The world has become a much smaller place in recent years. The growth of cheap air travel has brought everywhere much closer to ordinary people. When it comes to South East Asia, there have been political issues that meant tourism was not really an option. Happily, the region is at peace and ever more welcoming to tourists. In the case of Vietnam, there is still a communist regime running the country but it has an international outlook, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union. Tourism is growing 10% year on year and the messages that travellers returning home are bringing about Vietnam are almost exclusively positive.
There are some issues so it is worth looking at the best and worst things about visiting Vietnam and then you can make your mind up for yourself. Frankly, the negatives are minimal and even they are really only encountered by independent travellers. If you get a good Vietnam travel agentto make arrangements for you, then you may not even come across such things because Vietnam tour packages will involve your having a guide that will provide plenty of advice along the way.
There are plenty of things to do in Vietnam and therein lies one of the basic reasons for a holiday in Vietnam. A Vietnam travel guidewill tell you more about the Country with plenty of help and advice available from a well-established travel agent specialising in Vietnam.
In no particular order, here are the main reasons why a Vietnam family tour is such a great experience.
Cultural and Religious Attractions
Vietnam is a Buddhist country but there are still elements of Taoism and followers of Confucius. Ancestor worship in very important and that is reflected in the many festivals that are held throughout the year. If you are lucky enough to be in Vietnam when one of the main annual festivals takes place, Tet, the Vietnamese New Year for example, you are in for a real treat.
It is not surprising that with a history dating back over 4,000 years and with the influence of other parts of the region, there is a rich history and culture for visitors to explore and enjoy.
In the last century, there was the struggle for independence and then the Vietnam War before peace came around 40 years ago. Colonial masters, the French, left their mark in many of the buildings and in places like Hanoi, colonial buildings mix with local and right up-to-date architecture.
There are many photographs used to advertise Vietnam and two of the most popular are in the north, Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the SaPa Terraces in the Northern Highlands near the Chinese border where the locals grow rice. The Terraces shimmer with the water before the shots push through and gradually go deep green until they turn golden at harvest time.
The Bay has hundreds of limestone islands and cruising amongst the islands, including a night on board a comfortable junk is a must for all visitors to Vietnam.
Vietnam has some of the largest caves in the world and it is possible to cruise on underground rivers to explore them and their stalagmites and stalactites. There are magnificent waterfalls in the Central Highlands, forests with plenty of mammals and birds; a botanist’s delight as well.
In the south, there is the iconic Mekong Delta, a river that has flowed from the Tibetan Highlands before spreading into a delta and flowing out into the South China Sea. It is a fertile region growing produce for local consumption as well as for processing factories elsewhere in the Country.
Their religion makes the Vietnamese naturally friendly and hospitable. Cities have inevitably grown, and tourism has had an impact as well, but farming and fishing communities are a pleasure to visit. It is even possible to arrange a homestay in one of the villages. In some, the houses are on stilts, both because of protection from the monsoon rains, or because they are situated in water anyway, such as around Halong Bay.
There are many small ethnic tribes, each maintaining their age-old traditions, including clothing, music and dance. The Northern Highlands is the best place for mixing with different tribes and their crafts make great souvenirs of your Vietnam holiday and presents for friends and family.
Vietnam has well over 3,000 kilometres of coastline with several sandy beaches that have grown into significant resorts. Many people finish a holiday in Vietnam by flying down to Phu Quoc Island in the South China Sea just off Cambodia but there are many excellent beaches on the mainland.
Lang Co, in south central Vietnam 30 kilometres from Hoi An has been judged as one of the best beaches in the world. Likewise, there are a number of beaches in striking distance of Ho Chi Minh City which make them an attractive proposition for those living in the City as well as overseas tourists.
Why not have a look in greater detail at Vung Tau which has developed rapidly in recent years? Here are two other ideas; Phan Thiet and Mui Ne.
Asian cuisine is popular all around the world. Chinese and Indian food led the way and the cuisine of many other nations has followed. One of them that is growing in popularity all the time is Vietnamese cuisine.
There are excellent restaurants in Vietnam but it is also a real experience walking around the narrow streets and buying food from the stalls. Stalls that are busy obviously sell the freshest of food because of their turnover. You may want to try breakfast as many of the locals do on their way to work, or perhaps eat something at night-time when you are visiting a market?
Rice is the stable food of Vietnam though there is plenty more. Fresh fruit and vegetables are everywhere, soups are popular and of course with such a long coastline the seafood is excellent.
Vietnam is relatively inexpensive and with a well-developed transport infrastructure, air, road and rail, it is easy to get around and cheap to do so. You can get a travel package tailored to your main interests and your agent will provide help and advice before you book. You will be able to select the level of accommodation to fit your budget and have everything in place before your arrival.
Please read our " Top 5 tips to save on your Vietnam travel"
So, what of the few negatives?
There are many poor people in Vietnam. The Vietnamese are naturally friendly and hospitable but you may find that as a tourist, you are regarded as rich and therefore able to pay more. No one minds paying a little extra given most things are so cheap but it is natural to be upset if costs are multiplied simply because someone thinks they can get away with it. A guide is likely to prevent that from happening because it is unlikely that you will understand the language or be aware of the true cost of things.
One of the many joys of Vietnam is its cuisine, and there is absolutely nothing wrong is eating street food. Busy stalls have a quick turnover in food and everything is fresh. However, there are some things that are alien to foreign visitors. If you think about one example; an egg from which a chick is almost ready to hatch is a delicacy! It is certainly not to western tastes, so be careful what you decide to try.
Customs vary from continent to continent. People’s habits can seem strange in a strange country. Anyone wanting to travel extensively must accept that or not go travelling. It is not a negative that applies to Vietnam any more than to most countries of the world but it is worth mentioning.
Be careful when you cross the roads in the big cities, especially Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. In the hands of a good tour guide, you should have no problems, but
if you have free time and want to explore, you need to be careful if you have to cross busy roads.
That’s about it for the negatives; doesn’t add up to very much, does it?
Vietnam is a large country, covering many degrees of latitude. Not surprisingly, there are some distinct regional variations in climate as a result of that and the effect of altitude; there are highlands in the north and the centre. When it comes to the best time to visit Vietnam, much depends upon what you want to see and do. You can be certain that a good Vietnam travel agent will give you good advice, as well as protect you from those small negatives in the Country.
Vietnam Visas are available on arrival, often Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh International Airport and you will be collected by your guide on leaving the arrivals area. It couldn’t be easier. Whether you are a first-time visitor to Vietnam, or are returning once again, you are in for a great experience.
Note: More information about Vietnam, please read our Vietnam travel guide!