Have you always like the idea of visiting Vietnam but have never really known where to start looking or where to go?
Weather – There is no one ideal time to visit Vietnam as a whole but at any time of year there will be sun somewhere. Tropical monsoons occur from October to April in the centre and from May to September in the north and south. It is almost totally dry throughout the rest of the year. It can get exceptionally hot, however, all year round, but the north has a cooler time between October and April.
The geographic heart of the nation, central Vietnam is packed with historic sights and cultural interest, and blessed with ravishing beaches and outstanding national parks. The beaches of Da Nang and Nha Trang areas are amongst the best. Marvel at Hue and its imperial citadel, royal tombs and excellent street food. Savour the unique heritage grace of riverside jewel Hoi An. Enjoy well-earned downtime on the golden sands of Lang Co, An Bang beach or learn to cook central Vietnamese cuisine, the nation’s most complex.
Pronounced ‘hway’, this deeply evocative capital of the Nguyen emperors in Central Vietnam still resonates with the glories of imperial Vietnam. Hue owes its charm partly to its location on the Perfume River – picturesque on a clear day, atmospheric even in less flattering weather. Today the city blends new and old as sleek modern hotels tower over crumbling century-old Citadel walls. Journalist Gavin Young’s 1997 memoir, A Wavering Grace, is a moving account of his 30-year relationship with a family from Hue, and is a fine literary companion to the city.
… Hoi An
Recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, Hoi An’s quaint old quarter boasts traditional architecture dating back to between the 17th and 19th century. Pristine An Bang beach, only 3km from the town centre, ranks sixteenth on the list of the 25 best beaches in Asia, according to TripAdvisor. Hoi An is also widely known as the culinary capital of Vietnam with numerous cheap and tasty foods to discover including Cao lau (rice noodles mixed with stock, as well as slices of barbecue pork, pork crackling, bean sprouts, lettuce and herbs) and Quang noodles.
Phan Thiet City, in the south-central coast province of Binh Thuan, is locally and internationally famous as a paradise of stunning beach resorts. Besides famous blue ocean beaches with white sand, Phan Thiet has many beautiful landscapes and cultural sites, including 649-metre high Ta Cu Mountain, vast sand dunes, Van Thuy Tu Temple (where more than 100 whale skeletons are stored) Phu Quy and Cau islands, and the country’s tallest and oldest lighthouse: Ke Ga.
The people of Sapa, in the northern province of Lao Cai, have been doing the seemingly impossible for millennia: growing rice – which requires a flat surface and a lot of water – in mountainous areas. The terraced paddy fields not only yield substantial crops of the widely consumed staple, but are a gorgeous sight to behold. In spring, Sapa is even more stunning with beautiful white plum and peach flowers blossoming everywhere.
Ho Chi Minh City
In the core of the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is the second most important city in Vietnam after Ha Noi. It is not only a commercial center but also a scientific, technological, industrial and tourist center. The city is bisected by many rivers, arroyos and canals, the biggest river being the Saigon River. The Port of Saigon, established in 1862, is accessible to ships weighing up to 30,000 tons, a rare advantage for an inland river port.
Can Tho, in the Mekong Delta, is home to an immense network of canals and bustling floating markets. The merchant boats down the river offer you all varieties of goods ranking from fruits and vegetables to regional food, and handicraft products. Visitors to Can Tho must not miss the opportunity to visit the Binh Thuy Ancient House, one of the few historic houses in the city left completely intact. Covering an area of 8,000 square meters, the mesmerising property has a magical garden with a wide range of plants, including orchids, cactus and fruit trees.
Bordering Cambodia and along the banks of the Hau Giang River (Bassac River). The colourful and charming city is a popular stop for those crossing the border. There is plenty to explore in the area even if you are not planning to go to Cambodia, including mosques, temples, churches, and Sam Mountain with its picturesque pagodas. A boat trip to visit the many floating raft houses, Cham Villages and fish farms across the river is another must-do.
Ha Long City, formerly the Hon Gai Town, is the cultural, economic and political centre of Quang Ninh Province in the north of the country. The famed Ha Long Bay is to the southeast of the city with the coastline of 20km. The bay is located in the Gulf of Tonkin, and has become renowned for its 1,600 islands and islets that make a jaw-dropping seascape of uninhabited limestone pillars.
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