In elegant Hanoi, visit the atmospheric Temple of Literature and the charming One Pillar Pagoda, shop at Dong Xuan Market and the traditional stores of the Old Town of 36 Streets or even catch a performance of water puppet theatre.
The unforgettable landscape of Ha Long Bay astounds with its picturesque view of boats on placid waters, surrounded by mysterious limestone formations. Go trekking among the hill tribes and mountains of Sa Pa and Ba Be Lake, and explore the temples of Hoa Lu and caves of Tam Coc.
Hue, former city of emperors, impresses with its grand Citadel, beautiful imperial tombs and famous Thien Mu Pagoda along the Perfume River. Be sure to check out the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Da Nang, wander around the historic old houses and delightful cafes of Hoi An, and explore the ancient ruins of My Son. The pristine beach resort of Nha Trang offers promenade walks, fresh seafood and unparalleled snorkelling among its coral reefs. After all that traveling, escape the heat by going to the highlands of Da Lat.
In Ho Chi Minh City, understand the history of modern Vietnam at the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum. Visit the Emperor of Jade Pagoda in Cholon and shop at the boutiques of Dong Khoi Street. Take daytrips to the underground passages of the Cu Chi Tunnels, the flamboyant Cao Dai Temple in Tay Ninh, and the sand dunes of Mui Ne Beach.
The most comfortable way of getting around is to hire a car and driver. Flights connect all major towns and modern planes make air travel safe and reliable. Long-distance buses can be slow but are cheap and convenient ways of getting just about everywhere in Vietnam. Access buses through tour agencies and bus stations.
Trains link Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with comfortable first-class sleeping bunks and dining cars. But they're only for the traveler with lots of time, as the entire journey takes at least two days.
Within cities, your choices are taxi, cyclo, motorbike taxi, or xe loi (motorbikes attached to a passenger cart), depending on how adventurous you want to be!
Do dress well when visiting temples and pagodas. Don't bare your shoulders or knees, or wear low-cut tops. Shorts and singlets are an absolute no-no.
Do bring a map and carry your hotel's business card. It will make your return journey easier for the taxi driver.
Don't take video cameras into the minority villages as they are considered intrusive. Always ask for permission before taking a photograph of someone.
Don't pass anything over someone’s head. Instead, use both hands.
Did you know…?
Vietnam's unique water puppet theatre originated from village festivals, where performances took place on ponds. Painted in bright colours and manipulated by puppeteers hidden behind a screen, the wooden puppets appear to be mysteriously floating over the water surface. Catch a live performance in Hanoi or Hue.
Vietnam is justifiably proud of its nuoc mam, or fish sauce. A prized staple, it gives a distinct flavour to soups, marinades and condiments. The best sauce comes from Phu Quoc, where fish are fermented in decades-old wooden barrels. The highest quality of "extra-virgin" sauce comes from the first extraction, with bottles labeled to indicate authenticity.
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