Highlight: Vietnam: Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Phan Thiet, Ho Chi Minh City
Places to Visit in Vietnam After Beach Leisure
Most travelers to Vietnam are attracted by the country's wonderful natural beauty: From green rice fields dotted with the conical hats of workers in Vietnam's north stretching to the fascinating bustle of the Mekong Delta in the south. Vietnam Destination
Vietnam is a country that is situated in the Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China and Laos and Cambodia. Where it was once a country ravaged by war, now, Vietnam has opened its doors to tourists that it is now fast becoming a go-to place in Asia, and here are ten places that one should visit and see in Vietnam.
Here is some information on selected destinations Vietnam. We do our best to keep all of the information updated, but we cannot guarantee that the information is completely correct.
So, we are asking you, our readers and fellow travelers, that if you find things that are better or worse, to please email us your recommendations. We will make all the necessary changes in the next update.
Saigon, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hanoi -there is a well worn backpacker circuit through Vietnam of its famous cities, but there are also scores of places just off the beaten track that are worth visiting in Vietnam too. Don Morgan gives his top 10 favourite places to visit in Vietnam.
Spreading along the eastern edge of the Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam covers a land area of 330,900 sq. km with the legendary world of Halong Bay, the colourful charm of Central Highlands and the criss-cross waterways of the Mekong Delta. The country boasts a marvelous coastline of 3,260km dotted with white sandy beaches, tranquil bays and vivid coral reefs. Vietnam also shares land borders of 3,700km with Laos, Cambodia and China. Moreover, with a tropical monsoon climate, all parts of the country are mostly warm the whole year round, which is ideal for those who love sunny weather.
Vietnam has a history of 4,000 years with many ups and downs. In the 2nd century BC, China invaded Vietnam, beginning 1,000 years of domination. In 938, the first independent feudal dynasty of Vietnam was established. In 1858, French troops attacked Danang, opening a colonial period of almost 100 years. On Sep. 2nd, 1945, President Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam?s independence. However, in 1956, the Vietnam War broke out with American involvement. In 1973, US troops were withdrawn and the country was reunified on April 30 th, 1975. Since then, Vietnam has enjoyed independence and entered a new era of development and global economic integration.
Vietnam is a fascinating blend of the Orient and the Occident, the old and the new. Despite the current modernization process taking place day and night, villages with traditional customs, festivals, farming methods, folk arts, riverine activities, etc. still play an important role in Vietnam?s present-day society. Visitors can explore the cultures of 60 ethnic minority groups with intact customs and practices as well as ruined cultural and historical structures. Vietnamese culinary art, acknowledged as a superb cuisine worldwide, is a balance of ying and yang featured in its harmonious formula of green vegetables and meat with spices. Apart from their rich culture, the hospitality of the gentle Vietnamese people also makes travels to Vietnam truly enjoyable.
Floating Markets of the Mekong Delta are fast disappearing as the road and bridge network is improved. The floating Market at Can Tho is a wonderful sight and is best visited in the early morning.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
With her back turned on a broad plain that stretches west across Cambodia, and with the rich Mekong Delta at her feet, Ho Chi Minh City sits regally on a giant bend in the Sài Gòn River. Bulging with a population of nearly seven million, Ho Chi Minh City, is Vietnam's largest and most exciting city. While Hanoi is the center of government, Ho Chi Minh City is the nation's economic heart, and money is on the minds of everyone here. Taxi drivers can recite the latest joint venture regulations, and even shirt makers stay in touch with their foreign customers by e-mail. Time is precious, and people are in a hurry, although conversation often takes a small town tone as bakers and bankers compare their ‘‘inside'' information at sidewalk cafés.
Long before traffic choked the center of the city, Saigon had already been christened the ‘‘Paris of Asia'' for its wide boulevards lined with stately trees and magnificent French villas. For a moment you may be fooled by the smells of coffee and baking bread, and by old Renaults sounding their horns at roundabouts. The best way of all to see Ho Chi Minh City is on foot. Most major tourist venues are in District 1, which is fairly compact and easy to maneuver. Taxis are all metered and very inexpensive. You can get across town for about $2 or $3. Xe om (motorbike taxis, pronounced ‘‘see ohm'') are even cheaper. Cyclos (pedicabs, pronounced ‘‘see-klos'') carry only one passenger at a time. They are slow and somewhat uncomfortable, but a far more charming and intimate way to experience the pace of modern Ho Chi Minh City.
Cao Di Cathedral
An interesting excursion is to visit the Cao Dai Great Temple at Tay Ninh.
Chu Chi Tunnels
The network of tunnels 60km from Saigon used by the Viet Con to resist the American and south Vietnamese forces are open to the public. Here you see destroyed US tanks, crouch in the tunnels and fire a variety of weapons from the period.
We thoroughly enjoyed celebrating Chinese New Year or "Tet" in Saigon in February 2007. There was an air of friendly festivity and the streets were full of lion dancers, dragons and colourful lanterns.
Mui Ne - Beach
The beautiful beach at Mui Ne is clean and relatively free of traders and hawkers. There is accommodation to suit all pockets. This is a good place to chill out and relax for a few days or few weeks.
Around Mui Ne there are a few sights worth a few hours diversion. The picturesque white sand dunes occupy a relatively small area but are nice place to spend an hour or so. The red sand dunes and the "Fairy Stream" are exaggerated attractions and not worth going out of your way to see.
This former hill station is worth a couple of days to escape the heat of the coast. There are waterfalls to visit and other attractions such as the Summer Palace of the last Emperor Bao Dai and the Crazy House built by architect Hang Nga. A walk around Lake Xuan Huong makes for a pleasant afternoon.
There is a nice beach, plenty of hotels to suit all pockets and a wide range of eating places; from good restaurants to pavement cafés. You could do worse than spending an hour in the fascinating Alexander Yersin Museum. The Thap Ba Hot Springs offers an afternoon of wallowing in warm oozing mud, washed off by warm invigorating mineral rich water.
The Po Nagar Cham Towers and the big white Buddha in the Long Son Pagoda merit about half an hour each. Be careful not to be ripped off by a friendly monk in the Pagoda. The Nha Trang highlight is probably a trip around the islands with an opportunity to snorkel amongst the richest coral colonies in Vietnam.
Hoi An - The Town
An old town full character and narrow streets fronting the Thu Bon River. The highlight is the sixteenth century Japanese Bridge. Whist the town and the bridge is a UN World Heritage Sight it can be fully explored in half a day. The real attraction of Hoi An is the tailor shops, shoe shops and friendly people. They can make made to measure clothes and shoes in any style in 24 hours.
This old Cham civilisation site is the best archaeological remains of the thousand year old civilisation in Vietnam. It is in a lovely setting and represents a nice day out from Hoi An for a walk in the woods. However it is no where near as large and impressive as Angkor Wat in Cambodia. If you have been to Angkor Wat My Son will be disappointing.
Da Nang - Cham Museum
The excellent Cham museum holds many of the carvings and statues recovered from My Son and the other Cham sites around Vietnam. The city itself is not particularly attractive but the people seemed friendly and happy to just chat to visitors.
Hué - Imperial City
The Imperial City within the mighty Citadel is rich in the architecture of the seventeenth century Emperors. There are palaces, temples, theatres and courtyards in well laid out walks and gardens. It's not as well preserved as the Forbidden City in Beijing but we spent whole days there, even going back to relax and see some things again.
Outside the Citadel there are interesting sights in the Chinese Quarter and the European Quarter. If you have time to spend in Vietnam it is probably best to spend it in Hué rather than Hanoi.
Emperor Ming Mang Mausoleum. Thien Mu Pagoda. The Mausoleums of the Emperors were built in the valley of the Perfume River. A day trip takes in these and interesting temples. A good day out. The Mausoleums of the Emperors were built in the valley of the Perfume River. A day trip takes in these and interesting temples. A good day out.
For those of a certain age the American War and the infamous Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) rings bells. The Vietnamese people however have sensibly worked to unify the country and erase the evidence of conflict. So there is really not much to see apart from a small museum at Khe Sanh. On the other hand a day trip to the former DMZ goes through spectacular countryside along highway 9, the road to Laos.
Hanoi - City
Hanoi is a pleasant city to walk around. Hoan Kiem Lake in the centre of the city provides good views and shady trees. The Old Quarter is packed full of hustle and bustle and interesting shops. Hopping over the waste water flowing in gutters to avoid the thousands of darting motorcycles is part of the fun. The budget hotels however are a pain. The price charged by some is based on the assumption that guests will book a tour from which a commission can be extracted or a scam executed. If tours are not booked other means of extracting money is achieved, like trebling the price of drinks in the room fridges or fiddling the exchange rates. When we booked our Halong Bay cruise the staff from the hotel booked us on a much cheaper boat trip and pocketed the difference. Don't book tours from the hotels in Hanoi.
A day trip to the Perfume Pagoda involves a row boat ride up the peaceful Red River with high craggy mountains up each side. The Pagoda itself is high in a mountain at the end of the valley. It is reached after a two hour walk up a rocky path or using the new cable car. Be prepared however for the aggressive insistence of a substantial "tip" from the ladies who row the boats.
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Seen in good light on a sunny day it is magnificent. A three day two night cruise on a reputable cruise boat is definitely recommended. Take care to book directly with the cruise company and not through a hotel or a local travel agency
The mountains around Sapa are breathtaking and the trekking opportunities great. The local indigenous peoples are a delight, very friendly and open. Certainly they want to sell you their craft work, but they don't seem to mind if you smile and say no. The train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, near Sapa, has six berth compartments, four berth compartments and very comfortable two berth compartments.
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Vietnam Beach Paradise
Itinerary in brief
Day - 1- Hanoi
Arrive in Hanoi in the afternoon and transfer to hotel. Dinner and Overnight in Hanoi.
Day - 2- Hanoi - Halong Bay
In the morning we travel to the World Heritage site of Halong Bay where our boat and sumptuous seafood feast awaits us. Cruising amongst the limestone islets, you will have a chance to explore various caves including Dinh Huong Island, Fighting Cock Island, Dog Island, Sail Island, Cave of Surprise - the natural cave of beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.
Enjoy swimming at Titov Beach. Passing accross a fishing-floating house and bargain some fresh shrimps, crabs and fishes.
Overnight on board.
Day - 3- Halong Bay - Hanoi
After a night on board our deluxe junk, you will awake to see daylight filtering through the early morning mist and the towering rock formations, leaving you with unforgettable memory of your visit. Lunch on board.
Transfer to Hanoi in the afternoon. After arrival, explore the charm of Hanoi with a city tour by cyclo and a performance of traditional Vietnamese Water Puppetry.
Overnight in Hanoi.
Day - 4- Da Nang Beach
Free time until transfer to the airport for the flight to Da Nang. You will be picked up at Da Nang airport, then visit Cham Museum and Marble Mountain. Check in hotel and relax.
Overnight in Danang.
Day - 5- Sandy Beach
Free time for your leisure in the sandy beach which is landscaped with several unique species of palm and coconut trees.
Overnight in Danang.
Day - 6- Hoi An - Da Nang
Explore the old merchant town of Hoi An by touring its colorful blend of Chinese Assembly Halls, beautiful Japanese-covered Bridge, narrow winding streets and ancestral family homes. Be tempted by its art galleries, handcrafted woodwork, ceramics, lanterns, embroidery and tailor shops where an entire wardrobe can be made overnight. Back to Da Nang.
Overnight in Danang.
Day - 7- Da Nang - Nha Trang
Transfer to Da Nang airport for the flight to Nha Trang. Free time for your leisure after check in hotel.
Overnight in Nha Trang.
Day - 8- Nha Trang
A morning boat trip on Nha Trang bay to visit some of the nearby islands and there are opportunities to swim and snorkel in the crystal clear warm water. After a fresh seafood lunch at one of the islands in the bay return to shore. Overnight in Nha Trang.
Day - 9- Nha Trang
Visit the city's interesting places: Po Nagar Cham Towers above the fishing harbor; Hon Chong beach which means "Rocky chaos" in Vietnamese, and small pagoda on the cape; Long Son Pagoda with its big Buddha statue sitting on lotus blossom, good sightseeing from the top of the hill. Go shopping in the lively Dam Market.
Overnight in Nha Trang.
Day - 10- Nha Trang - Phan Thiet
Leave Nha Trang for Phan Thiet after breakfast following Highway One up the coast past salt ponds and vivid green rice fields. Breaking the journey at Phan Rang to visit the 13th century Po Klong Jarai Cham Towers perched high on a rocky hill surrounded by prickly pear cacti. O/N in Phan Thiet.
Day - 11- Phan Thiet
A full day at leisure in the resort or on the beach. For the more active, golf is available nearby. O/N in Phan Thiet.
Day - 12- Phan Thiet - Hochiminh
Transfer from Phan Thiet to Ho Chi Minh City. Lunch in local restaurant.
In the afternoon, we are engulfed by the dynamic energy of Ho Chi Minh City as we explore historic landmarks including Notre Dame Cathedral and the former US Embassy. As we enter the Chinese District of Cho Lon, home to the largest wholesale market in Vietnam, the energy is palpable and respite from the frenetic activity is found within the ornate walls of Chinatown's oldest Pagoda, Thien Hau. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.
Day - 13- Hochiminh
At leisure until transferring to the airport for onward flight. Tour ends.
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Green Trail Tours Travel portals - Traveller Tips for Vietnam
GEOGRAPHY: Vietnam stretches over 1600 km.along the eastern coast of the Indochina Peninsula. The S-shaped country is broad in the north and south and very narrow in the centre. Almost 80% of Vietnam consists of mountains and hills. The Truong Son Mountains extend almost the length of Vietnam along the borders with Laos and Cambodia.
VISAS: All visitors are required to have a valid visa to enter Vietnam. A one-month tourist visa is usually sufficient for most visitors though it is possible to arrange 3-month and 6-month multiple entry visas for regular visitors. All visitors must obtain visa approval from the Vietnamese Immigration Department before a visa is issued.
MONEY: The currency issued by the Vietnam State Bank is the dong (abbreviated "d" or VND) which is used informally throughout the country. Bank notes in denominations of 200d to 100,000d are presently in circulation. The exchange rate is approximately 18,000d = US$1. Australia Dollars are accepted in many hotels, restaurants. Banks are open Monday to Friday and some are open Saturday morning. Traveller's cheques can be exchanged at banks, some international hotel and some exchange bureaux but can be difficult to change outside of the major cities. Visa Card and MasterCard are now accepted in many hotels, restaurants and shops.
ELECTRICITY: Electric current in Vietnam is 220 volts and will operate all Australian appliances. Always carry a torch with fresh batteries. Recharge photographic batteries regularly.
CLOTHING: Comfortable lightweight clothing in natural fabrics such as cotton is most suitable for travelling in Vietnam. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat is a good idea in the rainy season. During the winter months warm clothing is needed for visiting the north of Vietnam. Visitors to Buddhist countries should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious buildings and shoes should be removed before entering a private home
CLIMATE / WEATHER: Vietnam’s weather conditions are pleasant for visitors throughout the year. The WINTER monsoon comes from the northeast between October and March with wet chilly conditions in the north, but dry warm temperatures to the south. From April to October the southwest monsoons bring warm, humid weather to the whole country.
LANGUAGE: Because Vietnamese has six different tones, it is a difficult language for most foreigners to speak despite the fact that the Roman alphabet is used in modern Vietnamese. The same word can have six different meanings depending on the tone used to pronounce it. In the cities and larger towns English is becoming popular and is now spoken by many younger people while some of the older generation still speak fluent French. Russian and Chinese are also spoken by some people
ACCOMMODATION: All group tour hotels have been especially selected. All have private western bathroom facilities. Laundry service can launder clothing within 24 hours. It is not customary for all hotels to have refrigerator and tea/coffee facilities.
FOOD / DRINK: The cuisine of Vietnam comes as a pleasant surprise to many visitors and is definitely a part of the Vietnam experience not to be missed. One of the characteristics of Vietnamese food is that it is always fresh being bought the same morning straight from the market. Food is usually prepared with a minimum of oil and served with the ubiquitous fish sauce called nuoc mam. Typical Vietnamese dishes you can expect to try include pho, a type of rice noodle soup eaten for breakfast, cha gio, deep-fried spring rolls and goi ngo sen, a delicious salad made with lotus stems, shrimps and peanuts. Due to the strong Buddhist influence in Vietnam, vegetarian food is widely available.
SHOPPING: Souvenirs to look out for in Vietnam include lacquerware, silk, conical hats, woodcarvings, hill tribe fabrics and handicrafts, embroidery, marble, ceramics, silver jewellery, antique watches and paintings. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have the best choice when it comes to shopping but Hoi An in the centre of Vietnam is also a very good place to hunt for bargains.
TOILETS: Public toilets can sometimes be difficult to find. Take every opportunity you can to use clean toilets in hotels and restaurants. Make this a habit on your stay.
HEALTH: Consult your medico or visit the Traveller Medical and Vaccination Centre for professional medical advice well in advance of your departure, Wash hands before and after eating. Carry ‘wet-ones’,anti bacterial handwash, insect repellant, band aids and emergency medicines eg. Diarrhoea. Drink plenty of water and have adequate rest. Seek medical care, if needed. Don’t take risks with health and personal hygiene.
SAFETY / SECURITY: Always maintain a high level of personal security. Cash or wallets in pockets, obvious jewellery and open bags attract unwanted attention. Beware of pickpockets in crowded places. Lock your case, Carry a hotel card so that taxis know where to take you.
LUGGAGE: All passengers are limited to TWO items of luggage each. One case with maximum weight weight of 20 kg. and maximum size of 70 litres. It is essential to lock this case. One piece of hand luggage with maximum weight of 5 kg. It is advisable that hand luggage consist of a ‘daypack’ to carry camera, water, toilet paper, umbrella, hat etc.
TIPPING: Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in these developing nations. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped.
TRAVEL INSURANCE: All group tour passengers must have comprehensive travel insurance. You can complete this with Green Trail Tours if you wish. Check your Travel Insurance Policy for an Emergency number and details of services to be provided, Carry these details with you.