Halong Idyllic
Vietnamese Girl in Aodai
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Halong Bay
Bac Son valley
Stunning Halong Bay
Lan Ha bay
Sails of Indochina
Jonque Indochine
Indochine Junks
 
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LUXURY TRAVEL GUIDE TO VIETNAM
Mind-blowing Vietnam is a paradigm of Oriental resilience - the turmoil of its recent past replaced by a positive new energy in what is now one of Asia’s most up-and-coming travel destinations. A land crowded with images and opportunities caught in a period of transition between time past and time future. Discover them now before the moment passes!

It’s not only Vietnam’s pervasive sense of ancient enigma and cultural tradition that will stir your imagination. A glorious coastline boasts vast stretches of pristine beaches, while inland a dense patchwork of green rice paddies leads to soaring pine forest-clothed mountains. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offer an irresistible fusion (or should that be ‘confusion’) of old and new – French colonial echoes striking their own bizarre note. In short, it’s a holiday destination in its own right.

Vietnam Adventure
Meet some of the best kept secrets in Asia in a region that still remains relatively untouched by mass tourism. For some a journey of discovery through Vietnam may seem an adventure enough in itself. For those who want to stir more adrenaline into the mixture, though, a number of outdoor activities are available – from biking and hiking (perhaps along the winding trail to the town of Sapa in the north, a former French hill station amid stunning scenery, and home to some of Vietnam's most colourful hill tribes) to elephant-riding, canoeing, kite-surfing or sea and river-kayaking.

Nightlife & Party with Locals
Though Vietnam cannot claim dazzling nightlife as one of its ‘USPs’, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi do have a modest number of ‘nightclubs’. These tend to be disco-style – either Vietnamese (soft drinks only!) or Western (more glitzy, more expensive and noisier). Some ‘ex-pat’ and foreign bands play more varied music in hotels, bars and clubs. Karaoke is ‘big’ throughout Vietnam.

Gourmet Cuisine & Dining Out
There are allegedly over 500 Vietnamese dishes, with rice, fish and other seafood prominent. Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and other main cities have a good range of eateries, with virtually every world cuisine - especially Chinese and French – represented (ask locals where to eat, though, and they'll often point you to the inexpensive outdoor street stalls and restaurants). Hanoi is home to pho (rice noodles in chicken or beef broth), Vietnam's most famous dish, and other northern specialities.

World's Best Scuba Dive Sites
With some 2,000 miles of coastline, it can offer some of South East Asia’s finest beaches. From Danang on the central Vietnam coast down to Phu Quoc Island in the Gulf of Thailand, Vietnam's dive sites are some of the most unfrequented in South East Asia. This area is renowned for its pristine beaches and clear blue coastal waters. Nha Trang, edged by warm seas abundant with marine life and dotted with over 70 islands, is the gateway to Whale island, a popular diving resort.

SIGHTSEEING AND ACTIVITIES
Access to Vietnam has now improved rapidly and with it, the country’s popularity and infrastructure. Hidden for years behind the ‘Bamboo Curtain’, the countries of Indochina are intriguing communities that present a wealth of traditions and treasures, and a culture often intermingled with a French colonial past.  Although ‘global’ influences and pressures are becoming more evident in the cities, Vietnam as a whole preserves a distinctive character and charm few visitors can resist. Begin to explore the timeless rural traditions, glorious coastal and mountain scenery and rich ancient culture . . . and start planning your return.


WHAT TO SEE

Hanoi
The busy capital still retains a lingering air of French colonial elegance, with attractive yellow stuccoed buildings lining leafy streets. Wander round the Old Quarter, an intriguing warren of tiny shops, markets and cafés. Pay your respects at each of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Residence and Museum.

Halong Bay
Take a boat trip across Halong Bay to marvel at the 3,000 extraordinary limestone islands and islets rising sheer from the waters of the Eastern Sea. The entire area has a strange, surreal and very beautiful feeling. Many of the islands contain bizarre cave formations and grottoes.

Hué
Explore the former capital of the emperors of Vietnam, with its fascinating architecture and the remains of the Imperial Citadel (mostly destroyed in the wartime Tet offensive). Visit the nearby mausoleums of several of Vietnam's past emperors, including Khai Dinh and Tu Duc, each with its own unique style.

Sapa
Drive up to the alpine scenery around this, home to several intriguing hill tribes, who continue to wear traditional costume and follow a little-changed traditional way of life.

Da Lat
Also away from the heat of the coastal plains is Da Lat, a former colonial hill station, with more than a passing resemblance to a provincial French town, its elegant but weathered old villas evocative of an era now long gone. The surrounding mountain scenery and romantic lakes are magnets for local honeymooners.

Ho Chi Minh City
Dip into the hurly-burly of life on the streets of one-time Saigon, whose diminutive temples and faded French colonial buildings are now being overshadowed by shining new high-rises. Visit the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum to gain fresh insights into the realities of the bitter Vietnam War

Tay Ninh
Attend the midday service at the unique Cao Dai Temple here in Tay Ninh. Drive to the extraordinary Cu Chi tunnels – a labyrinth of narrow tunnels built by the ‘Vietcong’ virtually underneath the U.S. bases, from where they successfully launched attacks against US forces.

Mekong Delta
Wander among the river markets on the Mekong De, where everyday life is dominated by this mighty waterway and along whose course much of Vietnam's rice crop is grown.
 

WHAT TO DO

Sports
With 2,000 miles of coastline, Vietnam may surprise you by its beaches and watersports opportunities. Popular beaches are Vung Tau (north of the Mekong Delta) and Nha Trang (near Da Lat), where clear, turquoise waters offer good snorkelling and scuba-diving. Snorkelling and diving equipment can be hired at most beach resorts. Other good beaches are Phan Thiet (south-central coast); Mui Ne (noted for its large sand dunes); and magnificent Ha Long Bay – which is also an ideal spot for sea kayaking amid the limestone karsts that rise dramatically out of the sea.

Adventure
Take a boat trip on the Mekong River, with its intricate network of rice paddies, swamps and forests interlaced with canals and river. A vital source of water for both transport and food for much of Southern Vietnam, it gives a vivid snapshot of everyday rural life her.

Shopping
Though Vietnam has yet to achieve the shopping status of Hong Kong or Bangkok, the streets are awash with little shops selling all manner of items. There’s a huge variety of souvenirs and traditional handicrafts like lacquer painting, reed mats, embroidery and mother-of-pearl inlay on ornaments & furniture, not to mention the traditional conical hats. If you’re buying jewellery verify the quality of the gold or stones. Markets are always great places to enjoy the local flavour and buy souvenirs. The best place for shopping for antiques (check that they have an export licence) or replicas is Hanoi. Saigon has the best buys for modern goods like CDs and clothing.

Nightlife
Vietnam’s nightlife is perhaps not the most sophisticated entertainment that the East has to offer - but Ho Chi Minh City does have an extensive range of bars, clubs, live music venues and restaurants, while Hanoi is also beginning to catch up (although things can still seem rather quiet after 10:00 pm). In other towns there are bars and restaurants but the choice for visitors is definitely modest.

FESTIVALS AND EVENTS
Vietnam’s principal public celebrations are linked to dates in the religious calendar – but these are rarely solemn occasions and more often than not involve colour and spectacle, music and dance. Some key events are shown below – and many others pop up at local level.

February
Hanoi commemorates Mai Dong Festival throughout the month, a cultural event in honour of a female war general who battled against the Chinese Han invaders in the first century – a Vietnamese Boudicca!, The New Year Tet Festival is a national celebration of the Lunar New Year - Vietnam’s biggest event of the year.

March
Hanoi is the venue for the popular Chu Dong Tu Festival honouring one of the four immortal gods in the Vietnamese pantheon.

April
Da Nang’s streets and temples are decorated with flower garlands for the annual Lang Ca Ong or ‘Whale’ Festival - a month-long celebration of the sea popular with the region’s fishing communities. At Ha Tay (near Hanoi) the Perfume Pagoda Festival is a lively event with traditional dragon dances and religious ceremonies. Also at Ha Tay, the Thay Pagoda Festival pays homage to Tu Dao Hanh. The beating of drums and the banging of gongs signal the start of the Elephant Races (throughout April and May) in the Buon Don District in the Central Highlands.

May
Celebrated by Buddhist communities all over the world, Lord Buddha’s Birthday celebrations take place at Buddhist temples throughout Vietnam. Some cities and larger towns hold magnificent festivals and parades that take over the streets with a sea of colour, giant Buddha statues and thousands of devotees.

September
The Mid-Autumn Festival marks the time of the year when the moon is thought to be at its brightest and roundest indicating a time of harmony and plenitude. Across Vietnam there are local festivities, processions and parties.

October
The annual Keo Pagoda Festival is held in tribute to a Buddhist dignitary said to have cured the illness of King Le Thanh Tong – and involves a procession and three days of celebrations.

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