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Places to Visit in Vietnam

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 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 In 1973, US troops were withdrawn and the country was reunified on April 30 th, 1975.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.

Tourism Infrastructure
To cope with the rapidly growing number of tourists which is projected at 7.2 million by 2010, the infrastructure in Vietnam has been dramatically improved. A massive nationwide programme, worth US$4.3 billion, has been launched to upgrade the international airports of Noi Bai (Hanoi), Tan Son Nhat (Ho Chi Minh City) and Danang (Danang) and to convert the military airfields of Cam Ranh (Khanh Hoa) and Chu Lai (Danang) into civilian airports. More direct flights to Vietnam have come into operation such as the Hanoi-Tokyo-Hanoi, Luang Prabang-Danang and Danang-Siem Reap air links. Transportation to major tourist attractions is becoming more and more convenient with many roads opened and upgraded such as National Route 1, the new highways in the Red River Delta and the Truong Son Route running along the central highlands. Besides, many new world-class hotels and resorts have been opened or are under construction in Halong, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang and Phan Thiet.

Mekong Delta
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.

Sand Dunes
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. 

Da Lat 
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.

Nha Trang
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.  

My Son 
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.

Perfume River 
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. 

Perfume Pagoda
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.

Vietnam Destination

  • Ben Tre
  • Buon Ma Thuot
  • Ca Mau
  • Can Tho
  • Cao Bang
  • Chau Doc
  • Da Lat
  • Da Nang
  • Dien Bien Phu
  • Dong Ha
  • Dong Hoi
  • Hai Phong
  • Ha Noi
  • Ha Tien
  • Hue
  • Lang Son
  • My Tho
  • Nha Trang
  • Phan Thiet
  • Thai Nguyen
  • Tay Ninh
  • Sai Gon
  • Son La
  • Sapa
  • Ba Be lake
  • Cana
  • Cat Ba islands
  • Halong bay
  • HoaLu-TamCoc-BichDong
  • Hoi An
  • My Lai
  • My Son
  • Phu Quoc
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