Expect a new travel experience. Expect to see a picture perfect landscape of rice paddies and water buffalo. Expect wide tree-lined streets full of bicycles and motorcycles, which are a challenge to cross! Expect to be smiled at a lot, expect to smile back ï¿½ you canï¿½t help it! Expect curious locals to engage you in unexpected conversations, invitations to enjoy a cup of tea. Expect the occasional mishap ï¿½ a delayed flight or a short power outage. Expect endless photo opportunities. Expect to find bargains! Expect to sample a new and unique cuisine. Expect to eat French baguettes warm and crisp and baked fresh every morning. Expect the noise and the heat. Expect to learn about daily rituals and traditions performed for hundreds of years. Expect grace and beauty as you watch the young school girls in their white ao dais (traditional gowns) ride by on their bicycles.
EXPECT THINGS TO BE DIFFERENT FROM WHAT THEY ARE AT HOME - ISN'T THIS THE REASON YOU CAME ?
Saigon and the Environs
Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon the best known of all Vietnamese cities is the economic and technological center of Vietnam. Here you will find the former Presidential Palace, Museum of History, Notre Dame Cathedral, many beautiful pagodas, ChoLon (Chinatown) and wonderful local markets. Ho Chi Minh is very compact and the central areas are easy to cover by foot, but donï¿½t miss an opportunity to ride a cyclo (man-powered taxi).
Cu Chi famous for its 124-mile network of underground tunnels, used in the last war by the Viet Cong. Totally man-made, the tunnels were dug over three levels into the earth, and housed the soldiers, acting as garrison, hospital and command center.
Tay Ninh the birthplace of an indigenous religion known as Caodaism. Founded by Ngo Van Chieu in the 1920s this reformed Buddhism is a blending of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity and Animism, whose Gods include Buddha, Confucius, Victor Hugo, Joan of Arc and Jesus Christ. The cathedral in Tay Ninh combines a variety of architectural influences.
Mekong Delta is the southern rice bowl of Vietnam, a fertile area covered with rice fields and winding tributaries of the Mekong River. Originating in the high plateau of Tibet, the Mekong River is over 2600 miles long travels through China, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia before reaching Vietnam where it empties into the South China Sea. The Delta is a colorful display of rural life with its lush vegetation, island farms and floating markets. Places of interest in the Mekong Delta include My Tho, Vinh Long, Can Tho and Chau Doc.
Phan Thiet is a quaint fishing village located along the southeastern coast, known today for its stretch of pristine powder sand, crystal clear waters and spectacular sand dunes. This small village offers little in terms of recreation and dining but the resort properties offer a quiet retreat. Coco Beach, Bamboo Village and the newly built Victoria Phan Thiet, all offer bungalow-style accommodations and the Novotel Ocean Dunes Resort offers a golf course. Phan Thiet is becoming a popular stop for overseas travelers.
DaLat, Le Petit Paris, was the name given to this former French hill station. The Vietnamese call it City of Eternal Spring because of the cooler, fresher air of this mountainous region. DaLat is nestled in the central highlands and renowned for its tranquil beauty; a favorite of the French during colonial days. the French influence is evident in the hundreds of lovely colonial villas dotted throughout the town. DaLatï¿½s alpine landscape of pine forests, rolling hills and tranquil lakes make it a popular getaway for honeymooners and travelers
Buon Ma Thuot, is the coffee capital of Vietnam. Its scenic landscape offers flowing waterfalls and forested mountains and is inhabited by a variety of ethnic hill tribes. Visitors can visit coffee and rubber plantations, hill tribe villages and enjoy an elephant trek.
Pleiku and Kontum The Central Highlands is one of the most remote and least populated areas of Vietnam the Central Highlands is peaceful today with its virgin forest, mountains, waterfalls and wildlife, the Central Highlands was an area of intense battles during the American-Vietnam War. Pleiku, home to the Jarai hill tribe and Kontum home to the Banhar hill tribe are the main towns in this mountainous area. Explorers can take elephant treks through the jungle and overnight in a hill tribe communal longhouse.
Central Coastal Region
Hue is the ancient royal capital of the Nguyen Dynasty whose magnificent tombs are a major attraction. Hue is situated in the central coastal area; the Perfume River winds through the center of town, past the Citadel and Forbidden Purple City, which was modeled after the Forbidden City in Beijing.There are many important historical and cultural sites such as the Thien Mu Pagoda and the many mausoleums of the Nguyen emperors that can be found in the small villages around Hue. Designated by UNESCO as a cultural heritage site it is one of Vietnamï¿½s major attractions.
Da Nang is Vietnamï¿½s third international gateway and a major seaport with magnificent beaches. Its historical significance stems back to 192AD when it was the capital of the Kingdom of Champa. Relics from this period can be found in the open-air Cham Museum, considered to be one of the finest collections of Cham sculptures in the world, and at the ruins of My Son where twenty Hindu-like temples are still standing. DaNang was also the site of the first military landing in 1965 by American troops and was a major base for American Marines and naval forces during the war. Sightseeing includes Marble Mountain, with its natural grottos and Buddhist sanctuaries and China Beach a favorite rest and recreation center for American troops. 600 miles northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.
Hoi An-The World Culture Heritage This lovely and well-preserved 600-year-old town, is an architectural living museum with its eclectic mix of restored homes, winding streets and ancient bridges. In the 16th-18th centuries it was an international trading port connecting Asia and the West. The influence of the traders and seamen from Portugal, China, Japan, and France are evident throughout this lovely town. 18 miles south of DaNang
My Son The ruins of My Son where a religious center during the height of the Kingdom of Champa (7-10th century). (See DaNang) 37 miles south of Danang; 19 miles south of Hoi An
Hai Van Pass a beautiful scenic journey between DaNang and Hue. Crossing the mountains allows for magnificent views across the South China Sea down to the many beautiful and untouched beaches and coves. DaNang to Hue is 66 miles.
Nha Trang Offers the widest selection of accommodations of all the seaside areas in Vietnam; it also has some of the best-known beaches and pristine waters. Becoming popular for snorkeling and diving it has a lively atmosphere, many ocean front seafood restaurants and sidewalk cafes. Beautiful examples of the Cham culture can be found in the 10th-century Po Nagar Towers. 280 miles northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.
Hanoi and the North
the capital of Vietnam was founded in 1010. It is the center of cultural and political life, a city of lakes, broad boulevards and almost 600 temples and pagodas. The city has retained much of its old architecture and colonial charm. Amongst the many sights in this lovely city are the one-pillared pagoda, originally built in 1049; the Temple of Literature ï¿½ first university in Vietnam, founded in 1070; and Ho Chi Minhï¿½s mausoleum.
A cyclo ride (man-powered taxi) through Hanoiï¿½s Old Quarter along winding streets whose names include Coffin Street, Silk Street, Chicken Street, Basket Street offers an exciting glimpse into Hanoi life.
One of the most scenic areas in Vietnam, has over 3000 fascinating sculptured islands rising from the clear emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. The rock formations are full of lovely grottos, caves and small beaches. A journey by motorized sampan allows you to wander through these rock formations which legend says were made by a mighty dragon whose feet caused the formation of mountains in the sea.
Hoa Lu was the first capital of Vietnam during the Ly Dynasty 968-1010 AD. It is a scenic area with limestone hills and gently flowing rivers. Many of the beautiful 11th- century temples still remain, including the Temple of Dinh Tien Hoang, one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in Vietnam. Our tour includes a gentle sampan journey through the hills and caves of this historic area.
Hoa Binh and Mai Chau Valley lie across the Red River Valley at the foothills of Ha Son Binh province. The air is crisp, and the road becomes tougher. The Mai Chau Valley shimmers with tiny villages that nestle beneath the towering limestone cliffs. In this area live the Muong communities and Black Thai minority. The Muong are farmers growing rice, sugarcane and tea. Silk production and weaving are common village industries. The area is very scenic with jagged limestone peaks and deep valleys. The region provides wonderful trekking, and hiking. Accommodation in the local village communities is very basic but the welcome is genuine.
Huong Pagoda is an important religious destination for the Vietnamese. There are three pagodas, Pagoda of the Perfumed Vestiges, Pagoda of Purgatory and Pagoda Leading to Heaven. They are set into the sides of the limestone cliffs of Huong Tich Mountain along the River Yen. It is a very picturesque area and part of the journey is by boat through the limestone outcroppings. The scenery is similar to that of Guilin China but on a smaller scale.
Sapa high in the mountains, close to the Chinese border, is home to many minority hilltribes. SaPa is surrounded by ladder rice fields, mountains and forests. To reach Sapa, we journey by overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai and then continue by car up the mountain. Vietnamï¿½s indigenous flora and fauna are in abundance in this region. The Victoria Hotel blends beautifully into the surrounding mountains and provides a wonderful rest stop to enjoy this mountainous region of Vietnam.
Dong Ho is a small village outside of Hanoi known as the printers village. It was originally inhabited by one family who for 400 years and 20 generations have been artist-craftsmen producing rustic and colorful pictures printed from etched wooden blocks. The paper is made by hand and natural inks are derived from local materials. Artistic creativity was not the inspiration for Dong Ho prints; rather each is intended to convey a popular fable, allegory, social value or historical struggle. Dong Ho is recognized by UNESCO as a traditional craft village.