Beautiful scenery, mysterious caves, deep jungles along the coast, small islets with beaches, all make HaLong Bay a spectacular destination for a holiday re meeting. The bay is four hours from HaNoi but authorities are now working on a plan to build a highway linking HaNoi to Hai Phong. The project is due for completion late next year and will then shorten travel time by an hour and a half.
The Temple of Literature and the Opera House – both epitomize the best of HaNoi. The 1,000 year old capital city of VietNam, previously the seat of French Indochina and Tonkin (end of 19th century and early 20th century), is a marvellous blend of two cultures, Vietnamese and French. The cohabitation of both worlds gives to HaNoi its distinctive architectural elegance. The city is a hub for art and literature, preserving with success its Asian essence. The old quarter near the beautiful HoanKiem Lake is bustling with local shops and traders living as they did almost a century ago. Sampling the cuisine on offer in the old quarter is a great experience as most dishes are healthy and tasty! Sightseeing is best undertaken on a bicycle or by pedicab or motorcycle taxi. Not to be missed is the mausoleum of founding father HoChiMinh. It shows the deep respect of the Vietnamese for the legendary figure of ‘Uncle Ho’. Around the mausoleum is the former French administration district with its opulent villas, while the nearby Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – HaNoi highlights a thousand years of the capital’s history.
Da Nang/Hoi An
The contrast between both cities is surprising but not necessarily jarring. Da Nang is turning its eye to the future, building a skyline of glitzy towers and shopping facilities along its riverfront. Spectacular bridges, new malls and beautiful resorts are reshaping the image of Da Nang City, while a few colonial style buildings – including the Museum of Cham Sculpture – remind us of a time when the city was called “Tourane”. Around 25km south of Da Nang, the old city of Hoi An is nestled along the river. Its small mansions mix Orient, Western and Viet Nam architectural details and are filled with local handicraft shops, quaint restaurants, cafes, art galleries and museums. The old market is probably the busiest place to visit in this slow-paced city, which is listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Behind the official name of HoChiMinh City beats the heart of Saigon, the historical name of Viet Nam’s largest metropolis. Saigon was synonymous with trading and entertainment in the past. And in a way, it still is today. During the day visitors will enjoy sightseeing in the old city centre, where some of the grand structures from the French period have been preserved, including the General Post Office, the Municipal Theatre and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Ben Thanh Market, with its myriad of shops, old Chinatown in Cho Lon, and the Botanical Gardens are also interesting places to be discovered. At night the terraces of Ho Chi Minh City’s most famous hotels fill up with locals and foreigners, while the night market spreads its wings around Ben Thanh central market.