the house in which ‘Uncle Ho’ lived out his final years, the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ where so many prisoners of war were incarcerated, the religious pride that constructed so many serene temples and pagoda complexes – it’s all here in Hanoi, a microcosm of Vietnamese culture.
In between these two marvelous cities lies a country with its agricultural society at its heart. Journeying throughout the country one will find endless emerald rice fields backed by rugged mountain ranges and a coastal landscape that takes a dramatic turn at every corner. Popular beach resorts of Phan Thiet and Nha Trang in the south lead the traveler to the centre of Danang and the quaint merchant town of Hoi An.
If Hoi An is not enough to hold one’s interest there is the nearby lure of My Son, the central site of the Cham civilization or Imperial Hue, a destination in its own right and home to the tombs of twelve Emperor’s and the World Heritage site, the Imperial Citadel. All along this coastal route are the sweeping sands of Danang and its nearby bays and lagoons with many world class beach resorts at your convenience.
Mekong Delta, the far north and Halong Bay
Besides the central and coastal areas of Vietnam there are added attractions of the Mekong Delta with its floating markets and mystical boat journeys and the rugged far north, with its former French hill stations and villages communities of ethnic groups, not to mention superb territory for trekking or mountain hiking.
And then there is Halong Bay, a massive area of limestone karsts and mountains in an emerald sea. Sail through this area in a reconverted junk boat or kayak to one of the many hidden lagoons.
Most visitors will find it hard to focus in on one part of the country for there is simply so much to offer. It is hard not to return time and time again to a destination that simply this much diversity and cultural history – a destination that continues to surprise at each corner.
MAJOR TOURIST DESTINATIONS IN VIETNAM
Ba Be Lake: (240 km from Hanoi)
Ba Be Lakes, lie in the middle of a vast limestone mountain range, north-west of Ha Noi - dubbed a "precious jade of Viet Nam" and one of 500 lakes recognized as worthy of attention. Ba Be itself is actually three smaller lakes joined together - Pe Lam, Pe Lu and Pe Leng. The climate is cool with an average temperature of 22°C. This area has a lot to offer, including waterfalls, rivers, valleys, lakes, and caves all set amidst picturesque landscapes.
Cao Bang: (280 km from Hanoi)
Cao Bang Province is located in the far north-east, 280 km north of Hanoi; it shares borders with China on the north and east. The cool weather is ideal for relaxing and discovery nearby places. Famous sites include Thang Hen Mountainous Lake in Tra Linh, Ban Gioc Fall and Nguom Ngao Cave in Trung Khanh. Among of them, Ban Gioc Fall probably is one of most beautiful waterfalls in Vietnam. Historical sites where Uncle Ho lived and worked before the August 1945 Revolution include Pac Bo, Coc Bo Cave, Lenin Stream, and Khuoi Nam Stream. In Cao Bang, the traditional festivals have specific characteristics of ethnic groups, for example, Long Tong Festival, Inviting–the-Moon-Mother Festival (Moi Me Trang).
Cat Ba: (150 km from Hanoi)
Cat Ba National Park is located on Cat Ba Island, 150 km east of Hanoi. The park covers approximately 200 km2, two thirds of which consists of a forested zone and one third, a marine zone. The island is home to over 600 kinds of plants including Bang, Goi Nep, Sang Le, and Kim Giao trees. The fauna living on the island is also diverse; the island is home to rare wild white-headed langur, deer, and macaques, to name a few. Cat Ba marine reserves comprise sea turtles, lobster, coral, oysters, and dolphins.
Dien Bien Phu: (474 km from Hanoi)
Dien Bien Phu is surrounded by mountains and lies in the Muong Thanh valley, northwest of Hanoi. The battle of Dien Bien Phu was a world-famous historical event. The struggle of the Vietnamese army against the French expeditionary corps in 1954 lasted 56 days. A museum, bunkers, battle grounds and the expansive cemetery commemorate the battle.
Hai Phong: (105 km from Hanoi)
Hai Phong is north Vietnam’s largest sea port city, about 105 km east of Hanoi and definitely deserves a 2 nights stay during which to explore Cat Ba National park and adjoining Halong Bay as well as the rural villages surrounding the city on bicycle. The town itself consists of wide, tree-lines avenues, parks, French colonial-style building as well as narrow winding streets with open air fresh markets selling fruits, vegetables, flowers and household goods. Hai Phong also to offer several interesting cultural highlights: picturesque Du Hang Pagoda (also known under the name of Phuc Lam Pagoda) and Hang Kenh Communal House with exquisite woodcarvings. Roughly 22 km southeast of Haiphong lies Doson Beach and the former summer residence of the last ruler of the Nguyen Dynasty, Bao Dai. The nicely restored villa is built on a hill and offers great views of the sea and wooded hill. Close by there is the one and only casino in Vietnam, a joint-venture between Hong Kong and Vietnam.
Halong Bay: (165 km from Hanoi)
Located in the North of Vietnam’s East Sea, 165 km east from Hanoi. Halong Bay is one of the country’s most famous tourist attractions and was listed by UNESCO a World Natural Heritage, an area of outstanding nature beauty. Halong Bay covers an area of 1.500 square kilometers. Among many pleasant beaches, along its winding coast line is Bai Chay in Halong City and the peaceful coves of Cat Ba Island. The marine reserve in the bay is flourishing and offers great potential for kayaking. The bay is the filled with thousands of islets of all shapes and sizes. A wide variety of birds and animals including bantams, monkeys and iguanas live on the islands. Pearl and coral is also exploited in some areas. With its spectacular beauty, Halong Bay is a wonderful destination. Tourists who visit Halong Bay at any time of the year are always enthralled.
Hanoi: (The capital of Vietnam)
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is located in the Red River Delta in the center of North Vietnam. It is the political, economic, cultural, commercial, and tourist center of the country. It was founded in 1010 AD during the reign of King Ly Cong Uan. Many ancient architectural features are still preserved in Hanoi; particularly in the fascinating warren of streets know as the Old Quarter. There are over 600 pagodas, numerous lakes and parks, where local tend together on weekends and in the evenings. The most notable lakes are fabled Hoan Kiem Lake in the heart of the City, and the vast expanse of West Lake. Popular sights include Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the One-Pillar Pagoda, Ngoc Son Temple and Vietnam’s first University, the Temple of Literature.
Hoa Binh: (74 km from Hanoi)
Hoa Binh is a mountainous province located in the North, the culture of Hoa Binh combines six minorities with their own languages, traditional literature, and festivals. Tourists especially enjoy the minority specialty dishes including rice cooked in bamboo and grilled meat, also enjoy watching traditional dancing, music performances (bronze, drums, gongs), and Thai minority singing and dancing.
Mai Chau: (150 km from Hanoi)
Located in Hoa Binh Province, 70 km from Hoa Binh town. From the top of Mountain there is a superb panorama of the stilt house of Mai Chau sitting in a fertile green valley. The area is home to several ethnic minorities, particularly the White Thai ethnic group. Their traditional stilt houses are large structures with palm leaf roofs and polished bamboo floors. The Sunday market brings lots of people into town. People from different minorities is living in the mountains nearby come to sell such products as honey, bananas, corn and tho cam weaving.
Ninh Binh: (100km from Hanoi)
Ninh Binh is a small town about 100km south of Hanoi, which is surrounded by a number of most interesting sites. Hoa Lu was the first capital of the independent Vietnam, under the Dinh dynasty and the early Le Dynasty (968-1009). There are two sanctuaries, each of them devoted to the emperors of one of these two dynasties. They are set into a landscape of Limestone Mountains reminiscent of some the better known sites of South China. In Tam Coc or better known as Dry Halong Bay, you can take a boat tour on a river which tunnels several times into the same type of mountains. The river is actually used by local villagers to access their rice fields. The nearby Ken Ga canal provides the opportunity to observe river life in the North, and contrast it with what one can see in the Mekong Delta. The whole area was an important center of Catholicism, and you will be surprised to see churches among the rice fields. Phat Diem has a vast cathedral which has a unique Sino-Vietnamese architecture.
Sapa: (380 km from Hanoi)
Located 1,500 m above sea level, Sapa lies in Hoang Lien Son Mountains northwest of Hanoi. Sapa has an amazing diversity of flora and fruits. Mount Fansipan, the highest mountain in Indochina at 3,134 m, is covered with clouds all year round and temperatures often drop below zero, especially at high elevation for tourists are the various ethnic minorities in their colorful customs, who visit the local weekend markets on foot or on horseback.
Buon Ma Thuot: (489 km from Ho Chi Minh City)
Located in the central Highlands, Buon Ma Thuot is Vietnam’s largest coffee growing area and home to the Ede ethnic minority. Discovering scenic Lak Lake in a typical dugout canoe and the forests on the back of an elephant are among the most popular activities in the area.
Con Dao, called Paulo Condore by western sailors, was for a long time a little-known and inaccessible destination for foreign tourists. From 1862 to 1975, the archipelago housed a large and brutal prison for opponents of French colonialism and former Saigon regime. Nowadays, Con Dao is becoming known as a paradise for nature tourists, seekers of peace and beauty, as well as for honeymooners. Here you can wander among poignant symbols of the past as well as explore undisturbed forests, white sand beaches, colourful coral reefs, and a vivid underwater world. The atmosphere is peaceful and tranquil, away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Being so near the equator, Con Dao has a tropical climate. There are only two seasons in the year: the dry season (December to April during the northeast monsoon) and the rainy season (May to November during the southwest). The average annual rainfall is 2,100 mm (highest in October), and the average temperature is 270C. Trip to Con Dao by plane can be enjoyed all year round, but the best time to travel to Con Dao by boat is from March to July, when the winds are gentle and the seas are fairly calm.
Danang: (763 km from Hanoi)
Known under the French as Tourane, it succeeded Hoi an (Faifo) as the most important port in central Vietnam during the19th century. This coastal city lies on a river and is surrounded by mountains, with a busy port and splendid beaches suches Non Nuoc (China Beach), My Khe and Tien Sa Beach.
Hoi An: (30 km from Danang)
The ancient town of Hoi An, lies on the banks of the Thu Bon River. Hoi An was one of the major trading centers of Southeast Asia in the 16th Century, and was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. Hoi An has a distinctive Chinese atmosphere with low, tired-roof houses and narrow streets. The house were constructed of rare timbers and decorated with lacquer panels engraved with Chinese characters. Visitors enjoy the beautiful scenery of the romantic Thu Bon River, Cua Dai Beach, and Cham Islands.
Hue: (658 km from Hanoi)
Founded as a Royal City in 1687, the original citadel city of Phu Xuan was built on the site of present day Hue, the gateway to the treasures of Vietnam’s royal past. The city served as Vietnam’s political capital from1802 to 1945 under the 13 emperor of the Nguyen dynasty and was a major center of Vietnamese culture, region and education. This small and quiet city is justly famed for the magnificent architecture of its citadels palaces royal tombs, pagodas and temples built under the Nguyen dynasty in an elegant verdant setting on the banks of perfume River. UNESCO has labeled Hue “a beautiful architectural poem”.
My Son: (70 km from Danang)
My Son has been the imperial city of the Champa Empire from the 4th to the 12th centuries. It is the large complex of religious ruins comprising more than 70 architectural remains, including temples and towers with distinctive red brick designs. UNESCO labeled the Cham architecture in My Son as a World Cultural Heritage Site in1999.
han Thiet: (197 km from Ho Chi Minh City)
Phan Thiet is built along both banks of the Phan Thiet River and the Muong Man River. Mui Ne beach, famous for its sand dunes, is 20 km east of Phan Thiet fishing at the tip of Mui Ne Peninsula. In addition a18-hole golf course is nearby which is considered by pros as one of the best in Vietnam.
This 16-island archipelago lies around 40 kilometers west of Ha Tien in the Gulf of Thailand. The major island, Phu Quoc, is 48 kilometers long and covers an area of 1,320 square kilometers. Phu Quoc Island boasts lush tropical forest and mountain zones. The island is perfect for tourists with its unspoiled beaches. There are many activities to take advantage of including swimming, snorkeling, and fishing.
Pleiku: (350 km from Danang / 150 Km from Buon Me Thuot)
Pleiku (Gia Lai) is located in the Central Highlands. 350 km from Danang & 150 km from Buon Me Thuot. Coming to Pleiku, visitors have a change to discover many impressive, poetic scenes. They are Kon Ka Kinh, Kon Cha Rang tropical forests, Xung Khoeng Waterfall, Phu Cuong Waterfall, Da Trang, Mo springs and Ayaun Ha Lake. Located on the top of an extinct volcano, Bien Ho (To Nung Lake) is called the “Pearl of Pleiku”. Its water is so clear that visitors can see fish swimming under blue water. The province is also proud of funeral houses, La Phum, D’ko Tu traditional villages with special Rong house. Whenever going to this windy and sunny land, visitors are likely to see the unique architectural style of the statues in funeral houses, and to investigate the local customs and practice mysterious to them. Apart of that, tens of thousands of visitors are attracted to Dong Xanh Cutural Park in which many typical varieties of flowers and trees of Central Highlands are planted. Historical sites include King Quang Trung’s guerilla base, Nup hero’s homeland, and Pleiku Prison, Pleime, Cheo Leo, and La Rang battlefields.
Quy Nhon: (250 km from Danang)
Quy Nhon is located on the East Sea coast and a growing commercial and industrial center that produces textiles, processed food, and seafood. Its small fishing port was dredged and improved by the United States military in 1965 and again by the Vietnamese government in 1977. Ruins of the ancient Cham center of Cha Ban are nearby. Quy Nhon is getting more popular as beach break destination with daily flight from/to Ho Chi Minh City.
Ben Tre: (85 Km from Ho Chi Minh City)
Ben Tre is situated in Mekong Delta with a complex network of rivers and canals, 85 km from Ho Chi Minh City and 14km from My Tho. It has advantage to develop ecotourism with many green fruit gardens. Ben Tre is the granary of Mekong Delta. There are agriculture productions such as rice, corn, pineapple, custard-apple, star apple, durian, mango, longan, and many more. Industrial trees are tobacco, sugar-cane, and cotton. Especially, Ben Tre is homeland of coconut. It is known with Ben Tre coconut candy, My Long Cai Mon flower and ornamental plant. Other popular places are My Hoa Bird Reserve, Con Phung (Hillock of the Coconut Religion), Vam Ho Bird Sanctuary, Vien Minh Pagoda.
Can Tho: (169 km from Ho Chi Minh City)
Can Tho is located in the center of the 11 provinces of the Mekong Delta. 170 km from Ho Chi Minh City. Taking a boat along Hau River as well as visiting the daily floating markets provides ample photo opportunities. A speciality of the region is eel, which is served in floating restaurants along the river banks. Thot Not Stork is worth a visit in the late afternoon when the birds return to their nets.
Chau Doc: (285 km from Ho Chi Minh City)
Located west of the Mekong Delta between Tien Giang and Hau Giang Rivers and shares a 95-km border with Cambodia. It is next to Cuu Long River and is constituted of a few midland areas and low mountains. The main ethnic groups are the Kinh, Khmer, Cham, and Hoa. Famous sites and attractions are Ba Chua Xu Temple, Tay An Pagoda, Clay Pagoda, Thoai Ngoc Hau Tomb, Tao Ngo Garden, Sam Mountain, and Bang Lang stork sanctuary.
Cu Chi: (65 km from Ho Chi Minh City)
Located in the northwest of Ho Chi Minh, Cu Chi district is now famous around the world as the base for the Vietnamese operation known as the TET Offensive in 1968. There are more than 200 km of underground tunnels. The tunnel network provided sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, hospitals and social centers and is between 0.5 to 1 m wide, with just enough space for a person to walk along by bending or crawling. Nowadays a small part of the tunnels has been modified to accommodate visitors. Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels provides a fascinating glimpse into the prolonged resistance war that the Vietnamese people endured, and also highlights the national characteristics of perseverance and ingenuity.
Da Lat: (310 km from Ho Chi Minh City)
At 1,500 m altitude, Dalat has an appearance of an old French City, founded in 1897; Dalat has many natural and artificial lakes, bordered by row of pine trees. A trip to Dalat is not complete without a visit to the Flower Gardens, Bao Dai Summer residence and the valley of Love, Hang Nga Guest House and Art Gallery, known as Crazy House or a ride on a new cable car. A visit of one of the numerous waterfalls in the area should not be misses either.
Ho Chi Minh City: (1,724 km from Hanoi)
Located in the North of Vietnam’s East Sea, 165 km east from formerly known as Saigon, today’s Ho Chi Minh City is the bustling and vibrating economic center of the South. Over the past few centuries, Saigon was called the “Pearl of the Far East” and was an important trading center for the Chinese, Japanese and Western Merchants who traveled the Saigon River.
It is only 2 hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City. Be there, you will have time and opportunity to enjoy the best beach resort concept in Vietnam with its character, courtesy, calm, charm and cuisine, its unrivalled environment and its micro climate. You may be amazed by palm trees, white sand at east end of Long Hai.
Nha Trang: (447 km from Ho Chi Minh City)
The 7 km long white sandy beach of Nha Trang is known as Vietnam’s Mediterranean coast. It is sunny all year round, with an average temperature of 20oC. Nha Trang has less rainfall than anywhere else in the country as the Truong Son Mountains Ca Pass protects it from storms. The magnificent storms. The magnificent coral seabed in Nha Trang makes it ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling from March to September.
Vung Tau is an old port town 115 kilometers southeast of Ho Chi Minh City developed under the French as a seaside resort called Cap Saint Jacques. It served as a rest center for French officers, and later for Australian and American troops on R & R during the Vietnam War. Today it is a popular seaside resort town for wealthy Vietnamese.
Vinh Long is a riverside town located in the Mekong Delta. Visitors can view the area with a boat ride on the Co Chien River, which flows through this provincial capital. Visitors can also explore the central market, Cho Vinh Long, as well as the nearby Khmer temples of Chau Thanh. The beautiful Bonsai Garden is another nature site not to be missed.