Tourism information

Where to go in Vietnam


The North

The capital, Hanoi, sprawls on the banks of the Red River. It is a beautiful city that retains an air of French colonial elegance with pretty yellow stucco buildings lining leafy streets. Hanoi is also a city of lakes, which adds to its air of sleepy grace. At present there are relatively few cars – many people travel by bicycle or moped. It is a city that appears lodged in a bygone age. In the middle of the city lies the peaceful Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) with the 18th-century Ngoc Son Temple (Jade Mountain Temple) sitting on an island in its center. The temple can be reached by The Huc Bridge (Rising Sun Bridge). To the north of Hoan Kiem Lake is the Old Quarter, a fascinating maze of small antiquated streets lined with markets and pavement restaurants and cafes. West of the Old Quarter and south of the West Lake is the former Ville Française. This is the old French administrative center and is characterized by enormous colonial-era châteaux and wide spacious boulevards. It also houses Hanoi’s most popular attraction, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. When visiting the Mausoleum, it is important to be respectful both in dress and attitude. Ho Chi Minh was the father of the modern state and is still held in reverential regard. His house, built in 1958, is also on public view. Other museums in Hanoi include the Bao Tang Lich Su (History Museum), the Bao Tang Quan Doi (Army Museum), Ho Chi Minh Museum, Bao Tang My Thuat (Fine Arts Museum), Bao Tang Cach Manh (Revolutionary Museum) and Independence Museum. There are a number of interesting pagodas in Hanoi. The One Pillar Pagoda, first constructed in 1049 (subsequently destroyed by the French just before they were ejected from the city and then rebuilt by the new government), was built to resemble a lotus flower – the symbol of purity rising out of a sea of sorrow. The Temple of Literature built in 1076 was the first university in Vietnam. It is a graceful complex of small intricate buildings and peaceful courtyards. To the northwest of the Citadel is the West Lake, which is about 13km (9 miles) in circumference. The shores of the lake are popular amongst the Hanoians for picnics and there are a number of cafes. The lake also contains the wreckage of a crashed American B52 bomber.

About 160km (100 miles) from Hanoi, near the port of Haiphong, is Ha Long Bay. This is an amazing complex of 3000 chalk islands rising out of the East Sea. The area is strange, eerie and very beautiful. Many of the islands contain bizarre cave formations and grottoes. Near Ha Long Bay is Cat Ba Island, a designated National Park and a rich repository of plants and wildlife.
About 250km (155 miles) north of Hanoi, high in the Hoang Lien Mountains, is the old hill station of Sapa. This area is inhabited by the Hmong and Zhao hill tribes. Every weekend there is a market when the local tribespeople come into town to trade. In the evening, they celebrate with huge amounts of potent rice alcohol. It is absolutely vital that when visiting this area tourists are sensitive to local culture and traditions. If one follows the road from Sapa 200km (125 miles) further into the mountains (this can only realistically be attempted by jeep), one reaches Dien Bien Phu, scene of the humiliating defeat of the French by the Viet Minh that finally put paid to French colonial occupation in Indochina. This is a wild, beautiful and remote region.

(Source: 108Explore)

Central Vietnam

Midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City lies the city of Hue. The former capital of the emperors of Vietnam, it is known for its beautiful imperial architecture, although a great deal of this was destroyed during the Tet offensive in 1968. The Perfume River forms the border between the city itself and the former ‘Forbidden Purple City’, the mighty Citadel. This ‘city within a city’ with its tombs, pagodas and lakes covered in lotus flowers was largely destroyed during the Vietnam War, but one can still see evidence of its former magnificence. Within easy reach of the city are the tombs of several of Vietnam’s emperors. Most interesting, perhaps, are the Tomb of Minh Mang and the Tomb of Tu Duc. The city also houses fine examples of Buddhist pagodas and other temples, such as the Thien Mu Pagoda.

Near Hue is Da Nang, the Marble Mountains and the Cham Museum, which houses magnificent examples of the art of the Indianised Cham civilization. Approximately 20km (12 miles) from Da Nang is Hoi An. This is a delightful small riverine town replete with temple and pagodas.
A day’s drive from Hoi An, through some of Vietnam’s most breathtaking scenery, is Nha Trang. This is a pleasant resort with a good beach. From here it is easy to reach the town of Da Lat in the Central Highlands, evocative of a typical French town, which is popular among domestic tourists for its cool climate and alpine scenery.

(Source: 108Explore)

The South

Ho Chi Minh City
Set back from the delta formed by the Mekong River, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is the main commercial center of the southern part of Vietnam, receiving its name in honor of the leader who successfully led the nation against both France and the USA. Locals still like to refer to it as Saigon. More modern than other Vietnamese cities, Ho Chi Minh City has also retained its French colonial influences. Its vibrancy is maintained by the ever-entrepreneurial Saigonese who have taken the Government reforms to heart and re-embraced the capitalist ethic with unrestrained enthusiasm. The streets are jam-packed with mopeds and scooters, often carrying whole families. The markets are chaotically busy. There is a lot to see in Ho Chi Minh City. The colorful Emperor of Jade Pagoda is an excellent example of a Chinese temple. Inside, there are elaborate woodcarvings decorated with gilded characters and sculptures depicting local deities. The hustle and bustle of trading is best observed in the markets of Cholon, the ancient Chinese quarter. The Hôtel de Ville is a wonderful example of French colonial architecture. The twin towers of Notre Dame Cathedral have been a familiar landmark in Ho Chi Minh City since the 1880s. The War Remnants Museum bears witness to the suffering inflicted on the Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s. Other sites relevant to that era are Re-Unification Hall and the former US Embassy. An interesting excursion from Saigon is a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels in which the South Vietnamese Communists concealed themselves and from which they launched attacks on US soldiers.

Northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, Tay Ninh is an interesting destination as it is the home of the Caodai religion. This is a purely Vietnamese sect formed this century which takes teachings and precepts from most of the world’s major religions. Tay Ninh is the site of the largest Caodaist temple in Vietnam. This structure is colorful and unique.
South of Ho Chi Minh city are the flat, verdant planes of the Mekong Delta where much of Vietnam’s rice crop is grown. There are several towns in this region from which the visitor can take boat trips on the many tributaries of the Mekong.

(Source: 108Explore)

Traditional festivals in Lunar year (When to go)

  • The last day of the previous year to 3rd day of 1st Lunar month: Tết festival.

  • 2nd day of 1st Lunar month: Cửa Ông temple Festival, Cửa Ông ward, Cẩm Phả district, Quảng Ninh province.

  • 5th day of 1st Lunar month: Đống Đa Festival, Đống Đa district, Hà Nội capital.

  • 5th day to 10th day of 1st Lunar month: Liễu Đôi wrestle Festival, Liễu Đôi village, Liêm Túc commune, Thanh Liêm district, Hà Nam province.

  • 6th day of 1st Lunar monthlast day of 3rd Lunar month: Hương pagoda Festival, Hương Sơn commune, Mỹ Đức district, Hà Tây province.

  • 6th day to 16th of 1st Lunar month: Cổ Loa temple Festival, Cổ Loa commune, Đông Anh district, Hà Nội capital.

  • 9th day and 10th day of the 1st Lunar month: Ba Bể Lake Festival, Ba Bể lake, Ba Bể district, Bắc Kạn province.

  • 9th day to 11th day of 1st Lunar month: Triều Khúc village Festival, Triều Khúc village, Hà Nội capital.

  • 10th day of 1st Lunar month: Sình village Festival, Sình village, Phú Mậu commune, Phú Vang district, Thừa ThiênHuế province.

  • 10th day of 1st Lunar month to the last day of 3rd Lunar month: Yên Tử Festival, Yên Tử mountain, Thượng Yên Công commune, Uông Bí district, Quảng Ninh province.

  • 13th day of 1st Lunar month: Lim Festival, Lũng Giang commune, Tiên Sơn district, Bắc Ninh province.

  • 13th day and 15th day of 1st Lunar month: Bà Thiên Hậu Pagoda Festival, Lái Thiêu commune, Thủ Dầu Một district, Bình Dương province.

  • 15th day of 1st Lunar month: Thượng temple Festival, Lào Cai province.

  • 18th day and 19th day of 1st Lunar month: Bà Đen Mountain Festival, Bà Đen mountain, Tây Ninh province.

  • 3rd day to 6th day of 2nd Lunar month: Đồng Nhân temple Festival, Hai Bà Trưng district, Hà Nội capital.

  • 14th day to 16th day of 2nd Lunar month: Cuông temple Festival, Diễn An commune, Diễn Châu district, Nghệ An province.

  • 18th day to 20th day of 2nd Lunar month: Quán Thế Âm Festival, Ngũ Hành Sơn mountain, Đà Nẵng city.

  • 3rd Lunar month: Central Highland Elephant Racing, Đôn village, Daklak province

  • 3th day to 8th day of 3rd Lunar month: Phủ Dày Festival, Kim Thái commune, Vụ Bản district, Nam Định province.

  • 4th day to 7th day of 3rd Lunar month: Thầy pagoda Festival, Sài Sơn commune, Quốc Oai district, Hà Tây province.

  • 10th day of 3rd Lunar month: Giỗ Tổ Hùng Vương, Hùng Vương temple, Phú Thọ province.

  • 10th day of 3rd Lunar month: Trường Yên Festival, Hoa Lư district, Ninh Bình province.

  • 10th day to 12th day of 3rd Lunar month: Chử Đồng Tử temple Festival, Đa Hoà village, Châu Giang district, Hưng Yên province.

  • 15th day of 3rd Lunar month: Đô temple Festival, Đình Bảng village, Từ Sơn district, Bắc Ninh province.

  • 23th day of 3rd Lunar month: Lệ Mật village Festival, Lệ Mật village, Việt Hưng commune, Gia Lâm district, Hà Nội capital.

  • 9th day of 4th Lunar month: Gióng temple Festival, Phù Đổng temple, Gia Lâm district, Hà Nội capital.

  • 23th day to 25th day of 4th Lunar month: Bà Chúa Xứ Festival, Sam mountain, Châu Đốc district, An Giang province.

  • 9th day of 8th Lunar month: Đồ Sơn buffalo fight Festival, Đồ Sơn district, Hải Phòng city.

  • 16th day to 20th day of 8th Lunar month: Kiếp Bạc temple Festival, Lê Lợi commune, Chí Linh district, Hải Dương province.

  • 13th day to 15th of 9th Lunar month: Keo pagoda Festival, Vũ Nhất commune, Vũ Thư district, Thái Bình province.



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