Vietnam Paradox: Rich Urban Culture Meets Magnificent Nature

October 8, 2019

Unforgettable experiences are everywhere in Vietnam, it is both exotic and compelling with staggering natural beauty, dynamic cities, pristine coastlines and centuries old cultural sites. From gazing out at the surreal limestone islands of Halong Bay, to experiencing the floating markets on the Mekong Delta and enjoying one of the world’s best culinary scenes, this country has a rich history and vibrant, fast-developing future.

 

HANOI

 

Hanoi is one of the most ancient capitals in the world located on the banks of the Red River. It is known for its rich culture, silks & handicrafts, delectable cuisine, vibrant nightlife and centuries old architecture. Stay at the luxurious Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi which is full of romance and history and just a short walk from Hoan Kiem Lake where you can find the Huc Bridge and the Hanoi Old Quarter. From walking tours, to bicycle excursions and street food tours, this city has something to offer everyone.

Hanoi 

Hoan Kiem Lake

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

Huc Bridge

 

The otherworldly Halong Bay, made up of cascading limestone pillars and majestic emerald waters, is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Located about 103 miles from Hanoi, the drive takes around 4 hours but can be cut down to 45 minutes by taking a helicopter or seaplane directly from the airport. Most visitors take an overnight boat tour to experience at least one sunrise & sunset on the water while enjoying activities like exploring caves and kayaking.

Sung Sot Cave, Halong Bay

Halong Bay

 

A great option for a day trip, located about 2 hours south you will find the stunning and diverse Ninh Binh, known as the Dry Halong Bay it remains far less popular with tourists than its sister Ha Long Bay.  If you arrive early in the morning you can easily cover attractions like Tam Coc, Trang An, the pagodas scattered around them and even the beautiful Gothic Phat Diem Cathedral.

Ninh Binh, Tam Coc 

Karst mountains, lush rice fields and emerald rivers

Boat trip in Ninh Binh

 

Hội An

 

Hội An Town is a must visit on any Vietnam itinerary, it’s an exceptionally well preserved Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the central coast. There is no airport or train station, you need to fly into Danang which is easily accessible through other major cities and take a 30-minute drive. Lanterns adorn the quiet streets of this yellow ancient town which is known for tailoring and being the food capital of Vietnam. Explore the old town where you can find a range of coffee houses, silversmiths, designer boutiques, specialty tea shops, tailors and art galleries. 

Hoi An Town

Lanterns in Old Town

Hoi An

Japanese Covered Bridge

 

Stay at the beautiful Four Seasons Resort, The Nam Hai located on a stretch of Ha My Beach near Hội An. With an idyllic location it offers access to three extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage Sites or you can enjoy the spa beautifully perched over a lotus pond or take part in a cooking class at The Nam Hai Cooking Academy. Other great hotels in the area include the Anantara Hoi An Resort or the Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort which was just named as the Best Resort in Asia by the 2019 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards and #4 on the list of Best Resorts in the World.

Four Seasons Resort, The Nam Hai

Anantara Hoi An Resort

Intercontinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort

 

Day trips from Hoi An include marveling the temple strewn sanctuary of My Son and admiring The Imperial City of Hue and its towering pagoda with a 50-building tomb complex. One of the best ways to explore the beautiful surroundings is to rent a bicycle or scooter to ride through the rice paddies or hit the nearby beaches for a relaxing afternoon.

Imperial Palace Gate, Hue 

Long Son Pagoda, Danang

Pagoda of the Celestial Lady

 

Ho Chi Minh

 

A mega-city with over 7 million motorbikes, Saigon – or Ho Chi Minh City, to use its official name – can feel overwhelming at first sight. A city of contradictions with history and modernity, home to towering skyscrapers and tree lined ageing streets along with haute cuisine or humble street food. Stay at The Reverie Saigon which offers outstanding views from floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Saigon River.

Ho Chi Minh City

View from The Reverie

Vietnemese Pho Soup

The Reverie Lobby

 

A four-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City lies the Mekong Delta which is home to floating markets and unique cuisine that’s found in this area of the country.  It’s possible to do a day trip or there is an option of two to three-day trips to explore the region. For those that would like a more in-depth experience, AMAWaterways, Aqua Expeditions and Uniworld offer river cruises from 5 days to 22 days down the Mekong which can also include Cambodia and Laos.

The Mekong Delta

Floating Market

AMAWaterways Mekong River Cruise 

 

If you are looking to get out of the big city you can take a 2.5-hour flight northeast to Cam Ranh, followed by an hour drive to Amanoi, which is a tranquil retreat situated on a beautiful white sand beach overlooking spectacular Vinh Hy Bay. This peaceful resort is located in Nui Chua National park which protects more than 29,000 hectares of pristine coastal and marine habitats, one of the country’s largest natural conservation sites.

Aerial view of Amanoi 

Spa House at Amanoi

 

For an island experience go to Con Dao Island, the setting for Six Senses Con Dao which is a 45-minute domestic flight from SGN to Con Dao Airport and a 10-minute drive to the resort. It is set in an area of outstanding natural beauty, a protected marine and national park with a mile of golden sand sheltered by the forest and recognized as a top ecolodge by National Geographic Traveler.

 Six Senses Con Dao Dining

Six Senses Con Dao 

 

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