Vietnam is a country of extraordinary diversity with more distinctive experiences to offer than any other country in South East Asia. From the westernised and progressive south, with its bustling and frenetic cities, to the palm fringed beaches of the country’s centre.
Saigon, the largest and busiest of Vietnam’s cities is a city of amazing contrasts: exclusive restaurants and trendy bars side-by-side with roadside noodle stalls, street children and vociferous cyclo drivers. There are the elegant colonial French boulevards and buildings, the Cathedral, the riverfront, the quiet moments at a sidewalk cafe watching the world literally go by you at breakneck speed.
At the other end of the country lies its capital Hanoi. A city of lakes and parks, of tree-lined streets resplendent with French colonial villas and mansions, Hanoi is a European capital in the heart of Asia. The Old French Quarter is a maze of crammed narrow alleyways. Wide bicycle-filled boulevards, faded but elegant architecture, the grandeur and solemnity of Ho Chi Minh’s monumental Mausoleum, the incongruous rustic simplicity of the house in which ‘Uncle Ho’ lived out his final years, the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ where so many prisoners of war were incarcerated, the religious pride that constructed so many serene temples and pagoda complexes.
In between these two marvellous cities lies a country with its agricultural society at its heart. Journeying throughout the country one will find endless emerald rice fields backed by rugged mountain ranges and a coastal landscape that takes a dramatic turn at every corner. Popular beach resorts include Phan Thiet and Nha Trang and in the centre the quaint merchant town of Hoi An.
Besides the central and coastal areas of Vietnam there are added attractions of the Mekong Delta with its floating markets and mystical boat journeys and the far north, with its former French hill stations and villages communities of ethnic groups, not to mention superb territory for trekking or mountain hiking.
Our favourite must do is Halong Bay, a massive area of limestone karsts and mountains in an emerald sea. Sail through this area in a reconverted junk boat or kayak to one of the many hidden lagoons. We offer a number of different cruise options in the bay.