Tailormade tour Romance of Vietnam touring holiday Vietnam

12 nights/13 days

Hanoi • Sapa • Ha Long Bay • Nha Trang • Ho Chi Minh City

During this twelve-night romantic tour, explore Vietnam, north and south, with a homestay, an overnight on a junk in Ha Long bay, an Emperor cruise in Nha Trang Bay and visits to markets in Saigon. You will meet local villagers, explore the remote region of Sapa, and then relax on an isolated peninsula in Nha Trang Bay.
Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from about £4,390 per person.

Luxury touring holiday with local guides of romantic Vietnam and providing an authentic insight into the land and people, from the remote Sapa in the north to Saigon in the south

This 12-night luxury romantic touring holiday of Vietnam introduces you to an authentic insight into the land and people of Vietnam, from the remote Sapa lands of the north to Saigon in the south. This tour is an appealing mix of traditional sites coupled with authentic experiences that will provide an unforgettable attraction to the country. From Hanoi, you travel about 50 kms into the country to the Moon Garden Homestay in Ky Son village, where you visit a Vietnamese home and take part in a cooking lesson. This is your first introduction to the ‘real’ Vietnam. After two nights in Hanoi, you travel north through Yen Bai and Lao Cai provinces, towards the Chinese border. The scenery is breathtaking and these mountain regions are home to hill tribes. You will stay amongst the Black H’mongs in Cat Cat village and walks in the surrounding area will give you photo opportunities and a real flavour of local life. There are visits to local markets and then you travel to Ha Long Bay to spend a night on a luxury junk in this UNESCO site. You then fly to Nha Trang for an Emperor cruise in the bay and then have two nights to relax in a beach hotel in Nha Trang. From Nha Trang you fly to Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) and enjoy a last thrust of sightseeing, both cultural and historical, with an optional A O show that captures the uniqueness of Vietnam in the engaging style of contemporary circus. You have two nights to enjoy Saigon before flying home.

Highlights

Moon Garden Homestay visit • Visit local people at Sapa • Walk in the Hoang Lien National Park • Ethnic Sapa market • Ha Long Bay overnight cruise • Emperor cruise Nha Trang Bay • Museum of War in Ho Chi Minh City • Jade Emperor Temple • Ben Thanh market

Day by day

You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Time to relax, and then, in the evening, you will enjoy a welcome dinner at restaurant in a colonial building. You spend two nights in Hanoi.

This morning, you are picked up and transferred by car to the Moon Garden Homestay in Ky Son village. This is about 50 kms from Hanoi and was originally a summer home for the family of a Hanoi-based architect, who specialises in the restoration of historic buildings and this is reflected in the design and furnishings of the homestay. There is a lovely central courtyard with outside seating, a 100-year old church, a small pond and a bonsai garden overlooking a lake and surrounding rice fields. Upon arrival here you will have some free time to explore the grounds and the village, and then you participate in a cooking class to learn more about Vietnamese cuisine. You have lunch here and then enjoy a hand-spa treatment with traditional herbs, take a bicycle ride to discover the paths of Thang Thac Village and follow a local guide to explore the ancient village of Duong Lam and Mia Pagoda. Upon your return to Moon Garden, you will be treated to a traditional foot bath and can participate in a Vietnamese prayer ceremony. You are taken back to Hanoi in the late afternoon to spend the night in Hanoi.

After an early breakfast, you are met and driven to Sapa on the new highway through Yen Bai and Lao Cai provinces. The highway takes you up the Red River Delta to the place the river enters Vietnam at Lao Cai City on the border with China. This part of the country includes some of Vietnam’s most spectacular scenery and these mountainous regions are home to many distinct hill tribes, including the H’mong and Dzao people. This region is cooler than other parts of Vietnam and it can be cool and foggy in January and February with average temperatures of about 10°C, with the summer months of June to August being warmest but with rain. Your destination is Sapa, perched on the mountainside opposite Mt. Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest peak. Sapa is in a scenic valley, surrounded by the mountains and with hillside rice terraces. The ethnic communities live in numerous villages, tucked away on the lower slopes of the valleys, and many villagers wear authentic traditional costumes. The driving time from Hanoi to Sapa is about 5 and a half hours. Lunch is included on arrival and then in the afternoon there is a short drive to the entrance of Cat Cat village, home to the Black H’mongs. The village is set in a beautiful valley just outside Sapa. You spend time exploring how the locals live, there are plenty of photo opportunities and then a walk uphill for about 2 kms to meet your car to take you back to Sapa and your accommodation, where you will stay for 2 nights.

Enjoy a hearty breakfast in anticipation of today’s walk. You are driven by car deeper into Hoang Lien National park to start a trek from near Sin Chai village. This is really ‘off-the-beaten-track’ with spectacular views of high mountains, waterfalls and deep valleys. The trails will soon lead you to the red Dao village of Nam Nhiu where you meet the villagers, enjoy a cup of green tea with them at home and learn about their daily way of life. You continue on the trail, leaving the village behind, and glimpse a panorama of the rice valley dotted with bamboo huts, used by farmers to sleep in during harvesting. Passing the rice terraces and a river you walk on a quiet road before reaching Nam Cang village. Lunch is served at a local home here. Nam Cang village is situated at the most remote area of Sapa. The Red Dao women wear the most colourful costumes of all Vietnam’s ethnic groups. The people are very skilled at using herbs and local medicine as well as embroidery. You are accompanied by your guide as you explore the village and learn how the locals make writing rice paper, jewellery and embroidery. At 3pm you are transferred back by car to Topas Ecolodge. Here you might want to book a traditional Red Dzao herbal bath or enjoy a private hill top dinner. (The walking today is of moderate grade and last for about 3.5 hours).

After an early breakfast, your car and guide will arrive to take you to a market frequented by locals. Unlike the markets in tourist areas, the ones we choose are not only for buying and selling but are meeting places for local people to exchange views. There will be plenty of colour and authentic costumes, but very little to buy unless you want to barter for a water buffalo or a sack of fertiliser. Lunch is taken at a local restaurant, then the car takes you back along the new highway to Hanoi. You should arrive here by late afternoon for the night.

After an early breakfast, depart by car for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you will board your boat, a private wooden junk that take you through Bai Tu Long Bay area. Your cruise continues to the bay’s most deserted areas with opportunities to swim at quiet sandy beaches on Hon Co island or to visit one of the least visited caves, Thien Canh Son. The route is designed to avoid the busy areas and includes a quiet location for your overnight on board. Your junk is one of the L’Amour junks, the best wooden boats in the Bay. They are modelled on old Chinese court vessels with three barge sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure. Each boat has only one cabin, which is air-conditioned and has windows overlooking the bay. The floor area is about 10m² and the cabin is furnished with two twin beds or a double queen size bed. The interior panelling, floor and furniture are of hard wood. The cabin has a wardrobe, pillows, white cotton sheets and en-suite toilet and shower with a selection of toiletries. All meals, usually based on fresh seafood, are provided on board. Kayaking is available and is included.

You wake to the fresh air of the bay with chance to relax on the sundeck or to swim. After breakfast your cruise continues to Vung Vieng fishing village with the chance to explore the village and the hidden lagoon in a rustic rowing boat. Check-out of the cabin and cruise towards the harbour while an early lunch is served. You dock about midday and then are transferred to Hanoi Noi Bai airport for a flight to Nha Trang. Once in Nha Trang you are picked up by car and taken to your hotel for the night.

You are collected from your hotel at 8am to be taken to the port in Nha Trang where you board the Emperor Cruise’s junk. You are welcomed on board with an introduction to the junk, the bay and local culture. Your cruise takes you past the Tam, Mot and Mun islands in the bay with your destination being a secluded beach at Bai Cau in Dam Bay Lagoon, near the famous diving site on Mun Island. At the beach, you can snorkel, swim, fish, walk or kayak, in either a normal or glass-bottomed boat, or try a basket boat. Or, just relax at the Mango Bar on the beach enjoying the stunning vista of the sails of the junk against the blue waters of the bay. Lunch is served on boat with local beers, fine wine and premium spirits as the boat anchors near Hon Tam island, known for its tranquil lagoon and fish farms. After lunch, you cruise back to Nha Trang harbour passing Vung Ngan floating village, Vinpearl island, Tri Nguyen aquarium and catching a glimpse of the inhabited Mieu island, which is where you head this afternoon for walking tour to visit the local villages. Learn about the way of life of the villagers of the fishing villages, away from the mainland and interact with the friendly locals. You travel to the fish farms by basket boat and then head back to the junk by speedboat. On board the junk, enjoy refreshing coconut milk, the speciality of the region. Once you dock, you are transferred back to your hotel.

You have two days at leisure in Nha Trang. This is time to rest and relax at a luxury beach hotel in this coastal resort, known for its long, sandy beach, seafront promenade, seafood restaurants, dive sites and off-shore islands. Hon Tre island is reached by aerial cable car and other islands have coral reefs. As well as lovely beaches, there are cultural sites and museums too, such as the Po Nagar Cham towers and the Long Son pagoda.

Enjoy a morning at leisure before an afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh City. After transferring to your centrally located hotel, you’re free to wander around District 1. A possibility is to extend your time in Ho Chi Minh City by one night in order to visit perhaps Ben Tre in the Mekong Delta or the famous Cu Chi tunnels. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is a thriving metropolis which has nevertheless preserved 300 years of traditions and ancient culture. For the evening, you have the option to see the A O Show. The A O show captures much of the uniqueness of Vietnam in the engaging style of contemporary circus. The hour-long show is a fusion of dance, acrobatics and live music with theatrical drama tracing the passage of Vietnam from a rural village culture to the modern, urban society it is today.

After breakfast, your local guide will arrive to take you on a tour of Ho Chi Minh City. You visit the Reunification Hall, an early colonial masterpiece, built to accommodate the Governor-General of Indochina. You also visit the Museum of War Remnants (not for the squeamish) which provides a fascinating perspective of the ‘American War’. Another site visited is the Jade Emperor Pagoda, one of the best Taoist temples in Vietnam with superb effigies, carved panels of the descent to Hell, and also terrapin and tortoise sanctuaries. After the sightseeing, there is time to rest and freshen up or visit the lively Ben Thanh market. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

Enjoy the rest of your time until your transfer to the airport for your return or onward flight.

This holiday exceeded my expectations. The quality of the hotels and excursions were superb.
Ms W, December 2018

Holiday price guide From about £4,390 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code VNDG03

Luxury touring holiday with local guides of romantic Vietnam and providing an authentic insight into the land and people, from the remote Sapa in the north to Saigon in the south

You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Time to relax, and then, in the evening, you will enjoy a welcome dinner at restaurant in a colonial building. You spend two nights in Hanoi.

This morning, you are picked up and transferred by car to the Moon Garden Homestay in Ky Son village. This is about 50 kms from Hanoi and was originally a summer home for the family of a Hanoi-based architect, who specialises in the restoration of historic buildings and this is reflected in the design and furnishings of the homestay. There is a lovely central courtyard with outside seating, a 100-year old church, a small pond and a bonsai garden overlooking a lake and surrounding rice fields. Upon arrival here you will have some free time to explore the grounds and the village, and then you participate in a cooking class to learn more about Vietnamese cuisine. You have lunch here and then enjoy a hand-spa treatment with traditional herbs, take a bicycle ride to discover the paths of Thang Thac Village and follow a local guide to explore the ancient village of Duong Lam and Mia Pagoda. Upon your return to Moon Garden, you will be treated to a traditional foot bath and can participate in a Vietnamese prayer ceremony. You are taken back to Hanoi in the late afternoon to spend the night in Hanoi.

After an early breakfast, you are met and driven to Sapa on the new highway through Yen Bai and Lao Cai provinces. The highway takes you up the Red River Delta to the place the river enters Vietnam at Lao Cai City on the border with China. This part of the country includes some of Vietnam’s most spectacular scenery and these mountainous regions are home to many distinct hill tribes, including the H’mong and Dzao people. This region is cooler than other parts of Vietnam and it can be cool and foggy in January and February with average temperatures of about 10°C, with the summer months of June to August being warmest but with rain. Your destination is Sapa, perched on the mountainside opposite Mt. Fan Si Pan, Vietnam’s highest peak. Sapa is in a scenic valley, surrounded by the mountains and with hillside rice terraces. The ethnic communities live in numerous villages, tucked away on the lower slopes of the valleys, and many villagers wear authentic traditional costumes. The driving time from Hanoi to Sapa is about 5 and a half hours. Lunch is included on arrival and then in the afternoon there is a short drive to the entrance of Cat Cat village, home to the Black H’mongs. The village is set in a beautiful valley just outside Sapa. You spend time exploring how the locals live, there are plenty of photo opportunities and then a walk uphill for about 2 kms to meet your car to take you back to Sapa and your accommodation, where you will stay for 2 nights.

Enjoy a hearty breakfast in anticipation of today’s walk. You are driven by car deeper into Hoang Lien National park to start a trek from near Sin Chai village. This is really ‘off-the-beaten-track’ with spectacular views of high mountains, waterfalls and deep valleys. The trails will soon lead you to the red Dao village of Nam Nhiu where you meet the villagers, enjoy a cup of green tea with them at home and learn about their daily way of life. You continue on the trail, leaving the village behind, and glimpse a panorama of the rice valley dotted with bamboo huts, used by farmers to sleep in during harvesting. Passing the rice terraces and a river you walk on a quiet road before reaching Nam Cang village. Lunch is served at a local home here. Nam Cang village is situated at the most remote area of Sapa. The Red Dao women wear the most colourful costumes of all Vietnam’s ethnic groups. The people are very skilled at using herbs and local medicine as well as embroidery. You are accompanied by your guide as you explore the village and learn how the locals make writing rice paper, jewellery and embroidery. At 3pm you are transferred back by car to Topas Ecolodge. Here you might want to book a traditional Red Dzao herbal bath or enjoy a private hill top dinner. (The walking today is of moderate grade and last for about 3.5 hours).

After an early breakfast, your car and guide will arrive to take you to a market frequented by locals. Unlike the markets in tourist areas, the ones we choose are not only for buying and selling but are meeting places for local people to exchange views. There will be plenty of colour and authentic costumes, but very little to buy unless you want to barter for a water buffalo or a sack of fertiliser. Lunch is taken at a local restaurant, then the car takes you back along the new highway to Hanoi. You should arrive here by late afternoon for the night.

After an early breakfast, depart by car for Ha Long Bay, one of the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Areas and the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. There you will board your boat, a private wooden junk that take you through Bai Tu Long Bay area. Your cruise continues to the bay’s most deserted areas with opportunities to swim at quiet sandy beaches on Hon Co island or to visit one of the least visited caves, Thien Canh Son. The route is designed to avoid the busy areas and includes a quiet location for your overnight on board. Your junk is one of the L’Amour junks, the best wooden boats in the Bay. They are modelled on old Chinese court vessels with three barge sails, a wide transom and rectangular superstructure. Each boat has only one cabin, which is air-conditioned and has windows overlooking the bay. The floor area is about 10m² and the cabin is furnished with two twin beds or a double queen size bed. The interior panelling, floor and furniture are of hard wood. The cabin has a wardrobe, pillows, white cotton sheets and en-suite toilet and shower with a selection of toiletries. All meals, usually based on fresh seafood, are provided on board. Kayaking is available and is included.

You wake to the fresh air of the bay with chance to relax on the sundeck or to swim. After breakfast your cruise continues to Vung Vieng fishing village with the chance to explore the village and the hidden lagoon in a rustic rowing boat. Check-out of the cabin and cruise towards the harbour while an early lunch is served. You dock about midday and then are transferred to Hanoi Noi Bai airport for a flight to Nha Trang. Once in Nha Trang you are picked up by car and taken to your hotel for the night.

You are collected from your hotel at 8am to be taken to the port in Nha Trang where you board the Emperor Cruise’s junk. You are welcomed on board with an introduction to the junk, the bay and local culture. Your cruise takes you past the Tam, Mot and Mun islands in the bay with your destination being a secluded beach at Bai Cau in Dam Bay Lagoon, near the famous diving site on Mun Island. At the beach, you can snorkel, swim, fish, walk or kayak, in either a normal or glass-bottomed boat, or try a basket boat. Or, just relax at the Mango Bar on the beach enjoying the stunning vista of the sails of the junk against the blue waters of the bay. Lunch is served on boat with local beers, fine wine and premium spirits as the boat anchors near Hon Tam island, known for its tranquil lagoon and fish farms. After lunch, you cruise back to Nha Trang harbour passing Vung Ngan floating village, Vinpearl island, Tri Nguyen aquarium and catching a glimpse of the inhabited Mieu island, which is where you head this afternoon for walking tour to visit the local villages. Learn about the way of life of the villagers of the fishing villages, away from the mainland and interact with the friendly locals. You travel to the fish farms by basket boat and then head back to the junk by speedboat. On board the junk, enjoy refreshing coconut milk, the speciality of the region. Once you dock, you are transferred back to your hotel.

You have two days at leisure in Nha Trang. This is time to rest and relax at a luxury beach hotel in this coastal resort, known for its long, sandy beach, seafront promenade, seafood restaurants, dive sites and off-shore islands. Hon Tre island is reached by aerial cable car and other islands have coral reefs. As well as lovely beaches, there are cultural sites and museums too, such as the Po Nagar Cham towers and the Long Son pagoda.

Enjoy a morning at leisure before an afternoon flight to Ho Chi Minh City. After transferring to your centrally located hotel, you’re free to wander around District 1. A possibility is to extend your time in Ho Chi Minh City by one night in order to visit perhaps Ben Tre in the Mekong Delta or the famous Cu Chi tunnels. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is a thriving metropolis which has nevertheless preserved 300 years of traditions and ancient culture. For the evening, you have the option to see the A O Show. The A O show captures much of the uniqueness of Vietnam in the engaging style of contemporary circus. The hour-long show is a fusion of dance, acrobatics and live music with theatrical drama tracing the passage of Vietnam from a rural village culture to the modern, urban society it is today.

After breakfast, your local guide will arrive to take you on a tour of Ho Chi Minh City. You visit the Reunification Hall, an early colonial masterpiece, built to accommodate the Governor-General of Indochina. You also visit the Museum of War Remnants (not for the squeamish) which provides a fascinating perspective of the ‘American War’. Another site visited is the Jade Emperor Pagoda, one of the best Taoist temples in Vietnam with superb effigies, carved panels of the descent to Hell, and also terrapin and tortoise sanctuaries. After the sightseeing, there is time to rest and freshen up or visit the lively Ben Thanh market. Overnight in Ho Chi Minh City.

Enjoy the rest of your time until your transfer to the airport for your return or onward flight.

Holiday price guide From about £4,390 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code VNDG03

Our prices include ● Return scheduled flights with Vietnam Airlines from London to Hanoi, returning from Ho Chi Minh City to London in economy class
● Domestic flights from Hanoi to Nha Trang, Nha Trang to Ho Chi Minh City including airport taxes.
● 4 nights’ bed and breakfast in Hanoi
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in Sapa
● 1 nights’ accommodation on Ha Long Bay boat
● 4 nights’ bed and breakfast in Nha Trang
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in Ho Chi Minh City
● Seven lunches and one dinner (as specified in the itinerary) plus full board on the boat in Ha Long Bay
● Private transfers and sightseeing tours in an air-conditioned car appropriate to the size of your party
● Boat cruises as specified in the itinerary. All Ha Long boats are fully licenced and comply with current safety regulations.
● Services of an English-speaking guide as indicated in the itinerary (free days or part-free days as well as transfers unless specified do not include the services of the guide)
● Concierge service and Expressions Holidays regional helpful hints

Our prices do not include ● Early check-in or late check-out at any hotels (although we can arrange this on request at additional cost)
● Any other services not mentioned above, such as transfers and meals except breakfast at hotels
● Personal holiday insurance. This is essential and cover should be in place from when you book the holiday.
● Local tourist tax, payable locally to the hotel
● Visas – our local agent in Vietnam offers a free visa service
● Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses
● Camera fees where applicable
● There may be supplements for compulsory Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve gala dinners, sometimes payable locally

Expressions Holidays includes these hotels in this touring holiday as suggestions, but they can be substituted by others in the same region, if you have a preference to stay elsewhere.
Hotels included in this tour
Hanoi
Apricot Hotel Value option

The Apricot Hotel in the centre of Hanoi is a wonderful hotel that blends neo classical design with modern comforts, in a pretty lakeside location.

Canvas with garden room

Sofitel Metropole Hanoi Luxury option

The Sofitel Metropole Hotel is a beautiful five-star hotel in Hanoi that combines wonderful facilities with historic elegance and luxury.

Grand luxury room historical wing

Sapa
Topas Ecolodge

Topas Ecolodge is an authentic, country lodge in the remote Sapa Valley

Executive bungalow

Ha Long Bay
L'Amour Junk Value option

The L’Amour Junk is a beautiful, traditional style boat which offers both charm and privacy whilst exploring Ha Long Bay.

Paradise Peak Cruise Luxury option

The Paradise Peak Cruise is an elegant way to explore beautiful Ha Long Bay, providing luxurious attention to detail.

Nha Trang
Mia Nha Trang Resort Value option

Mia Nha Trang Resort is a contemporary and elegant resort in an excellent beachfront location.

Beachfront villa

Six Senses Ninh Van Bay Luxury option

Six Sense Ninh Van Bay is an exclusive 5-star deluxe beach resort in a beautiful beachfront location. Sandy beaches, verdant landscapes and soothing spa facilities create a tranquil ambience perfect for a relaxing and restorative beach holiday.

Ho Chi Minh City
Myst Dong Khoi Value option

The Myst Dong Khoi in Ho Chi Minh City is a truly unique hotel with a stylish design and excellent facilities.

Saigon signature suite

Park Hyatt Saigon Luxury option

The Park Hyatt Saigon is an elegant and luxurious hotel with excellent dining options, in a wonderful location at the centre of Ho Chi Minh City.

Park garden view room

Holiday price guide

From about £4,390 per person based on two people sharing a double room and including for economy flights from London.

Holiday Code VNDG03

Luxury touring holiday with local guides of romantic Vietnam and providing an authentic insight into the land and people, from the remote Sapa in the north to Saigon in the south

About Vietnam

An Expressions tailor-made holiday to Vietnam transports travellers to this serene and vast country. Tracing a long, languid curve down the eastern edge of South East Asia, Vietnam is a land of extraordinary natural beauty. Soaring mountains and swaying rice fields, sweeping beaches and the mighty Mekong, Vietnam has it all, with Halong Bay and its iconic limestone towers the jewel in the country’s dazzling crown. Surviving war after war, colonial rule and communism, Vietnam’s people are determinedly upbeat and inventive, imbuing its cities with a crackling energy almost 24 hours per day. Hanoi is its bristling capital, with elegant colonial buildings overlooking avenues buzzing with motorbikes; old, imperial capital Hue is the cultural heartbeat, with palaces and pagodas, tombs and temples, and a biennial arts festival worth the airfare alone; Ho Chi Minh City – or Saigon as it’s still universally known – is all hustle and bustle, an intoxicating blend of the old and the new, with teeming markets dwarfed by towering skyscrapers. If Vietnam’s cities prove too much, the Mekong Delta provides an ancient, intoxicating foreverness of rice fields and sleepy villages, with river trips taking you along the country’s timeless lifeblood. Inland, peasant women in conical hats still tend to their fields, children ride buffalos along country paths and farmers scratch out a living from rice fields cascading down the sheerest of hillsides. But if Vietnam’s hilly countryside is beautiful, its coastline is simply stunning. With its smattering of limestone karsts rising out of the mist, Halong Bay is the undoubted showstopper, but there are also some stunning beaches. Hoi An and Danang are blessed with sweeps of sand and offer a choice of water sports to match anywhere in Asia. A stunning country of vivid colours and dramatic landscapes, with sensational food, exquisite boutique hotels, and a warmth of welcome that will surprise and overwhelm, Vietnam ensures a wonderful holiday.

Highlights of Vietnam

Boat trips on Halong Bay, with the more adventurous able to explore its caves and secret lagoons by kayak, paddling around its limestone peaks; the long, sweeping beaches of Nha Trang; Vietnamese cuisine, bursting with fresh, vivid spices, as delicious in roadside food stalls as in top restaurants such as Mango Rooms in Hoi An; historic, riverside Hoi An, with superb galleries, particularly Apricot and Mai Tai galleries in the Old Quarter, and Dong Phong Art Gallery in the French Quarter; full-moon ‘Legendary Nights’ in Hoi An, when vehicles are banned from the Old Town, which is transformed into a magical land of silk lanterns, traditional food, song and dance, and games in the streets; explore Phong Nha Cave, the largest and most impressive cave in the country; cycle through Ho Chi Minh City, the city where bike is king; the beaches and unique Cham architecture of Quy Nhon; the rugged mountain retreat of Sapa, home to a plethora of minority tribes, and gateway to the Tonkinese Alps; the mountain town of Dalat; Cat Tien National Park, a lush refuge for city dwellers with ample hiking and bird-watching, plus elephants, crocodiles and the endangered Javan rhino; the beaches of Mui Ne; river trips on the Mekong river, past river towns and sleepy villages, floating markets and fish stalls; the white-sand beaches of Phu Quoc, a little developed forested island gem; Hue, the old imperial capital and now the intellectual, cultural and spiritual heart of Vietnam.

Travel around Vietnam

The 1,600-mile Vietnamese railway system, operated by Vietnam Railways, runs along the coast between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and links the capital with Hai Phong and northern towns. While sometimes even slower than buses, trains offer a more relaxing way to get around and more room than the jam-packed buses. Vietnam has an enormous number of rivers that are at least partly navigable, but the most important by far is the Mekong River and its tributaries. Scenic day trips by boat are possible on rivers in Hoi An, Danang, Hué, Tam Coc and even HCMC, but only in the Mekong Delta are boats used as a practical means of transport. Boat trips are also possible on the sea. Cruising the islands of Halong Bay is a must for all visitors to north Vietnam. In the south, a trip to the islands off the coast of Nha Trang is popular.

Facts in brief

Capital Hanoi
Airport There are three international airports in Vietnam. They are Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City, Noi Bai airport in Hanoi and Da Nang Airport in Da Nang.
Size 128,000 sq. miles
Population 95 million
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