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Vietnam

Feel the old world charm with breathtaking natural beauty

About Destination

Astonishingly exotic and utterly compelling, Vietnam is a country of breath-taking natural beauty with a unique heritage, where travel quickly becomes addictive. Unforgettable experiences are everywhere in Vietnam. There’s the sublime: gazing over a surreal seascape of limestone islands from the deck of a traditional junk in Halong Bay. The ridiculous: taking 10 minutes just to cross the street through a tsunami of motorbikes in Hanoi. The inspirational: exploring the world’s most spectacular cave systems in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The comical: watching a moped loaded with honking pigs weave a wobbly route along a country lane. And the contemplative: witnessing a solitary grave in a cemetery of thousands of war victims.

If you have the bills, Vietnam has the thrills and chills. Some require a little physical effort, such as motorbiking switchback after switchback up the jaw-dropping Hai Van Pass in central Vietnam. Others require even more sweat: kitesurfing the tropical oceanic waters off Mui Ne or hiking the evergreen hills around Bac Ha or Sapa. And when you’re done with all that adrenaline stuff, there’s plenty of horizontal ‘me’ time to relish. Vietnam has outstanding spas – from marble temples of treatments, to simple family-run massage salons with backpacker-friendly rates.


Destination : Vietnam Capital : Hanoi
Capital's calling code : +84 Currency : Vietnamese Dong
Time Zone : GMT + 7 hours Minimum Stay : 7 to 8 Days
Languages : Vietnamese
What to see : Waterfalls, Culture, Colonial architecture, Miles of Coastline with whitesands & water, Ethnic Markets, Temples & Pagodas, Tunnels, High Mountains, Lakes, Limestone Islands
Suited for : Solo Travellers, Family Trips, Adventure Seekers, Boys Gang, Girls Gang, History lovers
Best Time to Visit : In spring (February to April) and in autumn (August to October)
Selfie Spots : Ha Long Bay, Mekong Delta, at the beautifully preserved merchants’ houses in Hoi An, Lak Lake, Fan Si Pan Mountain (Vietnam’s highest peak), mua roi nuoc (water puppets), Halong Bay Cruise, at the beaches of Nha Trang, Mui Ne and Phu Quoc.
What to Pack : Light weight waterproof jacket, Hiking Boots, Hat, Flip flops, Raincoat, Small LED Flashlight, Sunglasses, Camera, Powerbank


Explore

One of the most beautiful of the colonial Indochinese cities, Hanoi - Vietnam's capital is the frenetic heartbeat of the nation and a place that befuddles travellers as much as it charms them. The motorbike frenzy, pollution, and constant clamour of street vendors can get too much for some travellers, but if you want to dive into Vietnamese city life, Hanoi is the place to do it. The old town quarter has plenty of dilapidated charm on offer, while history fans should make a beeline here simply to see the bundle of excellent museums. The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology and Vietnam Fine Art Museum are both brilliant introductions to the diverse artistry of the country. Here among scenic tree-lined boulevards, tourists can browse busy markets, sip coffee at quaint cafes and visit prominent sites like the Grand Opera House, the Presidential Palace and Saint Joseph Cathedral.

As cyclo drivers rest easy below vast neon billboards, the emerging Vietnamese middle class—smartphones in hand—cruise past, draped in haute couture on their imported motorcycles. Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City—Vietnam’s largest and most exciting city. Lying along the Siagon River near the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City was formerly known as Saigon and served as the capital of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Today, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city of the reunified country, offering plenty of reasons to visit, from its blend of historic and modern attractions to vibrant shopping, dining and nightlife.

Surrounded by lush jungle-covered mountains, My Son is a ruined Cham era temple city that dates from the 4th century. This old Hindu religious center was still very much in use during the 7th to 10th centuries and only fell into complete decline and abandonment during the 13th century. There are around 20 temple structures still standing here, all built of brick or sandstone blocks and showing interesting influences from various Asian empires, including Indian and Malay. Note that the temples of Group B are the oldest, while Group A once contained the site's most important monument but was destroyed deliberately by US forces during the Vietnam War. A good museum on-site houses plenty of information on the Cham. Access to My Son is from Hoi An.

The karst seascape of Halong Bay is one of the world's most spellbinding sea views and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thousands of limestone islands sit within this bay in the Gulf of Tonkin, eroded into jagged pinnacles by wind and water action over millennia. With the bay's scenery best seen by boat, this is prime cruising territory. Opt for at least an overnight tour to see Halong Bay's iconic views as a day trip doesn't do it justice. There are plenty of caves in the bay that can be entered including the Hang Sung Sot, with three mammoth caverns, and the Hang Dao Go, with superbly weird stalagmites and stalactites. For most people though, the highlight is simply cruising amid the karsts and soaking up the changing scenery of pinnacles as you pass by.

For sandy fun in Vietnam, Nha Trang is king. The well-maintained beach trundles for six kilometers along the shoreline of central Nha Trang city and during summer is jam-packed with local families on vacation as well as foreign visitors. There is excellent swimming here with designated swimming areas and manicured lounging areas that make this a great option for relaxing days soaking up the sun and sand. If you do get bored of sunbathing, the ancient Po Nagar Cham Towers are just to the north across the Xom Bong Bridge and have been used as a place of worship here since at least the 7th century (with some historians saying the site itself has been a place of active worship since much earlier). There is also an excellent museum dedicated to the work of Alexandre Yersin who discovered the cause of the bubonic plague and founded Nha Trang's Pasteur Institute (which still carries out vaccination programs in Vietnam today).


Experiences

One of the world's best caving destinations, World Heritage-listed Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a dramatic karst mountain formation honeycombed with huge caverns, which are home to superb stalactite and stalagmite displays. The most popular destination within the park is the Paradise Cave, which extends for a staggering 31 kilometers below ground. The yawning caverns here are truly spectacular. Tu Lan Cave is a "wet cave," and a visit here includes swimming through the cave-systems river. The other most popular excursion is to the Phong Nha Caves, where the interior is accessed by boat. You can access Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park from Son Trach.

Journey from Ho Chi Minh City into the heart of the Mekong Delta on a small tour, led by a local guide cruising along the mighty Mekong in a long-tail boat. Experience this important river delta first hand as you explore both jungle-shaded canals and wide waterways to see fishing villages, exotic fruit farms, and the rhythms of daily life. You can also enjoy a lunch of traditional Mekong Delta dishes and sample local specialties along the way.

Water puppetry is a traditional art form with distinctive culture identity of Vietnam. It came into existence, developed and diversified over a thousand years ago in the Red River Delta. Thanks to unique performances on the water, this puppetry art is famous and highly appreciated all over the world. In early days, water puppetry showed the daily life of villagers such as farming, fishing, romance and children playing. Now, the topics of the plays are also picked from ancient legends, myths and historic stages.

Cham Islands (Vietnamese: Cù lao Chàm) constitute a group of 8 small islands of Quang Nam, a world Biosphere Reserve recognized by UNESCO. Cham islands has simple beauty with blue sea, white sand, sunshine and stunning coral reefs. A trip for relaxing with swimming, snorkeling and ‘Walking underwater’ adventure, where fishes of all shape and colours, as well as local marine life will surround you. Non-divers and non-swimmer can also participate in this.

Go trekking in the hills of Sapa for amazing views across the jungle and mountain ranges of north-west Vietnam. Equipment is cheap and easy to come by so don't worry if you're not a natural mountain goat, you'll soon be up there, gazing at the views as the mist rolls in across the peaks.


Get to know About

Across Indochina, you will find an eclectic mix of cultures with influences from across the Asian continent. From Vietnam's hill tribe minorities and Laos' 160 ethnic groups to the historical Khmer people of Cambodia - the population of this region is astonishingly diverse, and has seen huge changes take place over a long and tumultuous history.

Due to its long history as a tributary state of China, as well as several periods of Chinese occupations, Vietnamese culture is heavily influenced by that of Southern China, with Confucianism forming the basis of Vietnamese society. The Vietnamese language also contains many loan words from Chinese, though the two languages are unrelated. Buddhism remains the single largest religion in Vietnam, though like in China but unlike in the rest of northern Southeast Asia, the dominant school of Buddhism in Vietnam is the Mahayana School.

Nevertheless, Vietnamese culture remains distinct from Chinese culture as it has also absorbed cultural elements from neighbouring Hindu civilizations such as the Champa and the Khmer empires. The French colonization has also left a lasting impact on Vietnamese society, with baguettes and coffee remaining popular among locals.

Vietnam is often depicted as a place with steamy jungles and hot beaches, but country's climate is quite diverse, with freezing temperatures and even snow in its northern highlands.

Low Season (Apr–Jun, Sep–Nov)
Perhaps the best time to tour the whole nation. Typhoons can lash the central and northern coastline until November.

Shoulder (Dec–Mar)
During the Tet festival, the whole country is on the move and prices rise. North of Nha Trang can get cool weather. Expect cold conditions in the very far north. In the south, clear skies and sunshine are the norm.

High Season (Jul & Aug)
Prices increase by up to 50% by the coast; book hotels well in advance. All Vietnam, except the far north, is hot and humid, with the summer monsoon bringing downpours.

Vietnamese cuisine traditionally features a combination of five fundamental taste "elements" - spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (earth). Common ingredients include fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. Vietnamese recipes use lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird's eye chili, lime and basil leaves. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is known for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and reliance on herbs and vegetables, and is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide.

In northern Vietnam, local foods are often less spicy than southern dishes, as the colder northern climate limits the production and availability of spices. Black pepper is used in place of chilis to produce spicy flavors. The use of such meats as pork, beef, and chicken was relatively limited in the past, and as a result freshwater fish, crustaceans – particularly crabs – and mollusksbecame widely used. Fish sauce, soy sauce, prawn sauce, and limes are among the main flavoring ingredients. Many signature Vietnamese dishes, such as bún riêuand bánh cuốn, originated in the north and were carried to central and southern Vietnam by migrants.

A good shopping session in Vietnam might start off with clothing, especially tailored suits and dresses made from quality fabrics including silk. Many women tourists also buy ao dai to fit their size. These are the traditional Vietnamese long blouse and pants made in light, floaty, material, perfect for warm weather. Many young local fashion designers have learned to to take inspiration from both Vietnamese and Western styles, making their designs more attractive. Traditional conical Vietnamese hats can be found everywhere, as well as such unique gifts as slippers, shoes, and handbags made from traditional materials like silk and bamboo. For those who love handicrafts, it is easy to find beautiful items such as lacquer ware, vases, trays, rosewood boxes, wood-block prints, oil or watercolor paintings, blinds made from bamboo, reed mats, carpets, ceramics and leather work. For more valuable items such as art, antiques and jewelry, you should know that some of these are subject to regulations governing the export of antiques. Ask the dealer about this. Also, when buying really expensive items, get an expert to certify whether the item you plan to buy is a genuine antique or an imitation; copy “antiques” are not uncommon in the Vietnamese market. As for jewellery, although Vietnam is rich in gemstones, this does not mean they are cheap, so be suspicious of “special” deals. It is wise to shop for such items only at highly recommended outlets – the last thing you need is to pay large sums for coloured glass. 

By Air : Vietnam has international airports at Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang. Non-stop flights are available from Australia, Cambodia, China, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Taiwan, Qatar, Macau, Dubai, Indonesia, Turkey and the U.S. However, most direct flights are served by flag carrier Vietnam Airlines while plenty of other long-haul flights are available with transits via Bangkok, Doha, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei. Hue airport (HUI) is also classified as international, but currently (2015) has no international departures/arrivals.