* Walking in Hanoi Old Quarter (36 old streets and guilds)
It is an area well-known for the history, the architecture, the enormous amount and diversity of products and even the everyday life of its residents.
Most tourists are eager for exploring the old streets well-known for each one’s specialized industry. Hang Gai Street offers silk clothing ready-made and tailored, embroidery, and silver products. Hang Quat, the street that formerly sold silk and feather fans, now stuns the visitor by its brilliantly colored funeral and festival flags and religious objects and clothing. To Tich Street connects the above two and is still the wood turner’s street. Hang Ma glimmers with shiny paper products, such as gift wrappings, wedding decorations and miniature paper objects to burn for the dead. Lan Ong Street is a sensual delight of textures and smells emanating from the sacks of herbal medicinal products: leaves, roots, barks, and powders, etc. Coming here, you may feel as if you were in a classical-styled area in terms of both architecture and product types!
36 old streets or more? Although the old section of Hanoi is often called the “36 Old Streets,” there are more than 36 actual streets. Some researchers believe that the number 36 came from the 15th century when there might have been 36 guild locations, which were workshop areas, not streets. When streets were later developed, the guild names were applied to the streets. Others attribute the 36 to a more abstract concept. The number nine in Asia represents the concept of “plenty.” Nine times the four directions makes 36, which simply means “many”. In fact, there are now more than 70 streets in the area. * Take an overnight cruise on a traditional boat in Halong Bay
Imagine waking up surrounded by the tranquil beauty of Halong Bay, one of Vietnam’s most spectacular natural wonders. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed bay, dotted with impressive limestone islands, on a traditional junk boat. You’ll enjoy a guided tour of the limestone Cave of Surprises as well as free time to sunbathe, swim and kayak in secluded lagoons.
Ha Long Bay, located in the Gulf of Tonkin, within Quang Ninh Province, in the northeast of Vietnam, is 165 km from the capital of Ha Noi. Covering an area of 43,400 ha and including over 1600 islands and islets, most of which are uninhabited and unaffected by humans, it forms a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars and is an ideal model of a mature Karst landscape developed during a warm and wet tropical climate. The property’s exceptional scenic beauty is complemented by its great biological interest.
The outstanding value of the property is centered around the drowned limestone karst landforms, displaying spectacular pillars with a variety of coastal erosional features such as arches and caves which form a majestic natural scenery. The repeated regression and transgression of the sea on the limestone karst over geological time has produced a mature landscape of clusters of conical peaks and isolated towers which were modified by sea invasion, adding an extra element to the process of lateral undercutting of the limestone towers and islands.
* Explore the daily life of ethnic minority people in Sapa & visit Bac Ha market (Lao Cai province)Trekking along buffalo paths and trails and through several hill tribe villages Lao Chai & Ta Van, home to Black H’mong, and Dzay people. This is an absolutely spectacular walk through stunning scenery inhabited by some of the friendliest people you can meet. Once on the valley floor you can really appreciate the wonderful scenery that surrounds you. The walls of the valley are covered with multi-layered rice terraced fields and scattered villages.
Bac Ha market is the biggest now, the connecting between the local village in Sapa and the local market. Tourists have a chance to enjoy the huge rice paddy terraces as well as a colorful market. Thousands peoples from different ethnic groups in their colorful traditional costumes who gather at regional markets for their most important event of the week. Everyone will quickly absorbed by festive atmosphere and understand the important role of these markets in spiritual life of local ethnic peoples.
* Visit Phong Nha cave, Thien Duong Cave & Son Doong cave (Quang Binh province)– Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park is located in the middle of the Northern Central Mountain Range in Quang Binh province, Vietnam and shares its boundary with the Hin Namno Nature Reserve in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to the west. The property comprises an area of 85,754 ha and contains terrestrial and aquatic habitats, primary and secondary forest, sites of natural regeneration, tropical dense forests and savanna and is rich in large, often spectacular and scientifically significant caves.
The property contains and protects over 104 km of caves and underground rivers making it one of the most outstanding limestone karst ecosystems in the world. The karst formation has evolved since the Palaeozoic period (some 400 million years ago) and as such is the oldest major karst area in Asia. Subject to massive tectonic changes, the karst landscape is extremely complex, comprising a series of rock types that are interbedded in complex ways and with many geomorphic features. The karst landscape is not only complex but also ancient, with high geodiversity and geomorphic features of considerable significance.
The karst formation process has led to the creation of not only underground rivers but also a variety of cave types including; dry caves, terraced caves, suspended caves, dendritic caves and intersecting caves. With a length of over 44.5 km the Phong Nha cave is the most famous of the system with tour boats able to penetrate inside to a distance of 1,500 m.
– Paradise Cave has only been open to travelers since 2010 and it really does live up to its name and all the fuss. This is an awe inspiring cave that’s been well set up for visitors.
Paradise Cave is both naturally stunning and well managed (especially by the lax tourism standards of Vietnam’s other World Heritage sites – think Halong Bay). The lighting is subtle, the 1km walking platform is well constructed with good lookout space and the cave is well protected from overexcited tourists And that’s all incidental to the incredible beauty of the cave.
Paradise Cave was only discovered in 2005. When the global caving fraternity cast their eyes over it, they knew something special had been found – both in beauty and scale.The cave is 31kms long and at times reaches up to 100 metres. The 1km path that is open to travellers is filled with exquisite formations.
– Son Doong cave (Vietnamese: Hang Son Doong) is world’s largest cave, located in Son Trach, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh province, Vietnam. It is found by a local man named Ho Khanh in 1991 and was recently discovered in 2009 by British cavers, led by Howard Limbert. The name “Son Doong” cave means “mountain river cave”, It was created 2-5 million years ago by river water eroding away the limestone underneath the mountain Where the limestone was weak, the ceiling collapsed creating huge skylights. Son Doong cave is more than 200 meters wide, 150 meters high, and approx 9 kilometers long, with caverns big enough to fit an entire city street inside them, twice as large as Deer Cave in Malaysia (currently considered the world’s largest with 90 meters wide, 100 meters high and 2 kilometers long). Son Doong cave was classified as the largest cave in the world by BCRA (British Cave Research Association) and selected as one of the most beautiful in the globe by the BBC news.
Son Doong cave is hidden in rugged Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh province near the border with Laos, the cave is part of a network of 150 or so caves, many still not surveyed, in the Annamite Mountains. It is very difficult to travers. During the first expedition, the team explored two and a half miles of Son Doong cave before a 200-foot wall of muddy calcite stopped them. They named it the Great Wall of Vietnam. Above it they could make out an open space and traces of light, but they had no idea what lay on the other side. A year later, they have returned seven hard-core British cavers, a few scientists, and a crew of porters – to climb the wall, if they can, measure the passage, and push on, if possible, all the way to the end of the cave…
* Take a sampan trip to visit Tam Coc “Halong on land” (Ninh Binh province)Tam Coc is a popular tourist destination near the city of Ninh Binh in northern Vietnam.
The Tam Cốc (“three caves”) portion is a three-hour excursion by small boat along the Ngo Dong river, beginning at the village of Van Lam and proceeding through a scenic landscape dominated by rice fields and karst towers. The route includes floating through three natural caves (Hang Cả, Hang Hai, and Hang Ba), the largest of which is 125m long with its ceiling about 2m high above the water. The boats are typically rowed by one or two local women who also sell embroidered goods.
* Explore Hue Imperial Citadel and visit Emperor’s royal tombs of Nguyen Dynasty (Thua Thien Hue province)
Hue Imperial citadel started in 1805 under the reign of Emperor Gia Long and completed in 1832 under the reign of Emperor Ming Mang. Under Nguyen’ reign, Kings have ordered to build ramparts, palaces and constructional works of royal. Over 200 years to now, it is still original with nearly 140 small and large constructions.
The Citadel, square in shape and almost 10 km in circumference, 6 m high, 21 m thick and 10 entrances. On the top of the walls that surround it, 24 bastions are established for defensive purposes. Besides, the Citadel has an ancillary gate connecting the Tran Binh Bastion called the Thai Binh Mon (Peace Gate).
Minh Mang’s royal tomb is one of the two largest compounds of royal tombs in Hue. It spans an expansive area of 18 hectares in Cam Khe village, 12 kilometres from the city centre. The construction was started in 1840 by King Minh Mang but completed three years later by his successor, King Thieu Tri as the father king passed away while everything was going on. The whole premises consists of 40 structures, including gates, palaces, temples, pavilions, altars, yards, statues, etc. All are enclosed in a concrete rampart of 3m high and 0.5m thick. You may enter it by two side gates. The imposing Central Gate (Dai Hong Mon) was opened only once for the King’s coffin to be brought in. The tomb’s magnificent architecture represents nothing more than the majesty of the emperor.
* Experience the daily life of local people in Hoian Ancient Town (Quang Nam province)
Hoi An is an ancient town located in the lower section of Thu Bon River, Quang Nam Province, about 30 kilometers south of Danang city. Hoi An was a bustling international trading port,a meeting place of the trading ships of Japan, China and the West during the 17th and 18th centuries. Before this period, there was here also traces of Champa port which was known as a site on Silk Road along the sea.
Hoi An ancient town today is a special example of a traditional port city in Southeast Asia which has been well preserved. Most houses here are of traditional architecture dating from the 17th to the 19th century, and are along the narrow main streets. Hoi An is also a land mark recorded much of the mixture of acculturation. The architecture of the city reflects the influence of chinese, japanese, portuguese, french and british traders. Hoi An still maintained an intangible cultural diversity and richness. Hoi An is considered as a living museum of architecture and urban lifestyle.
With outstanding value, in the end of 1999, UNESCO has recognized the ancient town of Hoi An as a world cultural heritage.
Walk around small and peaceful streets lighted by lanterns and enjoy local specialties is an amazing experience. If you have time, just visit Cham island and take a scuba diving to explore beautiful coral reefs.
* Scuba diving at Mun island and visit bird’s nest island in Nha Trang (Khanh Hoa province)
– Mun Island is a small island in the Nha Trang Bay complex. You can realize that all the rock fields on the southeast of the island is as black as ebony. That is why the island is called Mun Island. According to research, Mun Island has great ecological diversification with regards to coral reefs. In the island, 340 out of 800 world species of coral reefs have bên found here. From 2001, Mun Island Sea Reservation Zone has been set up, covering a total area of about 160 square kilometers (include many other islands like Tre Island, Mieu Island, Tam Island, Mun Island, Cau Island, etc.). This is the first Sea Reservation Zone to be established in Vietnam.
– Referring to the birds’ nest islands, the most famous place is Nha Trang in the central province of Khanh Hoa. However, this is not the proper name of an island, but a group of islands in Nha Trang, including Hon Noi, Hon Ngoai, and others.
This group of islands is about 12 nautical miles from the mainland. From Cau Da port in Nha Trang city, visitors must take a boat for nearly 2 hours to get to these islands.
April to September is the time for swallows to build their nest on the islands. The weather at this period is also very favorable for tourists. After studying the life of swallows, visitors can enjoy seafood and nutritious bird’s nest porridge at the Hon Noi restaurant on the island.
* Explore the daily life of local people in Mekong Delta (Southern Vietnam)
The Mekong Delta forms both the far southern region of Vietnam and one of country’s two main rice-bowls. Dominated by the Mekong River and its many tributaries, the surrounding lands are comprised of low lying rice paddies and the rivers are bordered by dense mangroves and palms. The tributaries of the hectic Mekong River highway provide a comprehensive network of canals and channels acting as on and off ramps to the main throughfare. For the independent traveler, these rivers and tributaries can be the best method to explore the Mekong Delta at a leisurely pace and offer the opportunity to experience the truly unique Mekong River lifestyle.
By embarking on a comprehensive exploration of the Delta, you will have the opportunity to observe and participate in an extra dimension of Vietnamese life and culture.
If you have enough time, you should stay a couple of days there to explore the local people’s daily life. Visit floating markets such as Cai Be & Cai Rang markets – an original daily activity taking place on Mekong rivers every morning. Spend one or two nights with friendly local people at Homestay in Ben Tre, Vinh Long or Can Tho provinces. You may know how they earn their lives…
* Join Cao Dai follower to arrange their daily noon mass at Cao Dai Temple (Tay Ninh province)
There are many Cao Dai temples around southern Vietnam but none that compare to this. This stunning example is the most impressive in all senses. Built over a 20-year period and completed in 1956, it is the original…and the best.
Like the Cao Dai religion itself, the building’s architecture marries eastern and western influences. The temple is part-cathedral, part-pagoda, part-mosque, and part-fairytale. Unusual pastel colors are embellished with gold and polished glass, and outside the building is guarded by ornate brightly-colored dragons that are as much fantasy as fearsome.
The interior is equally if not more striking than outside. Swirling Rococo design is complemented by various statues of gods – Jesus Christ, Brahman, Buddha – standing side by side; a vision of peaceful harmony in a once war-torn area.
Behind the main altar sits an enormous globe with the Cao Dai ‘divine eye’ symbol on it. As with all Cao Dai temples, prayers are held four times a day, at 5.30am, 11.30am, 5.30pm and 11.30pm.
* Visit Cu Chi Tunnels underground system (Ho Chi Minh City)
Cu Chi Tunnels are located approximately 70km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City center in Cu Chi Rural District. They consist of more than 200km of underground tunnels. The main axis system has many branches connecting to underground hideouts, shelters, and entrances to other tunnels.
Cu Chi District is known nationwide as the base where the Vietnamese mounted their operations of the Tet Offensive in 1968.The tunnels are between 0.5 to 1m wide, just enough space for a person to walk along by bending or dragging. However, parts of the tunnels have been modified to accommodate visitors. The upper soil layer is between 3 to 4m thick and can support the weight of a 50-ton tank and the damage of light cannons and bombs. The underground network provided sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, hospitals, and other social rooms. Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels, tourists can understand more about the prolonged resistance war of the Vietnamese people and also about the persistent and clever character of the Vietnamese nation.
* Relax on a beautiful beach, immerse yourself in the tropical sea on Phu Quoc island (Kien Giang province)
It’s rare to find an island as unspoilt and yet so bursting with possibility as Phu Quoc Island (Phú Quốc), which rises like an emerald from the waters off the south-west coast of Vietnam. Gorgeous scenery might be dime a dozen in Vietnam, but the landscapes on Phu Quoc belong to a different order of loveliness altogether. This is due to the island’s isolation and low population, and its location smack bang in the middle of the sublimely beautiful Gulf of Thailand. Here you will find is solitude, and gorgeous scenery piled on in spades.
Imagine soft secluded beaches, the water a thousand different shades of turquoise. Stunning sunsets, thunderclouds heaped on the horizon. Palm trees protruding perpendicular over the gentle waves. That’s Phu Quoc. Everywhere you look you’ll want to take a photo.
More than a dozen stunning beaches with a total length of 150km, calm and near transparent seas, a whole armada of pristine islets massed off the southern coast. Pristine and blessedly uncrowded, the beaches are Phu Quoc’s main drawcard. Fishermen roam the waters at night, their lights dancing on the horizon. By day you will have the waves largely to yourself.
Coral reefs swarming with tropical fish, of every possible color and design. Phu Quoc is a Shangri-La, one of those dwindling number of locations that are truly unspoilt. But it won’t be unspoilt for long. Phu Quoc is a place where you can swim on beaches which until a few years ago were not only off the radar of foreigners, they were totally off-limits by the military authorities. You could have been arrested just for strolling on these fine sandy shores. Those days are over, but with the ending of isolation comes a new urgency, the need to see this island before it is too late. The innocence of Phu Quoc will not last for long.Have a nice trip in !