If you skip central Vietnam, you miss out on some of the country’s most iconic sights, its best beaches and a more relaxed pace.
Determined to neither exceed nor ease from the posted 70-km-per-hour speed limit along Vietnam’s National Route 1A, my driver, Dai, pulsed the gas pedal with his foot as we traveled north on the two-lane highway to the imperial city of Hue.
The road climbed gently from the outskirts of Da Nang toward mountains that serve as a kind of waistband for the lanky country that stretches more than 1,000 miles north to south but is barely 35 miles east to west at its midsection.
At one time, the Truong Son Mountains were a natural bulwark dividing Vietnam. The two halves were brought together under French rule in the mid-19th century, then split into rival states in 1954. You probably know what happened next.
In 2005, the four-mile-long Hai Van Tunnel was opened, cutting through the mountains, a celebrated engineering feat for a country that was just beginning to sow its economic oats.
An alluring combination of striking landscapes and cultural experiences, a visit to Vietnam means you can encounter anything from tropical…
Ha Long Bay
Not only is Ha Long Bay a spectacular collection of 2,000 karst outcrops, but this natural wonder is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore these natural wonders and discover the limestone islands that sit in the bay in the Gulf of Tonkin, where the views are best seen from a boat cruising on the waters. Go on an overnight tour to see the views change throughout the day or hop on a kayak and explore the mammoth caverns with stalagmites and stalactites.
Hanoi is Vietnam’s buzzing capital, where the sound of motorbikes and street vendors are a constant presence. The Old Quarter showcases businesses as they did hundreds of years ago, offering a glimpse into the local life. The open-air museum features historic Asian and French colonial architecture, where you can take a stroll down its scenic tree-lined streets, browse the busy markets and visit the city’s collection of excellent museums.
On February 10, Xuan Truong Construction Company opened the third waterway for operation at Trang An eco-tourism site to serve tourists visiting the Trang An Scenic Landscape complex.
On the route of the new waterway, visitors will begin their boat journey by embarking at Trang An wharf before being ferried to destinations such as Trinh Temple, May cave, Tien stream, Dia Linh cave, Dai cave, Hanh Cung Vu Lam and the filming location for Kong: Skull Island. The duration of the journey is about 3-4 hours.
Trang An eco-tourism site is part of the Trang An Scenic Landscape complex and located in Ninh Binh province, covering an area of 2,200 hectares.
About 90km away from Hanoi, the complex was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. According to the plan for development, Trang An eco-tourism site will ultimately have nine tourism waterways and two road routes. The opening of the latest route will help increase the number of waterways for tourism in Trang An to three.
NDO – According to UNESCO and many of the world’s countries, the tangible and intangible cultural heritages of all nations are seen as ‘special properties’ of human civilisation with are of great value and should be promoted over time.
Heritages are considered as inexhaustible and irreplaceable assets that can be exploited continually over successive generations. Therefore, if heritages are effectively utilised and promoted, they will bring tremendous worth to the country.
Among the 25 Vietnamese heritages honoured by UNESCO, there are eight cultural and natural treasures. Vietnam is proud to be one of the richest countries for heritage in Asia.
Over the past years, Vietnam has enhanced the communication and promotion of the country’s precious world natural and cultural heritages to attract more visitors. Through tourism activities, the heritage sites have positively contributed to the socio-economic development of the country in general and their localities in particular.
In 2017, world cultural and natural heritage sites in Vietnam attracted 15.76 million visitors, including over 6.5 million foreigners, to earn a total turnover of around VND1.5 trillion (US$65.7 million).
It took us about three hours to get to Cat Ba, an island near Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO world heritage site. The weather was still grey and cold! We found a nice hotel, the Golden Holiday/An An for about £5 a night with very nice staff and generous breakfast included. We walked around Cat Ba town, where there is not much to do nor to see apart from hotels and restaurants. On the next day, we took a scooter to tour around the island. It was very cold and we added gloves to our next shopping list… We stopped at Cat Ba National Park. We didn’t have many expectations but we didn’t think we would have to sign up for a 2 hours hike. It was already midday, and we were just planning on a walk in the park! After half an hour walk, including 15 minutes of walking up stairs, and seeing nothing except from trees, grumpy me decided that I wasn’t really interested in walking another hour and a half to see more trees.
Mary Lussiana heads east to discover the best food, furnishings and fashion in the Vietnamese port city
Hoi An has charm and buzz, and the old quarter is mainly closed to the waves of motorbikes that swarm the streets. So it’s perfect for a pavement seat to watch the women walk past, bamboo poles slung over their shoulders, selling fresh fruit. Morning Glory has long been the go-to restaurant, with queues a regular sight. Try the eponymous vegetable with garlic, or wontons with crabmeat. Much loved by the locals is Miss Ly Café, a family-run restaurant now in its third generation, which specialises in spring rolls and fried rice with shrimp and squid. For a blast of oh-so-welcoming air cond-itioning in the humid months, head to Home Hoi An. This small but sophisticated restaurant seems to be the top spot right now. Try the traditional Hoi An yellow noodles with pork char siu, or the unusual but exquisite lotus bud salad with pork and shrimp.
AREAS TO EXPLORE
Along with Hoi An, My Son is a Unesco World Heritage site.
Ha Long Bay is a beautiful natural wonder, Its calm waters covered with over 1600 limestone islands. Today it attracts thousands of visitors visiting its inlets, caves and other activities such as kayaking. Awarded as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994. Here’s what you need to know before visiting Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.
Your Essential Guide For Visiting Ha Long Bay
Cruising At Ha Long Bay
There are lots of options available when it comes to cruising Ha Long Bay. We had a one night/ two-day cruise booked as part of our tour package. It turned out to be of great value and included most of the options included in longer cruises but with a shorter duration time for the activities. When visiting Ha Long Bay it is advised to travel with only a small carry on rucksack, as there is limited storage on both the bus and small boat transfer (you can leave the large backpack/suitcase securely at the hotel and collect upon return).
Former imperial capital Huế City received 1.5 million foreign tourists last year, increasing by 42.5 per cent in 2016.
Foreign tourists comprised half of the total visitors to Huế, a UNESCO world heritage site, famous for its imperial architecture and culture.
The highest number of foreign tourists – 26 per cent of the total – was from South Korea. Visitors from France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Thailand had the second to sixth highest percentages, respectively.
Total revenue from tourism last year was US$155 million.
According to the local Tourism Department, the tourism sector made attempts to diversify its products by adding tour programmes to lagoons and rural areas and introducing destinations outside the UNESCO heritage system.
The sector expects to receive 42 million visitors this year, half of them foreign tourists.
To achieve this target, the department called for private investment to develop standard restaurants that could accommodate up to 2,000 customers at the same time. It also requested local authorities to introduce direct flights from Huế to countries with the highest proportion of tourists to the city, including Japan, South Korea and Thailand.
Hoi An is an incredibly charming town on Vietnam’s central coast, well-known for its greatly preserved Ancient Town, cut through with canals.
I absolutely loved spending a week there, exploring the beautiful ancient city that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I was lucky enough to be there during the lunar lantern festival where the old town shuts off electricity in the evenings, is closed to traffic and transforms into magical alleyways of colourful lanterns, flickering candles and lively gatherings.
Once a major port, the melting-pot history is reflected in its grand architecture, a mixture of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colourful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge.
It is an atmospheric and delightful place to visit, with little traffic and pollution, a nearby stunning beach, delicious and fresh cuisine and so much to do.
Here are my top recommendations for Hoi An, a place not to be missed on your next trip to Vietnam.
Wander The Ancient Streets
There’s no better way to explore a new place than by walking the streets.
Hanoi (VNA) – The UNESCO Office in Hanoi and Vietnam Cultural Heritage Conservation Support Fund has held a round-table meeting to discuss a new approach to study Vietnam’s heritage.
The January 16 meeting marked the beginning of a series of regular discussions on heritage-regulated issues, aimed at satisfying the demand for exchanging information between specialists and mass media. It was attended by UNESCO representatives in Vietnam, representatives of the management boards of Vietnam’s world heritage sites as well as heritage specialists.
A report generalising the studies conducted by Lucerne University (Switzerland), Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences and UNESCO Office in Hanoi, distributed at the discussion, points out the necessity to amend and supplement the framework of Vietnam’s laws to match the policy on the integration of a sustainable development perspective into the processes of the World Heritage Convention, which has been adopted by UNESCO.