The sights & sounds of... Vietnam
Latin America & Far East expert Nick Wilkins recently returned to Vietnam for the first time in almost ten years. Here he tells us about what has and hasn’t changed.
I last visited Vietnam 10 years ago, but my recent trip showed me that whilst the pace of progress and development has increased, the things that drew me to the country the first time remain unchanged. From north to south the country is a diverse one, with crowded, vibrant cities, to stunning natural scenery, that should attract the first time visitor or tempt those who have already been to return again.
The capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is an intriguing blend of grandiose monuments such as Ho Chi Min’s mausoleum and the crowded Old Quarter, next to Hoan Kim Lake. The best way to see the Old Quarter is to take a cyclo ride through the narrow streets.
A visit to the water puppet theatre gives you a chance to see a uniquely Vietnamese art form, see video below.
Around three hours to the west of Hanoi is the small town of Mai Chau, close to the Laos border. I spent an enjoyable afternoon cycling around the valley through the paddy fields, seeing a side of rural Vietnam that few tourists get to see.
The area is home to some of Vietnam’s minority peoples, who will entertain you with a display of traditional dance, see video below.
Halong Bay is a must-see for any visitor. The bay is a stunning location east of Hanoi, where 3000 limestone pinnacles rise out of the water to create a stunning setting and a paradise for photographers.
Hoi an is a small riverside town close to some of Vietnam’s finest beaches. Little known to tourists, there is a definite charm to the town, which was a trading port in past centuries. There are still influences in some of the architecture, such as the Japanese Bridge. It was my second visit to Hoi An and it still remains one of my favourite places in the country.
One aspect of Vietnam that I recall from my first visit some 10 years ago was the food. I was treated to many wonderful meals during my stay especially the 10 course lunch I was served in Hue including a rice container carved from a single pumpkin. Hue was the Imperial capital of the country during the 19th century and the citadel with the adjacent enormous flag tower are highlights to be enjoyed.
Officially known as Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon in the south of the country runs at a faster pace than Hanoi. Set on the banks of the Saigon River the city does have some wonderful examples of buildings from it’s colonial period such as the Opera House and the City Hall.
View Cox & Kings' luxury tours to Vietnam.