Better known for its war than its tourist sights, Vietnam is rapidly emerging as one of Asia's most exciting new destinations, with a 'tiger economy' to boot. A peaceful, exotic and friendly country with a long, fascinating history, it's certainly one of the hidden gems in Asia.
Ancient Hanoi, incredible scenery of Halong Bay and the North, trekking from Sapa hill station, charming Hoi An, friendly locals. Try fresh seafood, local beer and rice wine, sample intriguing history, culture and traditional shows, buy antiques, visit tribal villages near Dalat and Sapa, bask on endless beaches, or take boat trips in Mekong River. The enduring impression of Vietnamese ladies riding bicycles in ao dais (traditional dresses) with conical reed hats is unforgettable.
The heat, mad traffic in big cities and the unbearable din of scooter hooters, unreliable bus services, cyclos hustlers, aggressive sellers, nagging beggars, spicy food that causes diarrhea, occasional bird flu!
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Vietnam boasts intriguing hilly scenery, lush green jungles, pristine beaches and the beautiful waters of the Mekong Delta. An array of beautiful architectural wonders with French, Chinese and Vietnamese characteristics offer an enchanting experience alongside the vibrancy of increasingly cosmopolitan cities.
Hanoi is the northerly situated capital, often overshadowed by the country's previous capital and most modern city, Ho Chi Minh City. It offer lakes, temples and even dog meat but largely lacks the quality museums and shopping of its southern rival. Hanoi does make a great launching base for trips to Ha Long Bay, however - a UNESCO protected geological wonder.
Travel along the lengthy coast to experience the royal city of Hue, the protected treasure that is Hoi An and Vietnam's ultimate beach resort, Nha Trang, or cool off inland at hill stations such as Dalat in the Central Highlands. Wherever you go, mind your step: Vietnam has almost two times more motorbikes than any other ASEAN nation.
Travel to Vietnam - Getting There
Vietnam has international airports in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Danang. Vietnam Airlines provides international flights from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Phnom Penh, Siem Riep, Singapore, Osaka and many countries in Europe, with cheap internal flights available at short notice. Buses from Cambodia are also available but the journey is long and can be unreliable. Travellers may also get on a cargo ship to Ho Chi Minh City, Danang and Haiphong from Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore or France while trains travel between Vietnam and its neighboring countries. To get around in Vietnam, mini buses and local buses get you there if you're patient, cars cannot be rented without a driver. You'll never have difficulty flagging down taxis, cyclos and motorcycle taxis.
Vietnam Things to Do
- Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
- A hub of entertainment and industry with a variety of trendy places and charming sidewalks lined with French colonial architecture.
- The vibrant 1000 year old capital city boasts an array of natural wonders and exquisite, timeless landmarks, including several misty lakes soaked in legend. Day trips to the remarkable local natural landscapes are a must.
- A quaint, arty hill station town with plenty of relaxing romantic character.
- Hoi An
- rent a bike and tour this charming, peaceful riverside town with ancient temples and an eclectic mix of foreign influence. Nearby is the two thousand year old Champa ruins of My Son.
- Halong Bay
- Known as one of the most breathtaking sights in the country, Halong Bay boasts limestone formations, coves and gorgeous cliffs making it one of the world's most remarkable seascapes.
- Relax on one of many pristine beaches in the south including China Beach, located between Danang and Hoi An, the quiet My Khe Beach, the popular beach in Nha Trang, Mui Ne Beach, Hon Chong Beach and Bai Tam.
- Boat trips
- On the Mekong Delta, where you can see a combination of rice paddies, swamps and green forests interlaced with canals and river.
- Vietnam boasts an array of great locations of caving enthusiasts particularly in Pong Nha river caves, north-western of Dong Hoi. Halong Bay is another location of some remarkable sites.
- Bring your own bike, .the country is ideal for long-distance cycling and there are many routes for active cyclists. The North-South highway is a bit hectic and the hills are a pain.
- Vietnam features a great selection of diving spots near Danang and Nha Trang. Be amazed at colorful corals and a variety of underwater creatures.
- Hiking and Trekking
- Great hiking spots are found in the countryside including the Hill station of Sapa with its hilltribes, Dalat in the South, Cat Ba Island (Hlaong Bay) and Ba Be Lake National Park featuring several lakes, waterfalls and caves in the north.
- A chance to admire the nature and work out at the same time, kayaking in Vietnam is fun and memorable, especially in the best place is the jaw-dropping Halong Bay.
- Shopaholics will enjoy shopping in Vietnam as everything is so cheap. Notable souvenirs include lacquer painting, reed mats, embroidery, tailor-made ao dais (female national costume) and antiques. Locally made electronics, clothes and shoes are great value.
Vietnamese people, like other Asians, love celebrations. Here's a low-down on fun, festive festivals.
- Tet festival, the Vietnamese lunar New Year, is the biggest festival of the year and goes on for three days as families congregate. Expect a lot of food, drinks and bright colors.
- Honchien Temple festival, held near the Perfume River, is full of fun and excitement. Expect to see an interesting performance of imperial characters in colorful costumes.
- An eye-opening experience for tourists, Keo Pagoda festival is packed with activities like duck catching, rice cooking competition and firecracker throwing contest.
- The New Year Eve for the Khmer people in Vietnam. Feasts, boat races and lantern rockets.
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