Vietnam has endured decades of war, civil unrest and deprivation. Despite its tumultuous modern history many architectural and scenic gems have survived all across this beautiful country. In fact so well preserved are some of these locations that they are UN World Heritage Sites. They include Phong Nha-Kè Bàng National Park, Hôi An, Halong Bay and M? S?n.
The beauty of Nha Trang and the Marble Mountains has also been attracting visitors for quite some time. The Binh Durong tourist complex is being developed and will become the largest artificial sea in Southeast Asia.
The Vietnamese diet relies largely on fresh herbs and vegetables making it one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. Vietnam’s reputation as a rewarding cultural, historical and picturesque destination has been growing since the late 1990s.
Hanoi is over a thousand years old and for 800 of those it has been Vietnam’s premier city. Hanoi’s ancient past and French occupancy have coalesced into a unique cultural and architectural purée.
Sitting on the banks of the Red River, Hanoi also has many lakes, prompting it to be referred to as the “city of lakes”. The historical and cultural heart of Hanoi lies in the Old Quarter, along with Hoàn Ki?m Lake, also known as Sword Lake. Other prominent lakes are West Lake, Halais Lake (H? Thi?n Quang in Vietnamese), and Bay Mau Lake.
The Old Quarter of Hanoi still retains the original street layout and architecture. Most of the streets were named for the specialised trades carried out on them. For the most part that still goes on today.
Hanoi contains some wonderful architectural examples of its history such as the Temple of Literature, which is a 1,000 year old university and the One Pillar Pagoda and Flag Tower. French colonial influence can be seen in the National Museum of Vietnamese History, the Fine Arts Museum and the Medical College.
Halong Bay is not too far from Hanoi. Legend has it that this wonderful collection of about 1,600 forest clad rocky islands, was created by dragons. The pillars of limestone rocks rising straight out of the emerald seas has fashioned a spectacular marine wonderland. These elements have contributed to UNESCO designating it a World Heritage Centre.
H?i An is a wonderfully preserved city, for many centuries it had the largest harbour in the region and was an important trading centre. It also controlled the spice trade bringing its citizens much wealth and power. In the course of time the Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and Indians settled here. Their cultural influences are everywhere – in the centuries old wooden buildings, street layouts, quays, canals and gardens. An outstanding example of this eclectic heritage is the 16th century Japanese Bridge. It is a red-pillared and roofed bridge, uniquely, the only one, with a Buddhist temple at one end.
The wonderful fusion this has wrought prompted UNESCO to recognise it as a World Heritage Site, ensuring that it stays intact. The acknowledgment has further added to the reputation and attractiveness of this charming and delightful city.
Ho Chi Minh City
This is Vietnam’s hot spot, affectionately referred to as the ‘Diamond of the Far-East’ it was previously called Saigon (and still commonly known as such). Once a small fishing village, it was the capital of French Indochina. Today it is one of Asia’s fastest growing cities and the heart of a booming economy.
Its historic past and future aspirations to live happily side by side. HCMC has managed to blend speeding modernity and French Colonial rule with its Vietnamese qualities. A large number of classic Western buildings and villas reflect its recent past. Some of its most notable buildings are the War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City Museum, the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Hotel de Ville, Quan Am Pagoda and the Jade Emperor Pagoda.
Ho Chi Minh City is the best place in Vietnam for entertainment. Its vibrant nightlife is propped up by a large number of colourful bars, clubs and restaurants. Vietnamese style tea houses host live music performances. HCMC is an exciting city.
Best Time To Visit
Vietnam is a tropical country with a hot and wet climate for most of the year. Winter however can be chilly and windy. Mid May to September can be oppressively humid.