A Country of Contrasts!
Having emerged from French colonial rule & decades of war, Vietnam has firmly put that past behind them & is moving forwards rapidly, as progressive unified independent nation. Vietnam offers remarkable experiences to visitors, as diverse as their culture and scenery.
Embark on a journey where every scene has its own narrative. Walk the 36 backstreets of the Old Quarter in Hanoi for Vietnamese delicacies, cruise aboard a traditional junk in amazing Halong Bay, follow lantern lit lanes in the seaside port of Hoi An, take a dragon boat down the Perfume River in Hue to the palaces of Nguyen emperors, see where time has stood still in the French colonial hills station of Dalat and visit ethnic hill tribes in the cool mountains of Sapa. Scenes of shimmering rice paddies, emerald blue seas, limestone mountains and modern cities sprinkled with majestic French colonial architecture & wide tree lined boulevards are your backdrop.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – On the banks of the Saigon River, the city is an amazing blend of magnificent French colonial buildings and wide tree-lined boulevards – contrasting with traditional Chinese ‘shop-houses’ and modern high rise and retail mall developments. Exciting and definitely ‘East meets West’.
Phu Quoc Island – One of Vietnam’s largest and most beautiful islands, famous for its long picture perfect beaches and local seafood. Phu Quoc boasts 37,000ha of primeval forest, home to many rare plants and birds.
Dalat – Gateway to the Southern Highlands and famed as a picturesque colonial hill station. Originally a French playground, where villas were built to take in the clear, cool mountain air, Dalat is known for its attractive landscape of colonial villas, gardens, lakes and rolling hills. Its colourful market features local specialties like artichoke tea, candied fruits, coffee and cool climate vegetables, fruits and flowers and see the brilliantly coloured silk weavings and finely detailed embroideries of the local K’hor tribes people.
Nha Trang (Cam Ranh) – The varying colours of blue sky and sea, combined with colourful ﬁshing boats moored on the river and a backdrop of surrounding hills, it is easy to understand why Nha Trang is a ﬁrm favourite for visitors wishing to experience its clear waters and oﬀ shore islands. Nha Trang is also known for the intriguing and well-preserved Po Nagar Cham towers built between the 7th and 12th centuries – a focal point of the Cham Kingdom.
Hoi An and Danang – The riverside town of Hoi An is brought to life with colour and at night is lit up with glowing paper lanterns – make sure you spend a few days to treat yourself to an array of leather goods, art galleries and some top fashion tailors. Nearby Danang is a real surprise! With over a million people it may sound like a huge city but not as brash and busy as Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. The city itself is largely off the beaten tourist track yet still offers plenty to see and do.
Hue – One of Vietnam’s most historic cities, this former Royal Capital is renowned for its magnificent architecture – the Imperial Citadel, palaces, royal tombs, pagodas and temples, set in a backdrop of greenery on the banks of the Perfume River. Besides monuments, French culture has left a lasting impression and Hue still retains much its past glory. Hue became Vietnam’s first World Cultural Heritage site, recognised by UNESCO in 1993.
Hanoi – Capital city of Vietnam and one of the most beautiful cities in Asia, with its elegant wide tree-lined boulevards, picturesque lakes, magnificent palaces, public buildings and French colonial villas. The Old Quarter is a maze of winding, narrow lanes full of shops, taverns, bicycles, cyclos and motorbikes whilst the city centre is an architectural museum piece – its blocks of ochre buildings retaining the air of a peaceful and austere provincial town, contrary to the fast-living and bustling air of Saigon.
Halong Bay – About 170km from Hanoi, Halong Bay is one of the most magnificent scenic spots in Vietnam and recognised as an UNESCO world natural heritage site in 1994. The picturesque bay has almost 2,000 islets rising from the clear emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Cruise the waters and visit limestone caves with colourful stalagmites and stalactites, an unforgettable experience.
Sapa and Northern Highlands – Sapa, a small market town located in the Northern Highlands, has been a gathering place for local hill tribes like the Hmong and Dao, for nearly 200 years. With its favourable climate, Sapa became a holiday escape for French colonists who built a rail connection and hotels as early as 1917. A great area for trekking.
What To See and Do
- Cruise the Mekong Delta – a day trip, or all the way up to Siem Reap in Cambodia!
- Experience life underground at the infamous Cu Chi tunnels
- An evening Vespa ‘street food’ tour
- A Vietnamese cooking class
- Eat fresh local seafood on the beach – Phu Quoc; Nha Trang; Hoi An or China Beach?
- Visit ‘time warp’ former presidential palaces in Saigon and Dalat
- Drive the Hai Van ‘Cloudy’ Pass between Danang and Hue
- Take a walk through history at Hoi An
- Experience the UNESCO World Heritage Champa temple ruins at My Son
- Experience Hue’s Forbidden Purple City
- An overnight junk cruise on spectacular Halong Bay
- Trek to hill tribe villages out of Sapa
When To Go
A 3,000 km coastline results in 3 separate weather systems, so with such diverse weather, there’s not really a right or wrong time to visit. Hanoi and the north: May–Oct is hot and humid with higher rainfall. Nov–Apr offers cooler and dryer weather, whilst Dec and Jan can get quite chilly! Central region: Jan–Aug are hot and dry, with temperatures getting into the mid 30’s, whilst Sep–Nov are considered cooler rainy season months. HCMC and the south: Generally dry and hot Nov–Apr, then warm and wet from May–Oct, with the highest rainfall being Jun–Aug.