Renee Cassar is one of our Business Development Managers in Australia and has been on several Vietnam tours. Here she talks about her experience of her favourite travel destination.
When people say they want to visit a country steeped in history and culture, they are usually talking about somewhere in Europe – like Italy, or Greece. But what people often fail to realise is that not far from our doorsteps (in Australia at least!) lies Vietnam – a country with a rich and often troubled history. It also offers travellers a vibrant culture, amazing food and friendly people. In this article, I’ll discuss some of my favourite destinations in Vietnam, which I’ve visited on several Vietnam tours with On The Go.
Ho Chi Minh City
Within a few hours of touching down in Vietnam for the first time, I knew this was a place I would visit time and time again. Ho Chi Minh is a city of new and old. A modern, towering city skyline contrasts with the older French colonial buildings and traditional pagodas. You don’t have to look far to find amazing street food, a traditional Vietnamese coffee (I prefer mine on ice but each to their own) and a booming nightlife, with plenty of cultural and historic attractions to boot.
A trip to Ho Chi Minh wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the famous Ben Thanh Market, where you can get everything from herbs and spices to handbags and shoes. The colours and sounds are an explosion of the senses, and it is well worth delving into the chaos for a couple of hours. A visit to The War Remnants Museum is a confronting and sobering experience, but a definite must, to learn more about the devastating conflict waged in the country during 1955 – 1975. Afterwards, you can relax and soak up the atmosphere of the city from one of its many vibrant dining venues. I also highly recommend taking a day trip cruising the Mekong and heading out to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This city has so much to offer that you will need more than a few days to see it properly.
Vietnam is a long, thin country, so much of your time will be spent journeying north or south – starting at Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh and working your way up or down the country is the best way to take everything in. Located in roughly the middle of Vietnam is the famous UNESCO-listed town of Hoi An – an absolute must.
This is one of my all-time favourite places to visit. From its cobbled stone streets and ornate architecture to the brightly coloured lanterns that light up the night after dark, this town has so much to offer. Cars are not allowed to travel within the Old Town, so wandering through the streets is a far less stressful experience than other major cities. It also adds a special uniqueness to the visit. One of the best ways to explore is to hire a bike and ride around town, just as the locals do.
Moving further north, we reach the capital Hanoi. Like its sister city down south, Hanoi has done well to preserve the old while embracing the new. The Old Quarter is a wonderful reminder of years gone by, as is the stunning colonial architecture. You don’t have to look too far to find natural beauty either. The shimmering lakes, parks and shady boulevards are always lush and green.
Arguably, Halong Bay is Vietnam’s most incredible natural attraction. Just a couple of hours drive from Hanoi and you’re at the doorstep of one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth. A trip to Vietnam wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Halong Bay. I highly recommend spending a night or two on a traditional Junk Boat cruising the bay. I promise you won’t be disappointed! (On The Go include this on all of their Vietnam tours visiting Halong!). There are many activities to choose from to fill your day(s) – swimming, kayaking, trekking, exploring the magical inlets and island hopping to name a few. But if cruising while sipping cocktails is more your thing then the stunning scenery will keep you entertained.
And so much more
This beautiful part of the world has so much to offer. There really are so many other incredible sites and cities in Vietnam that it would be hard to see them all in one trip. The imperial city of Hue, the ruined temple city of My Son and the blissful beaches of Nha Trang are just a few more examples. For me, Vietnam is the destination that keeps on giving. Go once and you’ll have an incredible experience, but go two, three or four times and you’ll continue to make new memories and discover new gems.
And don’t forget, Vietnam is just one amazing country in Southeast Asia. Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar are just a hop, skip and jump away. On The Go Tours have a range of multi-country trips, so you can combine one or more of their Vietnam tours with some of these other destinations.