Cruising Halong Bay is one of those must have experiences: Vietnam Pictures, photo by Adam Jones.
Vietnam Pictures: Why visit?
This thin slice of a country has attractions inconveniently scattered along its length, with Ha Noi (Hanoi) over 1, 000 miles from Ho Chi Minh City, whereas for example, neighbouring Cambodia hosts a group of magnificent old buildings in one compact area, Angkor.
However, though travel in Vietnam requires a little more time and effort, this will be rewarded by good standards of accommodation, great cuisine, some pretty good cultural offerings, impressive beaches and the usual friendly Asiatic people. American and French failed imperialist warmongers welcome!
Best tourist places in Vietnam
One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi, one of a good selection of attractions. Photo by Bui The Tam.
The 1, 000-year-old capital city is set in a beautiful lake-scattered landscape with a fair number of interesting sights and museums and a sticky sub-tropical climate. It features many striking French colonial buildings from its time as centre of the French Indochina empire, as well as fine Chinese-influenced Vietnamese architecture including many temples. The city is now being modernized with some speed, speed being the operative word as motorcycles take over the streets.
Rural women heading for market in Vietnam’s prettiest little town, Hoi An.
A medieval trading port, Hoi An has a unique historic background of mixed Chinese, Japanese and European influences.
The whole town is like a an open-air museum – a local guide would be useful here.
Not to be missed are old Chinese houses, the Fujian Congregation Hall (Phuc Kien Pagoda) and the Japanese bridge-pagoda.
Kai Dinh’s brilliant tomb in Hue. Plenty more where that came from.
The ancient imperial city, beautifully located with a tranquil atmosphere, Hue houses a Citadel and a fortified palace which is one of the country’s most important historic sites.
The main Hue sights are: The Citadel, including the Imperial City; Tien Mu Temple (Pagoda); Royal Tombs including Tombs of Minh Mang and Khai Dinh; the road to Da Nang – aka ‘the Mandarin Road’ – through Truong Son Mountains is a picturesque driving route, with the highest point known as ‘the Pass of Clouds’.
Vietnam weather best for tourism is November-April.
However, relatively cool and dry in most areas, Vietnam can be cold, damp and foggy from February-April in the north, e. g. Hanoi or Sapa.
Worst: May-September when it’s hot, humid and invaded by mosquitoes and typhoons (violent rain storms). Beware of floods in Mekong Delta in September.
Plan ahead if you wish to holiday during the Tet New Year Festival (late Jan – early February) as it can be a problem getting accommodation and transport.