Vietnam is a beautiful country with an interesting history and rich culture. Situated in the South East Asia, it possesses numerous attractions for tourists. Explore natural beauty, peaceful aura and exciting nightlife of Vietnam as you travel through the tranquil Hoi An to the vibrant Ho Chi Minh City. Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum along with Cu Chi tunnels and the renowned War Remnants Museum. Discover the much-talked about history of the destination. Further, enjoy some time at scenic beaches such as Nha Trang, Mui Ne, and Doc Let. Also, visit the stunning Hue Monument and the My Son Sanctuary. Although a small country, it promises unique experiences for every type of traveller, be it a nature lover, a history aficionado, or a beach bum. In addition, you can explore the vibrant culture, and treat your taste buds to scrumptious seafood delicacies while in Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), formerly known as Saigon, is a dynamic metropolis with a thriving commerce that is centred around a rich and varied culture. While still tied to its complex cultural, religious, and political roots, the city is quickly modernising with an optimistic approach towards the future. All throughout the city is a delightfully dizzying mix of bustling streets and traditional markets, towering skyscrapers and ancient temples, and fine dining establishments amongst small street food carts. It’s those juxtapositions that give the city its mysticism and allure which energises residents and visitors alike. Formerly known as the “Pearl of the Orient,” Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) was a prosperous city known for its magnificent structures, rich culture, flourishing economy, exquisite cuisine and sophistication. The city has once again reclaimed its name – while a little rough around the edges – its abundance of attractions and unique experiences promises a wealth of adventure and a lifetime of memories.
Ho Chi Minh City’s Storied Past
The city’s ancient streets, buildings, memorials and museums all form the tapestry of a rich history. Originally, part of the kingdom of Cambodia, then a flourishing port city, then a colony of France and then the capital of the Republic of Vietnam, and finally, Ho Chi Minh City as designated by the Hanoi government; the city saw a series of name changes, rulers, ethnic groups and political turmoil, which left a mix of cultures, all of which are evident to this day.
Built in 1909 by the Cantonese community, the Jade Emperor Pagoda honours the Taoist god (the Jade Emperor or King of Heaven, Ngoc Hoang). Although it is one of many throughout the city, it is considered to be the most spectacular. While the outside is awe-inspiring, the inside is even more intriguing. Thick clouds of incense fill the rooms, wafting over ornate woodcarvings and imposing statues of both Buddhist and Taoist deities. The multi-faith temple is representative of the many cultures and ethnic groups that make up HCMC. A number of Chinese and Indian temples are also on display throughout the city. The Notre Dame cathedral and the central post office, designed by architect Gustave Eiffel (who designed the Eiffel Tower), are prime examples of French Gothic style and the nation’s influence on Vietnam.
The effects of the Vietnam War are still present, and the brutality and consequences of it are best re-counted at the War Remnants Museum which documents an important part of world and Vietnamese history. The well-preserved Reunification Palace, which served as the home of the president of South Vietnam during the war, is where North Vietnam’s tanks crashed, resulting in Saigon’s surrender in on April 30, 1975. Meanwhile, the History Museum, an elegant structure surrounded by lush botanical gardens, encloses an array of Sino-French artefacts that document the evolution of the nation’s cultures.
Just outside the city lays an intricate network of ungrounded tunnels, used by Viet Cong guerrillas during the Tet Offensive of 1968. Spanning nearly 500 km, the underground system played a key role in the defeat of American forces. Can Gio is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the coastal district of southeast HCMC. The palm-fringed island with a dense mangrove forest contains more than 200 species of animals and over 150 types of flora. Further away, but well worth the trek, is the Mekong Delta. The intricate web of waterways, known as the “rice bowl,” is an incredibly fertile region that produces half of Vietnam’s agricultural output. Peppered along the lush waterways are markets, farms and quaint villages that make for a serene atmosphere and picturesque views. The Cao Dai Great Temple, in the village of Long Hoa, is also an interesting visit and is world-renowned for its traditional Vietnamese herbal medicine and treatments.
The streets of the Ben Thanh market are some of the liveliest in the city. The stalls and shops are brimming with everything imaginable, including fresh produce, clothing, medicine and jewellery. While the traditional market is full of wonderful surprises, those who enjoy a more predictable shopping experience will like the high-end boutiques and department stores at the Diamond Plaza or Saigon Centre. A trip to Ho Chi Minh is not complete without a tasting of the country’s various culinary offerings. From traditional pho and pork rolls to the more unique fertilised duck eggs and fermented scorpion wine, Vietnam boasts a truly fascinating cuisine.
Grand boulevards, centuries-old pagodas, serene lakes and modern luxuries-Hanoi is a beautifully enchanting blend of ancient traditions, natural beauty and modernity. The capital and heartbeat of Vietnam is one of the most intriguing cities in the nation. With all of its old-world charm, this is a 21st century metropolis that’s emerging into one of the most desired travel destinations.
Founded in 1010, Hanoi is a truly mystifying city, in which at moments, time seems to have stopped – ancient temples stand well preserved amongst densely forested parks, 13th century marketplaces still keep the smells, sights and tastes of days long ago and beautifully ornate French buildings serve as a reminder of the country’s colonisation. Yet, the city is embracing the new and quickly changing as it looks towards the future. Streets where the military once practiced drills are now replaced by fervent teens and motorcyclists whizzing by, traditional food stalls stand next to world-class restaurants, and locals get their daily fix of noodles in the morning and then head to trendy cafes for coffee in the afternoon. Showcasing ancient temples, colonial architecture, modern museums, theatres and uncompromised beauty, the city is nothing short of amazing.
While the city’s many sites and attractions are awe-inspiring, it is the people – wonderfully warm and richly diverse – that provide the city with its allure. A fascinating heritage stemming from Vietnamese, French and Chinese cultures creates a unique atmosphere. At the heart of Hanoi’s ancient charm is its Old Quarter – the oldest neighbourhood in Vietnam. The labyrinth of narrow, congested, and chaotic streets pulse on as they did centuries ago. Among the few remaining walls of the Hanoi Citadel, vendors clad in conical hats market their goods of the day – fresh fish, silk, candlesticks, silver and bamboo rafts. Hidden between storefronts and homes are communal houses in which elaborate interior courtyards and temples pay homage to local gods. Along the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake, men delight in a ritual game of chess while others can be found practicing Tai’chi. A wander around these bustling streets will reveal so many hidden treasures and rewarding experiences.
Undoubtedly, the main attractions of Hanoi are its temples, museums, and monuments that display stunning architecture, artefacts and memorabilia that represent the nation’s multi-layered past. Set against the west lake is the Tran Quoc pagoda, which is considered the most important Buddhist temple in the nation. The Temple of Literature is a well-preserved and beautiful structure that is quintessential traditional Vietnamese architecture. The Museum of Ethnology displays a terrific array of Vietnamese artefacts that represent nearly 54 ethnic groups. The National Museum of Fine Arts showcases an array of traditional Asian and contemporary art. The Palace and Hanoi Opera House are shining examples of the distinct French architecture of the era. Meanwhile, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum/Museum is a granite edifice that stands as a memorial to President Hõ Chí Minh as well as Vietnam’s independence. Other important sites include the Hoa Lo Prison, Vietnam Military History and Women’s museums.
Known as the “City of Lakes,” Hanoi is woven around many parks and bodies of water. Hoan Kiem Lake, known as the “Lake of the Restored Sword,” received its name based upon a legend that the Vietnamese scared the Chinese away from their land with a magical sword that was then stolen by a giant tortoise that took it into the lake. Just outside the city in the Gulf of Tonkin, dramatic limestone cliffs and pillars protrude out of the beautiful, azure waters to create stunning views. These 1,600 islands and islets in Halong, known as “where the dragon descends into the sea,” are like something out of a fairy tale with their forested hillsides, mystical grottoes and abundance of wildlife. While this World Heritage UNESCO site is an absolute joy to visit, most of the islands are uninhabitable.