While exotic and long-haul holidays have become fairly common these days with the availability of plenty of competitive air flights, it is still important to plan such vacations properly. That starts with the selection of the proposed destination, and the use of reliable people to put together an itinerary that does justice to the place. People have differing interests so the emphasis of the itinerary may vary from person to person. When it comes to somewhere like Vietnam, it is so rich in history and culture, in environmental attractions and cuisine, that preparing an itinerary should only be entrusted to someone with experience that can translate a client’s interests into a good bespoke itinerary.
An Experienced, Quality Vietnam Tour Operator
There are in excess of 10 million tourists visiting Vietnam each year, and that is partly a product of good tour operators who have helped the sustained growth in Vietnam’s popularity. The only limit to a tourist’s enjoyment of Vietnam is time. Those operators who have traded for a number of years are clearly best-placed to put together itineraries that show Vietnam at its best. No amount of research can replace first hand experience of the things that Vietnam has to offer, and the main highlights that have sent previous clients home after an amazing experience.
You need only to read previous testimonials to find a good Vietnam tour operator. The whole process begins with the speed of response to an enquiry, and the thoroughness of the answers to the questions that you raise.While you do not have the change to sit down face to face with a Vietnam travel agency, the Internet and electronic mail is the next best thing. If you have specific interests, then a bespoke itinerary can be put together to make best use of the time you have available. Why not start by looking at someone in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, a regular inclusion on every Vietnam travel package and a popular airport of entry into the Country?
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Vietnam’s ‘’ Must See’’ Destinations
It is the vibrancy of Hanoi that will strike you immediately. It may be a chaotic and noisy city; certainly, the traffic can be described by both these adjectives. The narrow streets where you can sit and enjoy the street food with the locals are a highlight and in sharp contrast with one of the legacies that the French left; wide, tree-lined boulevards.
Thang Long, the Imperial Citadel, in the centre of Hanoi is a UNESCO World Heritage site and you should certainly visit it while in the City. Other highlights are the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, the Hoan Kiem Lake which tourists and locals alike visit, the Temple of Literature and the Perfume Pagoda.
SaPa Terraces and the Northern Highlands
The region north of Hanoi up towards the Chinese border has much to offer everyone on a Vietnam holiday. The SaPa Terraces are where the locals grow rice. Depending upon the time of year when you visit, they may just shimmer, the water glistening in the sun before the shoots emerge, or appear in different shades of green before turning golden at harvest time.
Ethnic tribes live in these Northern Highlands much the same as they have done for generations. True, there is now some exposure to tourism that wasn’t there previously but they retain their customs and skills as they have always done. This is a great region for trekking and exploration while Vietnam’s highest peak, Fanispan is also here.
This Bay is another UNESCO World Heritage site, hundreds of limestone islands, largely uninhabited but with caves and grottoes to explore. An overnight stay on a tourist junk is a ‘’must’’ for anyone lucky enough to have the time to sail between these islands.
The locals are largely fishermen, living in villages that are dotted around the Bay. The houses are built on stilts as they are in many parts of Vietnam where flooding is a possibility.
Before you leave the north, you should also see a place that is often described as ‘’Halong Bay on land.’’ Ninh Binh Province is the location that was used for the new ‘’King Kong’’ film. The setting is stunning with limestone mountains rather than islands in Halong Bay. There are huge grottoes to explore, you can trek, relax on a boat or kayak. It is a great birdwatching region and the whole environment and the fresh air are truly exhilarating.
As you head south on your Vietnam travels towards the centre of the Country, there is the ancient capital of the region, Hue, the place from where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled during the time of the French. The word, ‘’ruled’’ is perhaps an exaggeration as the French were very much in control.
There is still plenty to see in Hue including the Imperial Citadel on the north bank of the Perfume River. There was extensive damage during the Vietnam War unfortunately. On the south bank, there are the Imperial Tombs of several emperors with one of the best ways to see them being a cruise on the River.
Hoi An was an ancient trading port during the Champa Kingdom, and its origins are thought to be as early as the 7th Century. It no longer has any importance from that point of view but it is nevertheless worth inclusion of a Vietnam tour itinerary. The influence of the Chinese who once occupied the area is easy to see. One of the highlights is from another country; the Japanese Covered Bridge dates back to the 15th Century and has a pagoda in its interior.
There are many interesting museums in Hoi An within the Old Town where examples of Chinese and Japanese Architecture can still be seen.
Da Nang is Vietnam’s third city, and a place that was important during the Vietnam War. In 1915, the French built the Cham Museum that chronicles the Kingdom’s history. In the immediate area there are fine beaches and the Marble Mountains close by are a famous pilgrimage site with several important temples.
Da Lat and The Central Highlands
The French sought refuge from the heat of the lowlands and that led to the development of Da Lat with its comfortable climate; not surprisingly as the altitude is 1,500 metres. This is a lovely region of waterfalls, streams and impressive vegetation. It is a fertile region producing fine fruit and vegetables.
The Beaches of South Central Vietnam
The coastline of Vietnam is well in excess of 3,000 kilometres and there are plenty of lovely beaches and offshore islands to enjoy. The whole region south of Da Nang has seen extensive development and increased demand seems certain to mean that more development will take place. There is plenty of choice and if you want to spend some time relaxing on the coast before reaching the south, ask the advice of a good Vietnam travel agent like Indochinavalue.
Cu Chi Tunnels
The Viet Cong faced a modern army with the latest equipment during the Vietnam War. They had their own defence and tactics and that included the use of underground tunnels for a means of travelling about unseen, for storage, and at times to live their everyday lives. They are north of Vietnam, and generally very narrow. They are worth seeing, and some stretches have been enlarged to allow smaller tourists to enter if they wish. Use your imagination to think about what life must have been like.
Ho Chi Minh City
Formerly Saigon, this City is the commercial hub of Vietnam. It may appear more modern than Hanoi, and certainly has more skyscrapers, but there is still plenty of tradition here as well. In terms of the main attractions, the War Remnants Museum is very educational and a must if you are on a Vietnam vacation with kids. The Skydeck at 230 metres allows you to see right over the city, all 360 degrees.It is very much a 21st Century City so why not try the spas, drink coffee with the locals
The Mekong Delta
The Mekong rises far away on the Tibetan Plateau, flowing primarily south to form a Delta within Vietnam before flowing into the South China Sea. It is a region of cities and towns, wide channels and quiet, narrow waterways. It is the most fertile part of Vietnam and it is an experience to move through the orchards and villages, watch the fishermen and visit and early morning market where its produce is sold.
Phu Quoc is an island off the Cambodian Coast but it is very much Vietnam. It now has some international flights and it is a great place to finish a Vietnam holiday and reflect on all the places you have seen and the things you have done.
Vietnam Tour Package Styles
You will already be able to see the rich diversity of Vietnam. It has something for everyone; those interested in history and culture, tourists who enjoy activity holidays both in terms of trekking and exploring as well as water sports such a scuba diving, and those interested in exploring what exotic cities have to offer. One of the delights of Vietnam is to meet the people, everyone from the ethic tribes in highland areas to village farmers and fast food sellers in narrow city streets. Vietnam is also a great place for a relaxing holiday, or at least a few days, perhaps in a quiet resort on the coast? Whatever your interests, Indochinavalue will be able to put together an itinerary to suit you.
Asian food’s popularity has spread around the world with Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Thai food leading the way. Vietnamese cuisine has started to make an impact as well so that is worth a little section of its own in this guide.
It is easy to think that the basis of Vietnamese cuisine is rice. It is much more than that though rice is a major crop everywhere and steamed, plain rice regularly put on the dinner table. Likewise, noodles made from rice are equally as common, separate or used in soups.Phu Bo, beef noodle soup, is a regular for breakfast and probably the commonest dish in Vietnam. There have been foreign influences on the cuisine; China over centuries, the French, once colonial masters who left their love of coffee as well, and the Khmer from Cambodia.
The climate is a factor with northern dishes including broth, well-seasoned and including meat and vegetables in contrast to the warmer south with its extended growing season and therefore more potential ingredients. Slow-cooked stew in the north may be replaced by char grills in the south.
After rice, fish sauce, nuoc mam, is a Vietnamese specialty. Anchovies and salt are left to ferment in barrels for six months before the liquid is drained. The smell is frankly unpleasant but the addition of nuoc mam is almost mandatory in Vietnamese dishes and it is the most popular dipping sauce, often with pepper of varying amounts added. Other seasonings include mint, garlic, shallots, basil, lime, lemon grass and coriander.
The extensive coastline and rivers mean that fish is commonly served but pork, beef and chicken are also regulars on any menu.
When to Visit Vietnam
Vietnam is a large country; it covers several degrees of latitude and hence there are distinct differences in climate. When it comes to deciding when to visit, here are a few tips for you. If you intend to visit the whole country, north to south, then make the trip between December and April. That is so that you avoid storms in July and August that can lead to the cancellation of parts of your itinerary, rain in the south between May and October, the hottest part of summer, and the period when the difference between the heat of the south and the cold further north is at its greatest.
A Few Final Tips on Vietnam
• To do the Country justice, you should have a minimum of 14 days. If you only take 10 your coverage of Vietnam can only be basic, if enjoyable however.
• Only accept notes in good condition when changing money or getting change otherwise you may find problems spending them.
• There will be a charge for using credit cards and if you want to do so, you should have Visa or Mastercard to be certain it will be accepted.
• Your passport needs a minimum of 6 months’ validity to enter Vietnam. You can get a visa on arrival at International Airports but not at some border crossings. You need to check the precise details for your nationality.
• Check with your Vietnam travel agent about things such as suitable clothing, electronic devices, suitable dress for religious sites and what locals will expect of you.
• Tipping is not expected but overcharging is fairly common. You can lose on an exchange rate; get the Dong price then you will avoid that.