Home to dramatic landscapes, evocative architecture, vibrant cities, delectable cuisine
Home to dramatic landscapes, evocative architecture, vibrant cities, delectable cuisine and a budding contemporary art scene, Vietnam is one of Asia’s fastest growing countries and finest tourist destinations. With the South China Sea lapping its eastern shore, Vietnam is blessed with gorgeous beaches and bustling port towns.
Where is Vietnam located and how to get there?
Sitting across China in the north and Laos and Cambodia in the west, Vietnam is located in Southeast Asia. Hanoi, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) are the primary gateways with excellent connectivity with major travel hubs such as Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong. Vietnam Airlines flies direct from London to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and Qatar Airways (via Doha) and Emirates (via Dubai) also offer excellent connectivity with Europe and the US.
Vietnam combines well with Cambodia and Laos and for those who enjoy river cruises, the journey on the Mekong between the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and Phnom Penh in Cambodia makes for a hugely interesting and rewarding experience.
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Where are Vietnam’s top places and experiences?
Reminiscent of China in many ways, Vietnam is an incredibly diverse and versatile travel destination. Whether you are soaking up Hanoi’s beautiful French colonial vibe, cruising amongst the majestic karst mountains of Halong Bay or hiking through the misty mountains and remote hill-tribe villages in the north; wandering across the former imperial capitals and enjoying some quietude on the gorgeous beaches in the centre; or discovering the remnants of the Vietnam War and indulging in a great melange of contemporary architecture, art and micro-breweries in Saigon, Vietnam’s understated beauty and charming people make it one of Asia’s most alluring destinations.
- The Far North - An area of astounding natural beauty, the misty mountains in the north of Vietnam are home to verdant rice terraces and valleys, and a variety of ethnic minorities and hill tribes. It is a must-visit region for seasoned travellers who are interested in outdoor adventures including trekking, hiking, and cycling. The region’s highlights include Sapa – a charming summer retreat built by the French in the 1920s, Mai Chau Valley with its pristine villages of wooden stilt houses, and Ha Giang – Vietnam’s northernmost and most remote province offering some of the finest wilderness experiences amidst stunning landscapes of rice fields and orchards hidden amongst impressive limestone outcrops and dramatic gorges.
- Hanoi & Halong Bay - Confucianism meets La Belle Epoque in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi with charming colonial merchants’ houses, leafy boulevards and tranquil parks blending with ancient temples and pagodas, ubiquitous street vendors, atmospheric markets and exquisite art galleries. Join the locals in their early morning routing of Tai Chi and aerobics, try a few traditional delicacies such as Vietnamese coffee, Pho and Bun Cha, walk along the railway tracks to explore some of the city’s hidden treasures, learn about the country’s rich heritage at the Temple of Literature – Vietnam’s first university established in 1076, chat to an ex fighter pilot for a fascinating insight into the Vietnam War, shop for curios in the historic Old Quarter and finish off the day with a refreshing pint of a local draft beer, Hanoi offers a perfect introduction to Vietnam, old and new. Located a short sea plane ride from Hanoi is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay, renowned for its ethereal landscape of bright green towering limestone karsts soaring from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. The best way to explore the area is by spending a night or two on a traditional junk boat visiting desolate islets, fishing communities and magnificent caves, as well as kayaking and swimming in the bay.
- Hue & Hoi An - Home of the revered Nguyen Dynasty, Hue served as the royal capital of Vietnam for over a century. Replete with majestic regal monuments and elegant garden houses, Hue lies in Central Vietnam on the banks of the Perfume River. A hub of traditional arts and royal cuisine, Hue is blessed with a beautiful countryside that offers wonderful opportunities for cycling and immersive rural experiences. Another fabulous highlight of Central Vietnam is the historic riverside town of Hoi An. Formerly a thriving port known as Faifo, Hoi An showcases a unique cultural heritage spanning over three centuries of colonial trade, which is beautifully preserved in its UNESCO listed Old Quarter in the form of old tube houses, Chinese pagodas and shrines, French mansions as well as a beautiful Japanese covered bridge. Popularly known as Vietnam’s Savile Row, the town is home to some of the finest tailors in Vietnam who can turn fine silk into exquisite bespoke garments within days. A short drive from Hoi An will bring you to the coast where you will find some of the finest beaches and beach resorts in the country making Hoi An a hugely sought-after destination.
- Ho Chi Minh City - Also known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s economic and industrial capital. Former capital of the French Indochina, the city boasts some of the most impressive colonial architecture such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office and Opera House. Despite its frantic pace and traffic – Saigon is home to over two million two-wheelers – the city has a charming and trendy vibe with superb restaurants and bars, art galleries, boutiques and music venues. It is a convenient base to explore the famous Cu Chi Tunnels and has excellent museums for those interested in Vietnam’s war related history.
- Mekong Delta & River Cruising - Known as Vietnam’s rice bowl, the Mekong Delta is located south of Ho Chi Minh City and is renowned for bustling floating markets, riverside towns and villages, lush farms and orchards, as well as local cottage industries. Major towns like Can Tho and Chau Doc are popular bases to explore this region from, but for a deeper insight, one can explore the region by taking a multiple-day cruise on a private sampan. A few top-end cruises also operate on the Mekong between the Mekong Delta and Phnom Penh or Siem Reap in Cambodia, offering an excellent option to explore some of the more off-the-beaten-track areas along the river without compromising on comfort and fine food.
- Beaches & Islands - With over 2,000 miles of coastline and a handful of islands, Vietnam boasts beautiful beaches and a holiday to Vietnam would be incomplete without a relaxing stay on the beach. Hoi An and Nha Trang in the centre, and Con Dao in the south boast some of the finest beach resorts in the country including Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Amanoi and Six Senses Con Dao.
When is the best time to visit Vietnam?
Vietnam experiences three different weather systems. Like most tropical countries, the weather in Vietnam is generally warm and humid, but it can vary significantly from one region to another depending on the time of the year due to the size of the country. In the north, the weather is typically cooler and dry between November and April. Central Vietnam is dry and hot between February and August, and the south of Vietnam is usually dry and hot between November and April. Overall, for those planning a comprehensive tour of Vietnam covering all the three regions, February to April tends to best period, as the weather will be dry and warm throughout.
How can you help protect and nurture Vietnam’s local environment and communities?
Like most rapidly developing countries, rural to urban migration, lack of equal opportunities and a mass shift to unchecked consumerism have led to many social, economic and environmental problems across Vietnam. There are quite a few eco and socially conscious businesses and organisations that are working with the affected communities and regions to revive the traditional harmony.
- Green Youth Collective (GYC), Hoi An - Green Youth Collective is a social enterprise that focuses on regenerative farming, waste management and skills development aimed at empowering traditional sustainability and conservation practices amongst Vietnam’s youth. Founded and managed by Ms Hanh, GYC operates various projects in and around the historic town of Hoi An in Central Vietnam. These include an organic farm where vulnerable youth from mostly rural and semi-rural parts of Vientam are taught about sustainable farming, low-impact communal living and riverbank erosion; a recycling centre run by women and disabled youth from underprivileged backgrounds that focuses on upcycling linens discarded by top-end resorts and hotels; an initiative focused on carbon offsetting; as well as conducting workshops at local schools and villages.
- Zo Project, Hanoi - Aimed at preserving and promoting Vietnam’s ancient art of handmade paper making, the Zo Project strives to blend the country’s traditional values into the contemporary society. A social business set up by Tran Hong Nhung, this unique initiative supports traditional paper makers in the ethnic minority villages in Northern Vietnam with job opportunities and a stable income keeping sustainability and creativity at its core. The organisation’s mission is focused on increasing eco sustainability throughout the paper production supply chain, enabling and strengthening the engagement between the artists and consumers, and increasing the value and awareness of Vietnamese handmade paper by focusing on market and product insights and development. The organisation runs paper making workshops in Hanoi and regularly collaborates with prominent designers and artists for generating funds and social awareness.
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A holiday to Rajasthan
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A holiday to Bhutan
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Explore with The Explorations Company
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
Nicola Shepherd, founder and CEO of The Exploration Company, organises unusual trips for HNW and UHNW clients ranging from birthday parties at an Indian Maharajah's palace to reliving Sir Vivian Fuchs's 1950s expedition to the South Pole. Citywealth caught ...
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