- Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), 3 days
- Mekong Delta, 3 days
- Phan Thiet Resort, 4 days
- Dalat, 3 days
- Nha Trang Resort, 4 days
- Phu Quoc Beach, 3 days
- Hanoi stopover, 3 days
- Halong Bay, 2 days
- Halong Bay Cruise, 2 days
- Halong Bay Cruise, 3 days
- Highland Places and Tribal Faces of Sapa, 4 days
- Classic Vietnam (Northbound), 7 days
- Classic Vietnam (Southbound), 7 days
- Vietnam Showcase (Northbound), 12 days
- Vietnam Showcase (Southbound), 12 days
SMALL GROUP DEPARTURES
- Cambodia & Vietnam Explorer, 14 days
- Essential Indochina, 12 days
- Essential Vietnam, 9 days
- Highlights of Vietnam, 10 days
- Inside Vietnam and Cambodia, 21 days
- Scenic Vietnam, 15 days
- Vietnam Insight, 11 days
- Pandaw Cruise - Mekong River - Saigon to Siem Reap (Vietnam to Cambodia or in the reverse), 4, 5 and 8 days
- Mekong River Cruise - Le Cochinchine Boat, 2 days
- Orion Expedition Cruises
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Vietnam Arrival Guide
An understanding of history still goes a long way in Vietnam, since the country has a unique civilization and a highly cultured people. Most visitors to Vietnam are overwhelmed by the sublime beauty of the country's natural setting: the Red River Delta in the north, the Mekong Delta in the south and almost the entire coastal strip are a patchwork of brilliant green rice paddies tended by women in conical hats.
The country has rapidly climbed out of its post-war fatigue and the boom in travel has enabled more contemporary and relevant portraits of the country to gain currency in the West. Vietnam offers a rare opportunity to see a country of traditional charm and beauty taking the first hesitant steps into the modern world.
HO CHI MINH CITY
Ho Chi Minh City is the heart and soul of Vietnam. It is a bustling, dynamic and industrious city, and the economic capital. The streets, where much of the city's life takes place, is a myriad of shops, stalls, stands-on-wheels and vendors selling wares spread out on sidewalks. Within the teeming metropolis are the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture.
Sights include the Giac Lam Pagoda, the neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral, Reunification Hall, Cholon market and the former US embassy, scene of such havoc during the 1975 evacuations.
Hanoi, capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is one of the most enchanting cities in Asia - a lovely landscape of lakes, shaded boulevards and verdant parks and home to such beautiful and diverse architectural treasures as a 1500-year-old pagoda, colonial French homes and astounding modern skyscrapers. Its bustling markets, thriving night life and excellent food add to the attractions of this ancient city.
Birthplace to so much of Vietnam's traditional culture, Hanoi, more than any other city in Vietnam, is a unique fusion of old and new. It personifies the spirit of historic Vietnam in the temples, monuments and pockets of ancient culture in the Old Quarter, yet perfectly reflects the rapid changes sweeping the country.
The most beautiful city in Vietnam, Hue was the country's capital from 1802 to 1945, and has long been a major cultural, religious and educational centre. The remains of the huge Citadel contain many interesting sights, such as the Nine Holy Cannons, the Imperial Enclosure, the Palace of Supreme Harmony and the Halls of the Mandarins.
Sadly, the intriguing Purple Forbidden City was largely destroyed during the Vietnam War. About 15 km (9 mi) south of Hue are the Royal Tombs. Hue has many other places of religious and dynastic importance, and some good museums.
Although developing into a major beach resort, Nha Trang is still fairly quiet. With very clear turquoise waters, snorkelling and diving are prime activities, and just lazing on the town beach is an experience in itself. You'll be offered everything from lunch to a manicure. When you tire of the beach, there are some interesting sites nearby, such as the Cham Towers of Po Nagar, built between the 7th and 12th centuries on a site that had been used for Hindu worship as early as the 2nd century.
Nha Trang is a major fishing port, so excellent seafood is available. You will find the best restaurants in the central area. The exotic dragon fruit (thanh long) grows only in the Nha Trang area. It is about the size and shape of a small pineapple but tastes something like a kiwi fruit.
The city of Dalat is the main centre of the Southern Highlands region. In the past it was renowned as a cool, green city with a park-like environment. This is changing fast, as the economy booms and life speeds up. Still, Dalat is definitely worth a visit and it is a good base for trips into the surrounding tranquil highlands.
In Dalat, make sure you visit the Hang Nga Guesthouse & Art Gallery, nicknamed by locals the Crazy House. It is a counter-cultural gem created by artist and architect Mrs. Dang Viet Nga (known as Hang Nga). The Emperor Bao Dai's Summer Palace is full of interesting art and everyday objects. It is also interesting to stroll around the old French Quarter. The Valley of Love, 5 km (3 mi) north of the city centre, is a bizarre place where you can hire a paddle boat on the lake or a horse from one of the Dalat Cowboys who are, indeed, dressed as cowboys.
There are some pleasant walks or rides (on horseback or bike) in the countryside around the city. Further out, you can visit the villages of some of the hill tribes, such as Lat Village and the Chicken Village (with a huge statue of a chicken).
Magnificent Halong Bay, with its more than 1900 islands rising from the clear, emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, is one of Vietnam's natural marvels. The tiny islands are dotted with innumerable beaches and grottoes created by the wind and waves. The most impressive of the grottoes is the Hang Dau Go, a huge cave of three chambers.
The name Ha Long means 'where the dragon descended into the sea', and refers to a legend about a dragon that created the bay and islands with its flailing tail. Taking a tour of the bay is the main activity here. If you want to see a lot, choose a fast boat. If you want a romantic experience but with the risk of getting hardly anywhere, look for one of the old junks.
The main town in the region is Halong City, which is in two halves, one on the mainland and one on a neighbouring island. Halong City West, on the island, is the more scenic.