5 reasons why Vietnam should be top of your bucket list
In a tourist region long dominated by hedonistic and hyper-modern destinations such as Thailand and Japan, Vietnam has been left behind for a long time. However, as more and more travellers experienced modern Vietnam, the perception began to shift. In fact, the country was recently named as the fifth fastest growing tourist destination in the world. Why? Well, read on…
Ha Long Bay
In a country rich in unforgettable landscapes, Ha Long Bay has become the number one draw. When you witness the area’s many limestone islands – each sculpted into fantastical shapes by the wind and waves – it’s not hard to see why.
The best way to see these otherworldly wonders up close is via one of the boats that cruise between them. Here, you have options – a luxury cruise will provide five-star amenities, including meals and an onboard spa. A mid-price choice will still provide a comfortable cabin (which is important for overnight journeys). Budget options are worth assessing before boarding. Another possibility (which can be combined with a cruise) is kayaking even closer to the towering isles.
Vietnam’s capital, meanwhile, is a thoroughly modern metropolis which has reclaimed its beautiful French and Chinese colonial architecture for the locals. Its bustling Old Quarter (some of which dates back 1000 years) is home to countless shops and stalls selling the wares of the country’s famed craftspeople. Indeed, with more than 60 guilds – from candlesticks to embroidery – and a street dedicated to each particular product, the choice can be dizzying.
To catch some air, head to the West Lake district, a picturesque waterfront which hosts upmarket seafood restaurant and cafés. With a cycle track circling the water, it’s also a great place to take a ride.
Back in the wild, the Mekong Delta is a wonderful waterway sometimes shaded by mangroves, sometimes opening up into majestic floodplains. Take it slow drifting along in a sampan (a flat-bottomed boat), or follow the river from the land, cycling or hiking through coconut groves and between temples.
Among the other attractions on the route are the Cai Be Floating Market with its exotic produce and factory tours for locally-produced goods such as coconut candy.
Deep in central Vietnam lies the former feudal capital of the country back when it was ruled by the Nguyen Dynasty. And so, here are the glories of Imperial Vietnam – from temples to palaces.
Due to bombing during the country’s turbulent 20th Century, glorious pagodas stand alongside heaps of rubble, but the contrast takes nothing from the scale of the complex, or the beauty of the buildings remaining (and, of course, ruins have their own peculiar charm). With tombs, ceremonial gates and even a citadel to explore, Hue offers an incredible day of exploration and remembrance.
The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
And, speaking of the past, Vietnam’s more recent struggles with colonial powers can’t – and shouldn’t – be entirely forgotten. Although modern Vietnamese people have long-since moved on from the wars’ toxic legacy, certain parts have been preserved for reflection on a terrible time.
The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City is a particularly convenient way for tourists to take in the experience. The arms used in the conflict are displayed alongside graphic photographs and audio accounts from Vietnamese people who lived through the time. It’s a sobering experience, but one worth having.
Please note: This has been a collaborative posting