The Variety of Vietnam
Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city and the start of your exploratory Vietnamese adventure. To get your bearings you might like a guided city tour of Saigon – although the city buzzes with life at street-side cafes, hawker stalls and markets, it’s possible to find pockets of tranquillity at temples or above the city on the viewing platform of the highest building in the city, the Bitexco Financial Tower. Let us book tickets for the Saigon Opera House – the cultural show A O is a unique mix of bamboo circus, acrobatic acts, dance, and theatrical visual art. Foodies might like a guided tour of the city’s gastronomic highlights from seafood stalls, Asian snacks, cocktail bars and fine dining restaurants. Chinatown is also a great place to head to for its variety of Asian dishes, spread around market stalls.
Those interested in the Vietnam War might like to visit the War Remnants Museum, a sobering account of the war’s atrocities. Following this, the Cu Chi tunnels are a must for history buffs. Experience for yourself the narrow tunnels which the Vietcong would live during the Vietnam War as part of their strategy against American troops.
From Ho Chi Minh city, you’ll fly up to the central region of Vietnam to spend two nights in Hue. Once the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802 to 1945, Hue is filled with cultural intrigue. Alongside the Perfume River, so-called because of the aromatic flowers that drop into it in autumn – you’ll see the ornate Royal Nguyen Tombs of the last remaining royal family of Vietnam, best taken in on a tranquil cruise.
The Imperial Citadel of Hue, although much-damaged in the Tet Offensive, makes an enjoyable wander or cycle through its fortresses, lakes with lily ponds, moats, palaces and temples. Look out for the restored Thai Hoa palace and The Mieu complex which are resplendent in red and gold lacquer. Another reason to linger in Hue is its strong culinary traditions – due to the presence of the royal family, plus with an ideal climate for growing tropical fruit and exotic vegetables, Hue is said to have created much of Vietnam’s cuisine. Try crispy pancakes, rice-noodle soup and steamed banana leaf parcels.
Charismatic Hoi An
From Hue, you will transfer by road to the small, charming riverside town of Hoi An, whose architectural fusion of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and European influence make it an interesting place to wander. On your way, you can visit My Son, the home of the ancient Cham civilisation, who dominated in this area for centuries. Semi-ruinous with plenty of atmospheric greenery entwined with the ancient structures, this is a worthwhile stop on your way to Hoi Ann.
A centre for the arts and crafts, a hub of traditional culture, 18th century merchant houses and the swirling Thu Bon River, Hoi Ann is easy to meander around – take a walking tour to make the most of your location or let us arrange a cookery class in a private home, where you can learn the art of Vietnamese food and in particular Hoi Ann specialities such as thick noodle soup with pork, minced crab and coconut and green bean paste cake. It’s also easy to get out to explore the local area – bike around rural villages or kayak down the Thu Bon River.
From Danang, you will fly to Nha Trang for the last five nights of your trip. There’s nothing quite like Asian hospitality and coming to the end of your trip in Vietnam, it is time to slow the pace at a top beach hotel, where you can succumb to the beach or pool, a good book and a cold drink.
Around Nha Trang there is an extremely high quality of hotels and resorts, each offering a variation on beach side location, large swimming pools, spas, incredible breakfast buffets and top-notch service. One of our favourites is Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, a short speedboat ride away where wooden, thatched suites are clasped around smooth boulders, coming with private pools and enviable sea views. Regularly voted as one of the top hotels in the world, this is the place to splurge. Enjoy every second, because before you know it, it will be time to commence your journey home, armed with unforgettable memories of this colourful, cultural and fascinating country.