Vietnam is one of the most attractive travel destinations in Asia
A few years ago my husband and visited Vietnam on a ten day holiday after hearing from several people how great it was as a holiday destination. If you can see past the over-populated cities full of millions upon millions of Vietnamese going from A to B on their motorised scooters like a colony of ants. And you can see past some of the poverty and the cramped and unsanitary living conditions of the people. You will love this place!
Vietnam has some of the best food I’ve ever tasted and my husband can vouch for their beer which he said “was a tasty drop”. The accommodation in cute little boutique style hotels is not only cheap (around $40 per night), but clean, modern and well equipped. The only complaint I would have is that the mattresses are extremely thin and hard.
The Vietnamese people are delightful. They go out of their way to be friendly and hospitable and go beyond the call of duty. Some of the Vietnamese women are so beautiful and the children ever so cute!
We bundled a lot of the tourist attractions into our ten days. In Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) we explored the thriving city and visited the markets and the War Museum. We did a half day tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong guerillas as hiding spots during combat in the Vietnam War, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters.
We did a full day tour of the Mekong River area. The Mekong Delta is by far Vietnam’s most productive region in agriculture and aquaculture. Life in the Mekong Delta revolves much around the river, and many of the villages are often accessible by rivers and canals rather than by road. We visited a coconut farm where they extracted the oil from the coconuts to produce goods such as soap, moisturizers and sweets. There are some very good floating markets where you buy almost anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to silk scarves.
Along the way we stopped at a disabled people workshop where they were making this incredible lacquer ware. Some of the work was painstakingly created out of tiny pieces of mother-of-pearl or egg shells – quite beautiful.
We visited the charming beach resort town of Hoi An where we spent a few days enjoying the pristine white sandy beaches and aquamarine water. Hoi An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. They have hundreds of tailors that can whip up anything you desire out of the most beautiful silk fabrics in a variety of colours and patterns. They also have leather shoemakers who can make you a custom-made pair of soft leather shoes in a day. Like everything in Vietnam, the prices are very reasonable.
The last leg of our stay was spent in the northern city of Hanoi. Here we explored this vast heavily populated city on the banks of the Red River and walked around the central lake and over the Huc Bridge to Quan Thanh Temple. We set off around Hanoi’s old quarter, the thousand-year-old district known as the “36 Streets”. Each street once belonged to a separate merchant guild and is still pretty specialised – a street of shoes, of herbal medicines, of fake Ray-Bans. Shopper’s heaven really!
We drove four hours out to Ha Long Bay and boarded a luxury cruise boat (Vietnamese junk style) for a two night cruise around this magical area in the Gulf of Tonkin. The bay consists of a dense cluster of over 1969 limestone monolithic islands each topped with thick jungle vegetation, rising spectacularly from the ocean. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves. We spent two days exploring some of these islands and caves, including a walk up 400 stairs to a very scenic lookout on Tip Top Island. The bay is heart-stoppingly beautiful, especially at dawn and dusk, when the shadows on the forested limestone towers turn it into dreamland. As part of the cruise we visited a completely self sufficient floating village complete with their own school and a fish farm.
Vietnam is an exciting place, with much of the charm of Thailand but less problematic and tawdry. Its terrible history has, so far, kept it mostly unspoiled by tourism and, goodness knows, is compelling in itself. If you are looking for a great holiday on a budget with cheap tasty food, good shopping and beautiful beach resorts, then Vietnam is a must see!
Article written by Kathy Marris at 50shadesofage.com
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