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Vietnam-aodai-2.jpgWith UNESCO World Heritage sites, sparkling bays, bustling cities and enough to see and do to keep you busy for months. Thriving nightlife in the cities, gorgeous scenery in the country and a rich culture everywhere in between…Vietnam has something for everyone, all with an exotic touch. 

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Hanoi

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The best place to begin in Hanoi is with the city's top tourist draw - the Old Quarter. Here centuries of commerce can be charted amid labyrinthine streets and tiny alleyways.
Hanoi, however, isn't all about classic images of old Asia.

 

You’ll find classy lounges that wouldn’t be out of place in any world metropolis and bohemian hangouts where locals, foreign residents and visitors gather to soak in the atmosphere.

 

HCMC

Also known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is changing at a pace that would shame the most reckless of motorcycle taxi drivers.

Business towers, office blocks, glitzy shopping malls, high-end real estate developments, urban regeneration projects, visually stunning new bridges -- you name it, this city has got it and is about to get much more of it.

Danang

Previously used by tourists as a hopping-off point for the nearby heritage town of Hoi An, Danang is staking a claim as Vietnam’s top beach destination.

Several big name hotel brands have set up by the shores of the South China Sea and a spanking new airport terminal is another clue to the city's ambitions.

Nha Trang

It has its critics -- National Geographic has been especially disparaging -- but Nha Trang remains one of Vietnam’s most popular beach towns.

While the main beach can get overcrowded on weekends and in late afternoon, the beach is pleasant and the town has plenty of decent options for drinking, dining and accommodation.

For something a bit more relaxed, the idyllic beaches of Doc Let and Jungle Beach are found north of the city. Spotless white sands can be found south toward Cam Ranh Airport.

 
Halong Bay

halong-bay-vietnam16-Oriental-Colours.jpgThe jewel in Vietnam’s crown, Halong Bay retains its luster despite grumbles of eco-vandalism and overcrowding.The sight of the scattered jungle-covered outcrops of karst rising up from the emerald water is unforgettable.

While it's true that the Bay has become something of a victim of its own popularity -- many tours are predictable and yours will be one of hundreds of cameras trying to capture the majesty of the scenery at sunset, it remains an essential stop on any Vietnam itinerary.

Sapa

The towering mountains in the far north of Vietnam on the border with China offer some of the country’s most compelling visual and cultural stimuli.

The scenery is awe-inspiring, with Vietnam’s highest mountain, Fansipan (3,142 meters), dominating the view.

Sapa itself has a thriving tourism industry, meaning that it’s easy enough to hunker down at a bar or in a café on one of the frequent foggy days.

Hoi An

hoi-an-nhung-manh-mau-Oriental-Colours.jpgThe UNESCO-protected ancient town is by far Vietnam’s most tourist-friendly destination. Even those who don’t particularly like the rest of the country usually come away with a good impression.

The narrow streets near the Thu Bon River are lined with beautifully preserved merchant houses, while narrow alleys lead to hidden temples and garden restaurants.

It’s Vietnam lite, but the great dining scene, easy access to nearby China Beach and sheer prettiness of it all defies cynicism.

Con Dao

One of Vietnam’s last frontiers, this former penal colony offers wild, untamed scenery, spotless beaches and one of the region's most important nesting grounds for sea turtles.

Con Dao was once a name that struck fear into French colonists and later Americans and their client regime in Saigon as the country turned into a fearsome cage for political opponents.

The area's persona is significantly gentler these days, but it still remains a far cry from the more sanitized destinations on the mainland coast.

Mekong Delta

mekong-delta.jpgMost visitors to Vietnam experience the Mekong Delta, but the country's verdant rice bowl deserves more than just a one-day tour from Saigon.

A lush landscape of emerald green fields, shady woods and sleepy villages crisscrossed by canals and rivulets fed by the mighty river, the Delta is Vietnam’s land of plenty.

One of the best ways to see it is by bicycle, from which the languid pace of daily life can be observed at leisure.

Ho Chi Minh Highway

The route between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi has become a rite-of-passage motorbike adventure for many and taking the Ho Chi Minh Highway is the best way of doing it.

The route passes battlefields like Khe Sanh and the Ia Drang Valley, skirts tribal villages and offers easy access to some of the country's top attractions.

10 activities you should do in Vietnam:

1. Cruise in Ha Long Bay Junk - “Bay of Descending Dragons” - a world heritage site famous for limestone karsts and isles in various shapes and sizes

2. Eat Pho - Vietnamese Noodles - and drink Vietnamese coffee at any one of the many pop-up cafes. Vietnam is one of the top coffee exporters in the world, the coffee here has special taste, flavor and serving
 
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3. Take a cruise in the Mekong Delta enjoying lushly green paddy fields, rustic rural sceneries and activities, especially  floating markets

4. Crawl through the Cu Chi tunnels, full length more than 120 km, used by the Viet Cong guerillas during Vietnam war as hiding spots as well as sheltering.

5. Motorcycle or bicycle around - it’s a great way to cover long distances, see the countryside, go off the beaten track, and feel like a local

6. Drink local wine, rice wine or snake wine - this could really add more flavor to your journey

7. Exploring the picturesque mountains of Sapa, known for its rugged scenery, rice terraces and ethnic diversity close to the Chinese borders

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8. Shop for silk and tailored clothes in ancient town of Hoi An, a world heritage site recognized by UNESCO, once a thriving international port known for its trade of silk and ceramics

9. Visit the in(famous) Hanoi Hilton, also known as the Hỏa Lò Prison, which housed prisoners of war including 2008 Republican Presidential nominee, John McCain

10. Snorkeling in Nha Trang Bay, one of the world’s best bay with its diversity marine life and coral reef

 

The climate of Vietnam varies considerably from region to region. Although the entire country lies in the tropics and subtropics, local conditions vary from frosty winters in the far northern hills to year-round, subequatorial warmth in the Mekong Delta.

For more climatic kudos, take a look at the When to Go information.

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When to go

When it comes to weather, it’s a tough call, as Vietnam’s climate is so diverse. Think frosts and occasional snow in the mountains of the north, and temperatures soaring to 40°C in the south during the dry season.

Vietnam’s weather is dictated by two monsoons, meaning double trouble on the rain front. The winter monsoon comes from the northeast between October and March, bringing damp and chilly winters to all areas north of Nha Trang, and dry and warm temperatures to the south. From April or May to October, the summer monsoon brings hot, humid weather to the whole country except for those areas sheltered by mountains. For the best balance, we’d vote for the months of April, May or October. For those sticking to the south, November to February is dry and a touch cooler. From July to November, violent and unpredictable typhoons hit central and northern Vietnam, which can dampen the spirits of even the most enthusiastic traveller.

It gets pretty crowded from November to March and in July and August during high season. Domestic tourists are a major force now and they tend to travel in numbers during July and August as well. Prices peak over the Christmas and New Year period, and if you don’t fancy sharing the sites with the masses, try to avoid this busy time. May, June and September are usually the quietest months.

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Some travellers like to time a visit with Tet (Vietnamese New Year), the biggest festival in the calendar, which falls in late January or early February. It’s a nice idea in principle, but not in practice, as the whole country is on the move and prices rise dramatically. Transport is crammed in the runup and aftermath, the Reunification Express shuts down during festivities, and most shops and businesses are closed for the best part of a week.

(Credit to Lonely planet)

 

To be updated

11 Day Luxury Vietnam Discovery Tour

1,015 US$ Explore dynamic Ho Chi Minh City (the Pearl of The Far East – Saigon), and Historic 1000th year old Hanoi, walking ancient paths of Hoi An and admire ... Read more

13 Day Vietnam Highlights Tour - North to South or Vice versa: Hanoi - Halong - Hoi An - Saigon - Cu Chi - Mekong

908 US$ A tour that combine all the highlights on Vietnam in 13 Days will enable you to experience the long standing culture, exotic nature and amazing ... Read more

8 Day Vietnam Southern Highlights

510 US$ A tour combining the hustle bustle of the big modern city of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), the tranquility of the Mekong delta, the beautiful beaches ... Read more
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