**NEWSFLASH** - Carla recently returned from Vietnam. Details of her trip and photographs will be available here soon. If you are looking to travel to Vietnam, contact Carla to plan and book your holiday today on 01543 258631.
NEW - Siem Reap to Saigon tour
NEW - Cycling in Vietnam
We report on a first visit to Indochina...
Vietnam - a country whose name for many people brings back memories of the War with America but now a country embracing a new beginning with its people looking forward to the future instead of looking back to the horrors of the 1950's & 60's.
Having just returned from one of the best holidays I have ever been on I would highly recommend you to consider visiting this delightful country with its stunning sights, lovely gentle people and amazing scenery. Utilising the new Vietnamese Airlines flight from Gatwick (the only airline with direct flights from the UK) we flew to Hoe Chi Minh City (Saigon) and then straight on to Hanoi, the capital situated in the north. My first impression was the change in climate, our arrival in Saigon had been greeted by lovely bright sunny weather and a temperature of 73 degrees at 0700hrs. Following our 2 hour flight to Hanoi we were greeted by grey skies, rain (which was to accompany us for the next 3 days) and temperatures more akin to the UK.
Staying in the Old Quarter however was a delight and included visits to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex, the famous Hanoi Hilton used as a prison for the American soldiers and named the Hilton by them, several outstanding museums, a trip to a traditional water puppet show and a tour by rickshaw around the Old Quarter. Sounds boring? Not at all - it was absolutely fascinating and to just experience the noise, the traffic and sample some of the most delicious food and local beer (under £1 for a large bottle) was a fantastic way to start our adventure.
After two frantic days in Hanoi we headed to Halong Bay for an overnight stay on one of the many junks operating in the area. This was an amazing sight, it was easy to see why this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as we sailed around some of the 3000 islands. The standard on board for the 16 passengers was top class with excellent accommodation and fantastic food plus stops at several of the islands. After dinner we were treated to a showing of the Top Gear special on Vietnam which created much amusement all round.
The next day we departed back to Hanoi and then flew onto Danang in Central Vietnam. On arrival there was a big change in the weather with the temperature rising considerably and for the rest of our visit we experienced beautiful hot sunny days. Onwards from Danang we drove to Hoi An; a cozy, ancient beautiful town which for us was one of the highlights of our stay. Walking through the narrow streets flanked by old merchant houses you could imagine the time when the town was filled with merchants and goods from around the world.
After 2 nights there we travelled by road through the scenic countryside of Vietnam with mountains on one side and blue sea on the other. Using the Hai Van Pass we travelled across the mountains and the beautiful Lang Co Beach to the Imperial city of Hue, the capital of Vietnam from 1802 – 1945. During our time there we sampled a cruise on the Perfumed River, visited royal tombs, the citadel and Tu Hieu Pagoda and also marvelled at how cheap everything was, particularly food and especially for me, the beer!
After our stay in Hue it was time to take a flight back to our original entry point into Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). What an amazing city! Traffic is an absolute nightmare – it has a population of 10 million and yet there are over 5 million Hondas which all seem to be on the road at the same time. No one seems to have right of way and these bikes just weave in and out of the traffic. It's a system however that works, there is no road rage and people just accept the problems graciously. One of the things to do in Saigon is cross the road – you just step out into a mass of traffic and walk very slowly across the road, not stopping and everything weaves around you. At first it can be quite nerve-wracking but eventually you do get used to it and it becomes second nature. There are several other must things to do in Saigon, a visit to the War Museum should definitely be on the agenda. Incredibly sad, it is a reminder of the horrors this remarkable country has experienced . A visit to the Cathedral, The General Post Office, The Municipal Theatre and China Town are also normally included but for me a visit to the central market and Binh Tay market would be first on my list of recommendations. Selling absolutely everything it is fascinating to wander around and see the different foods on offer and see for yourself the quality that their fresh produce has.
A visit to Saigon would also not be complete without a dinner cruise on The Saigon River. Lasting about 2 and a half hours you are treated to a wonderful buffet dinner as the boat cruises along the river. The food again is top quality and the evening, although very much for the tourists, is great fun. My tip in Saigon would be to visit The Majestic Hotel in the evening and have a drink in their rooftop bar which has amazing views of the Saigon River.
In Saigon you can also visit the famous Mekong River and Mekong Delta on a day trip (or longer). We took a boat from Cai Be to Vinh Long and experienced floating markets whilst we cruised the waters stopping only for lunch and a chance to sample some rice and snake wine. This really is a fascinating insight into the way of life of the local population seeing how they live and work along the Delta.
The touring part of our holiday was now coming to an end and it was time for some relaxation as we made the 5 and a half hour journey by car to the resort of Mui Nee. This is a delightful place to finish your holiday. The fantastic beach stretching for miles attracts a lot of kite surfers. Our hotel ticked all the right boxes as with all the hotels we stayed at the rooms were lovely and the one at Mui Nee was huge. There was a wide variety of restaurants within walking distance including Italian, Indian and even a German one. Prices are incredibly reasonable and again quality is really good.
The days flew by and it was soon time to make the
return journey to Saigon for our flight home to the UK. A long journey as the
flight is 12 hours plus the car transfer but it did give us time to reflect on
what had been a fantastic holiday.
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