With its exotic food, stunning natural sites, and pulsating markets, Vietnam is a bustling and lively nation that seemingly continues to grow both culturally and socially. The country has undergone some remarkable changes in a relatively short period of time – buildings just one generation ago witnessed a city in turmoil with the Vietnam War – but now the real beauty of the country lies in the seamless blending of the mayhem of the past and modernism of the present into one exciting mass.
Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam’s largest city has transformed from the small Khmer village of Prey Nokor surrounded by prowling tigers to a century of opium-raddled French colonialism, to a modern metropolis stalked by glassy skyscrapers.
The easiest and most exhilarating way to explore the energetic streets of Ho Chi Minh City, is on the back seat of a Vespa scooter. Get a feel for a city that continues to reminisce on its past while moving forward and embracing aspects of Western culture with their own Vietnamese twist. Head to Tan Tao Park to enjoy an iced coffee, a national obsession owing to the intense humidity.
Known locally as “ca phe sua da”, it is brewed with a dark roast over a single metal French drip filter called “ca phe phin” and served with sweet condensed milk poured over ice. District 1’s Ben Thanh Market or the popular Mekong Delta are also must go to destinations if you’re looking to taste exotic products, take in the bustling locals or simply try your hand at bargaining.
You also have the opportunity to step back in time by paying a visit to the War Remnants Museum, which documents the brutality of the Vietnam War, or the Cu Chi tunnels, which is a vast network of interconnecting underground tunnels that were instrumental in numerous military campaigns during the war.
Hanoi, one of the most beautiful of the colonial Indochinese cities, is often the start or end point of a trip to Vietnam, and what a great welcome or farewell it is. Oozing with charm, Hanoi has gone through wholesale changes since Vietnam swung open its doors to tourism, but it remains true to its essential personality and offers amazing experiences.
Escape the overcrowded footpaths and picnic in one of Hanoi’s lovely parks and museums and while away the hours of a warm summer’s afternoon — Lenin Park, south of Hoan Kiem district and just north of Bay Kau Lake is among the most popular. The Hanoi Opera House and Quán Thánh Temple are also peaceful destinations to visit if you are looking for a moment of tranquillity.
Hanoi is well known for its selection of domestic and foreign vintages and places like The Warehouse on Hang Trong are a great place to enjoy a delicious meal or drink. Hanoi has a plentiful and delicious collection of patisseries spread all over the city boasting decadent but very affordable treats, making it a must-have food item when walking down the bustling streets or simply sitting in a charming café.
Halong Bay is one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders, and with more than one thousand breathtaking limestone karsts and islands of various sizes and shapes along the 120-km coastline of Bai Chay Beach, you’ll never run out of things to explore.
A boat trip or cruise on the charming Halong Bay is a must do activity which takes you closer to the gorgeous limestone formations, natural grottoes and floating villages. As Halong Bay is one of the best places to swim in Vietnam, you should also consider going for a swim or kayaking along the beautiful waters to get closer to its stunning natural landmarks.
Cat Ba Island, the largest island in Halong Bay, consists of rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, waterfalls, grottoes and tiny fishing villages hidden away in small coves. It is the perfect location to go exploring, kayaking or hiking and offers countless opportunities to take picturesque photographs. For most of the year, the island is reasonably relaxed, however, between June and early August (and particularly on summer weekends) the energy level gets dialled up significantly as Cat Ba Town transforms into a roaring resort, filled with vacationers.
Hoi An looks like a postcard of a classic Vietnamese riverside town with its yellow houses draped in bougainvillea, shopfronts lit with a glow of silk lanterns and fisher people hauling up baskets of slippery fish from their boats.
Experience the UNESCO World Heritage charm of the Old Town with its historic quarter and enchanting streetscape of old Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese houses, once occupied by merchants whose homes and shop houses have been converted into galleries, antique stores, restaurants and bars.
Formerly the spiritual capital of the Champa rulers, and now the spiritual home of the locals, a trip to Hoi An would not be complete without a visit to the My Son Temples. Constructed between the 4th and 14th centuries, it is a collection of 70 stunning Hindu temples dedicated to Shiva.
Continue to leap back into the past with a ferry ride from Hoi An to Kim Bong Island which has a village atmosphere and rural scenery. The fact that no cars are allowed, and bicycles are the only method of transportation, adds to the historic charm of the island which is a woodworking centre, where generations of craftsmen have been responsible for many of the historic buildings in the ancient capital of Hue as well as Hoi An’s Old Town.
Da Nang is the fourth largest city in Vietnam and has spiraled upwards and outwards over the past two decades and boasts an impressive coast and skyline. You’ll enjoy strolling down the city streets, which are lined with international quality dining and drinking options, and absorbing the modern, exciting local scene.
The key reason many make the trip to Da Nang is for its stunning coastal line. Head to Lang Co Beach and marvel at the paradise it has become, with it’s with palm trees and crystal-clear and enticing ocean lapping onto white sand. It is a peninsula with a sparkling lagoon on one side, and the beach on the other. China Beach is also a hot spot for those who love the feel of the sand under their feet and features an abundance of water sport activities including water skiing and yachting on the calm waters.
Thinking of travelling to Vietnam soon? Check out all the best tours and activities Travezl has to offer by clicking here.
By Travezl Team