Cruising Halong Bay is one of those must have Vietnam experiences. Photo by Adam Jones.
Vietnam Pictures: Why visit?
This thin slice of a country has attractions inconveniently scattered along its length, with Ha Noi (Hanoi) over 1, 000 miles from Ho Chi Minh City, whereas for example, neighbouring Cambodia hosts a group of magnificent old buildings in one compact area, Angkor.
However, though travel in Vietnam requires a little more time and effort, this will be rewarded by good standards of accommodation, great cuisine, some pretty good cultural offerings, impressive beaches and the usual friendly Asiatic people. American and French failed imperialist warmongers welcome!
Best tourist places in Vietnam
One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi, one of a good selection of attractions. Photo by Bui The Tam.
The 1, 000-year-old capital city is set in a beautiful lake-scattered landscape with a fair number of interesting sights and museums and a sticky sub-tropical climate. It features many striking French colonial buildings from its time as centre of the French Indochina empire, as well as fine Chinese-influenced Vietnamese architecture including many temples. The city is now being modernized with some speed, speed being the operative word as motorcycles take over the streets.
Rural women heading for market in Vietnam’s prettiest little town, Hoi An.
A medieval trading port, Hoi An has a unique historic background of mixed Chinese, Japanese and European influences.
The whole town is like a an open-air museum – a local guide would be useful here.
Not to be missed are old Chinese houses, the Fujian Congregation Hall (Phuc Kien Pagoda) and the Japanese bridge-pagoda.
Kai Dinh’s brilliant tomb in Hue. Plenty more where that came from.
The ancient imperial city, beautifully located with a tranquil atmosphere, Hue houses a Citadel and a fortified palace which is one of the country’s most important historic sites.
The main Hue sights are: The Citadel, including the Imperial City; Tien Mu Temple (Pagoda); Royal Tombs including Tombs of Minh Mang and Khai Dinh; the road to Da Nang – aka ‘the Mandarin Road’ – through Truong Son Mountains is a picturesque driving route, with the highest point known as ‘the Pass of Clouds’.
Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon)
Ho Chi Minh Square, the core of a big, brash and rapidly modernising city (that used to be Saigon). Photo by Chris Schoenbaum.
A vibrant commercial centre with buzzing street life where tourists can get a glimpse of ancient culture between the high-rise glass towers, though it doesn’t measure up to Hanoi for tourist-oriented attractions.
The main sights are: Reunification Palace; the Giac Lam Pagoda; Notre Dame Cathedral; Ho Chi Minh City Museum; Ben Thanh market; China Town; the War Remnants Museum; the Cu Chi Tunnels and other war relics nearby built by the Viet Cong during the America-Vietnam war.
This is fantastic place for eating, varied shopping and spa treatments.
Mui Ne beaches aren’t perfect but cheap, cheerful, very popular with kite boarders and five hours from Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam has nearly 3, 500 km of coastline, with many newly built resorts. The beaches are not as impressive as those in Thailand nor Malaysia, but less commercial and with far less visitors.
Try Mui Ne, Na Trang, Ha tien, Dao Phu Quoc Island.
More Vietnam Things to Do
Halong Bay, the panoramic view of the bay with more than 3, 000 limestone islets (karsts) is one of the world’s must-see natural wonders. A one day trip from Hanoi is possible, although it is better to stay overnight at nearby Haiphong, or on board a cruiser at whatever level you can afford, in order to sail further for much more scenic views or for wildlife. e. g. Cat Ba island.
Da Nang, Vietnam’s 4th biggest city has not much to see but head a few miles out and there is the Cham Museum, My Son – an ancient Cham religious site, limestone caves and glorious Buddhist temples of the Marble Mountains and the endless white sands of China Beach where American troops landed during the War.
Mekong Delta offers a good example of local agriculture lifestyle.
The best places to see are Vinh Long or Can Tho for the boat trip, Cai Rang for the floating market, Chau Doc for the boat houses or Soc Trang and Tra Vinh for Khmer pagodas. There are also bird sanctuaries at Cao Lanh and Long Xuyen.
Our pictures start in North Vietnam at Hanoi and works south past Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), covering Hue, Da Nang, Hoi Anand other interesting tourist attractions en route and ending on Mui Ne beaches.