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Highlights of Vietnam

Posted 03 Jul 2018

Vietnam is a country of juxtapositions: floating lanterns and rice paddies as far as the eye can see, lies a complicated history and a vibrant present. It has sky bars and street food, a booming tech industry and ancient traditions, temples and beach resorts; there’s something for everyone there. Here are our top three things to experience on your visit to Vietnam:

1. Halong Bay

At UNESCO World Heritage Site Halong Bay, limestone rocks wrapped in greenery reach out from the water up towards the sky. Cruises, like the one on day six of our On Foot in Vietnam tour, weave between the mysterious formations where a large part of daily life, from fishing to shopping and drinking, is conducted on water. The area is bustling with people, but the pace is slow and the maze of islands has hundreds of secret, sandy coves and caves to explore. After a gentle cruise, you can hop off at one of these peaceful grottos, or take a beach stroll. Ninh Bình is an inland version of the same limestone structures, which you’ll spot on our cycling tour of Vietnam, its gigantic rocks a remarkable sight against the still, silvery lake.

2. The ancient city of Hội An

A fairy tale pocket of activity in the Vietnamese countryside, Hội An is a love-at-first-sight kind of stop. The tiny city’s streets bustle with bikes of all shapes and sizes and the traffic's hum is replaced by the buzz of visitors from all over the world. The city is famous for its tailoring and clothes making services, so this is the perfect place to pick up a traditional Vietnamese silk dress or tailored suit for a fraction of what you’d pay at home. Hội An’s vibrant markets are popular day and night: sellers turn the streets all colours of the rainbow with their wares. As soon as the sun goes down, the lanterns pop out like a thousand fireflies and a night-time boat trip along the central river is magical. Our Cycling Vietnam tour drops you in Hội An’s medieval port on day eight, and you’re free to explore the town or hop on a bike across the flat surrounding countryside to the nearby sandy beach.

3. Vietnamese Cuisine

You haven’t really experienced Vietnam until you’ve treated your taste buds to some of the traditional cuisines. Phở is a speciality that’s been heartily adopted into western culture, but there’s more to Vietnamese cooking than this delicious noodle soup. Some of the best food can be sampled on the street. Bánh Mi, a baguette filled with local greens and your choice of meat or eggs, and Bánh Bao are easy to get your hands on from street-side stalls in Hanoi. Bánh Bao is a light, ball-shaped bun stuffed with pork, chicken or veggies and sometimes a hard-boiled egg. At a sit-down dinner, try Gỏi cuốn, a translucent spring roll bursting with coriander, greens and prawns or meat. In the south of the country, for example, during our stop in Ho Chi Minh city on the Cycling Vietnam tour, clay pots are a local delicacy. These sizzling dishes contain rich and spicy stews, with mouth-watering ingredients like pork, local seafood or beef.

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