The Old Quarter is the cultural heart of Hanoi where the pulse of life has constantly beat for nearly 2,000 years. Daily routine starts early and builds to a friendly bustle. Streets have distinct character and are named after the crafts once made there - silver, ladder, silk, paper.
St. Joseph's cathedral rings for mass regularly throughout the day, follow the bells to check its Neo-Gothic style. Huyen Thien Pagoda is another of the many temples peppered around this part of town. The Old City Gate is one of four original entrances to the heart of the Royal City to survive over a thousand years.
Take time to sample the spirit, atmosphere and shopping on offer here - nothing says Hanoi like its Old Quarter.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a network of underground passageways that run to more than 120 miles (200 kilometers) in total length in this area alone. Work by the Viet Cong commenced in 1948 as a means of shelter from the French air attacks during the Indochina conflict.
The network provided vital access and strategic control over the large rural area surrounding Ho Chi Minh City; over the following two decades the tunnels became a complex underground city including hospitals, defenses and living quarters. This meant despite all the bombings in the area many of the local people could still continue to live underground. In its prime and at its most impressive the Cu Chi Tunnels stretched from the southern Vietnamese capital all the way to the Cambodian border to the west, and in places was dug to 3 stories deep.
Much of the original tunnel system was destroyed in bombing raids during the 1970s but existing parts have been restored and opened.
The Cham Islands are a group of 8 small islands of Quang Nam that make up the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park and that are a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
This island offers visitors sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and crystal-clear waters. Hikers will appreciate the scenic views from forested trail heads and basic amenities of tropical campsites. Scuba divers will find coral, tiger shrimp and mollusk unique to this region, while lucky birders can peep Salanganes -- made famous in the country's bird's nest soup -- these islands are known for.
Constructed in 1804, this massive fortress designed for the Gia Long Emperor, is surrounded by a zigzag moat and defensive barrier that’s 21 meters thick. But visitors to this citadel-in-a-citadel-in-a-citadel won’t need to swim across rivers or scale towering walls to get a look inside. The Imperial Enclosure is accessible by crossing one of the 10 pedestrian bridges into the once royal land. Pass through Ngo Mon (Noon) Gate, once reserved for those in power, then wander through Flag Tower (Cot Co) and stare up at the nation’s tallest flagpole before weaving through the Nine Dynastic Urns representing different Nguyen kings.
The Perfume River may have gotten its fame from the film Full Metal Jacket, but visitors to Hue traveled on this scenic body of water even before the movie’s 1987 debut. Each fall, blossoms from nearby orchards drop into the river, producing the unique fragrance that gives this river its name. The unpolluted waters offer cooling breezes for cyclists riding along the winding banks of local rice fields, and breathtaking views of Ngu Binh Mountain. Watch the sun go down and the city light up while you enjoy a cool beer on a late-afternoon dragon boat ride through Hue.
This royal structure, which sits at the center of Hue’s Imperial Enclosure, was once reserved for exclusive use by the emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty. Only eunuchs passed through its halls, since even his most trusted servants weren’t allowed beyond the gates. Today, this historic citadel sits mostly in ruins, destroyed during several wars throughout the nation’s history.
Despite some recent rebuilding efforts, travelers can easily spend a long afternoon wandering paths that crisscross the grounds, exploring portions of the foundation, now overgrown with foliage, and examining the painting, woodwork and architecture that still remains. A 10 kilometer moat surrounds what was created to resemble the Forbidden City of Beijing, and 10 gates protect these once royal grounds.
History lovers flock to this 2,000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site, where Hindu, Arab and Chinese influences are reflected in breathtaking architecture, eclectic food and rich culture.
Naturalists will appreciate the quiet beaches just a short bike ride from the city center, while wanderers will love the pedestrian-only streets of Ancient Town lined with quaint shops and bustling vendors.
Urban skyscrapers and big-city development have yet to touch this former shipping port, which means travelers can enjoy a taste of what Hoi An once was and what Vietnam used to be.
The Gothic twin bell towers of this classic cathedral stretch high into the skyline, marking this as a destination for those looking to escape the buzz of Ho Chi Minh and find some quiet contemplation. Saigon Notre-Dame’s striking red façade and towering stone archways were constructed with materials imported from France in the 1800s. But its unique architecture is not the only draw to this iconic city landmark. In 2005, visitors reported seeing tears flow from the eyes of a statue of the Virgin Mary here, making it a destination for Catholics on religious pilgrimage.
Few major cities count the post office among their top tourist attractions, but the classic interior of Saigon Central Post Office continues to be a favorite destination among travelers visiting Ho Chi Minh City for the first time.
Completed in 1891, the design of this architectural landmark mimics an old world European railway station with mile-high ceilings, a larger-than-life portrait of Ho Chi Minh and a centrally located clock face. These rich details are what manage to draw even the travelers who arrive with plans to purchase stamps or mail postcards, to pause and soak up the brilliant interior, which includes hand-painted maps of the old city.
Opened in 1975, just a few months after the liberation, the War Remnants Museum is one of the most popular attractions in the city. Laid out in 8 themed rooms are different aspects of the war from imprisonment, to chemical warfare and military might.
In the grounds there are military equipment, weaponry and aircraft on display including fighter planes, helicopters and tanks. Some of the exhibits are shockingly gruesome, explicit photos and prisoner cages detail a war-torn history. This is the story of the Vietnam War told from the other side which mixes the atrocities of war with the reality of military hardware.
The Reunification Palace is an important site of political and cultural significance, built by the French in 1868 to mark the newly established colony of Indochina.
In 1945, it briefly became the headquarters for the Japanese after their defeat of the French. In 1962, two Vietnamese rebel pilots bombed the palace - the president survived but the palace did not. He commissioned a new one to be built. It was renamed Independence Palace and the design became a Modernist icon. In 1975 the palace was the symbolic site of the triumphant liberation of Saigon. Vietnam was then reunified; since then the building has been known as Reunification Palace. Today it is a working government building as well as having areas open to the public. Tour the private quarters, the president's former office and the War Command Room. You get a real sense of what happened here and its importance in Vietnamese history.
Let the spirit of Ho Chi Minh City lift you up and carry you through this network of colorful bustling activity. Cho Ben Thanh, or Ben Thanh Market, comes alive every evening with a thrum of tireless energy that never ceases to enthrall.
This is the most celebrated and regularly visited of the markets. It is also the most central, located in one of the liveliest parts of the city where the streets and alleyways surrounding the market place fill with food stalls.
At Ben Thanh Market you can expect to find almost everything that the locals might need in their day to day lives: from fresh meats and vegetables to clothes, domestic items, pots, woven baskets and bamboo ladders. This is a feast for the senses.Take in the sounds: the excited chatter of shoppers and the pitch of vendors’ voices rising into the steaming night.
Breathe in the sweet spiced air - chili, tamarind, ginger - and witness the bright array of colors from exotic fruits to beautiful silks.
Tourists flock both day and night to this small bridge at the center of Hoi An, known as the Japanese Covered Bridge (Chua Cau), because of its picturesque beauty. As a result, attempting to cross the 12-meter structure will likely be faced with a labyrinth of kissing couples posing for photographs and backpackers loitering in its cool shade. Still detailed Japanese carvings, as well as monkey and dog statues—a nod to the years its construction began and finished—are worth the congestion and guaranteed headache of a trip to this Hoi An landmark.
East meets west at this stunning example of French Colonial architecture in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City. The gleaming white municipal theater, which is home the Ho Chi Minh City Ballet and Symphony Orchestra, was built in 1897. Its well-lit façade casts a brilliant glow on nearby city streets. Visitors can file into the 1,800 seat theater to catch regular dress rehearsals, or buy a ticket for one of the weekly cultural shows the theater is known for. On weekends, free public performances take place on the opera house steps and the nearby park offers travelers a perfect spot to stop and enjoy the music.
The Cholon neighborhood, Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown, is dotted with traditional Chinese-style pagodas and temples, including one of the neighborhood’s most popular places of worship, the Thien Hau Temple. Built by Cantonese immigrants in the early 19th century, this temple honors the goddess of the sea, Thien Hau (more commonly named Mazu).
Located on a busy street, it would be easy to walk right past Thien Hau, but it’s well worth stopping in to see the architecture and interior. On the outside, the temple roof is adorned with delicately worked porcelain figures depicting scenes from Chinese legend. You’ll find even more of these porcelain dioramas on the interior walls of the temple as well. Before you even step through the exterior gate of the temple, the smells of burning incense should already be apparent. Dozens of huge conical coiled incense hang from the ceiling over the main worship area, permeating the space with a smoky haze and an intense odour.
Cholon, Saigon's Chinatown district, dominates the west bank of the city, boasting the attractions of Quan Am Pagoda, Thien Hau Temple, Binh Tay Market and numerous teahouses. Visit this long-established Chinese community (the largest of its kind in Vietnam) and soak up the fascinating culture, architecture and sights.
Quan Am Pagoda - a Chinese-style Buddhist temple - features beautiful courtyards, gardens, a pond and a Jade Emperor. At Thien Hau Temple, dedicated to the goddess of the sea, check the stunning carved porcelain ceiling designs. Cholon Mosque and Cha Tam - the catholic cathedral - as well as the thriving Binh Tay market also add to the rich texture of this historic community.
Built in the late 20th century and restored in 1999, Ancient House offers visitors to Hanoi a chance to travel back in time and experience what life was like for locals in this bustling urban center hundreds of years ago. History buffs will love exploring the small two-block home decorated in old-world style and its quiet courtyard.
Ancient House’s architecture may still speak to a past that’s long gone, but it should be noted that this popular destination has become more souvenir shop than museum, where visitors can find traditional embroidery, games and silk paintings for reasonable prices.
At the heart of Cho Lon, Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinese district, the central Binh Tay Market is a popular spot among visitors and tour groups thanks to the backdrop of picturesque French-Chinese architecture. The modern market was built in 1928 after the original burned down. A Chinese businessman Quach Dam funded the reconstruction, and you can find a memorial to him at the center of the market. The ornate statue of Quach Dam that was the market’s original centerpiece now resides at the Fine Art Museum. Binh Tay is Ho Chi Minh City’s largest market, comprising four city blocks. During a visit here, you can peruse a mind-boggling array of wares, everything from pottery and flowers to cheap souvenirs, noodle stalls and vendors selling bulk rice and wholesale produce.
As a main water supply, the Saigon River is critically important to the residents of Ho Chi Minh City. Spend a few days in Ho Chi Minh, and you’ll discover it’s a young, modern city on the move. In contrast, cruising along the Saigon River gives you a glimpse of a more rural Vietnam, where life moves at a slower pace, much like it did decades ago.
The best way to experience the river is by plying its waters in a traditional Vietnamese junk boat. Many such tours offer a meal -- usually lunch or dinner -- along the way. While it’s possible to see the river for the river’s sake, you can also use the river to get to the popular Cu Chi Tunnels used by the Viet Cong to infiltrate the area surrounding Ho Chi Minh City during the Vietnam War.
While the portion of the river seen by most tourists is in southern Vietnam, it actually starts in southeastern Cambodia and flows south over a 140-mile (225-kilometer) distance.
Southeast of Ho Chi Minh City, where the Mekong Delta meets the South China Sea, Can Gio Mangrove Reserve is a UNESCO Biosphere reserve. Said to be the “green lungs” of the city, the area is an important natural wetland that attracts numerous bird species like migratory spot-billed pelicans and painted storks, and acts a nursery for many types of fish and marine life like crabs and shrimp. Boat trips to the reserve include wildlife spotting adventures in Giant Bat Lagoon, a paddling excursion to Rung Sac Guerilla Base, and a stop at Vam Sat Eco Park, where you can visit a crocodile reserve, spot monkeys playing in the trees, and take a hike through the mangroves to spot birds and other wildlife.
Located just south of The Independence Palace, Tao Dan Park is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s largest and most serene parks known for the more than 1,000 large and mature trees that populate the space. The park is home to unique plant sculptures of various animals like dragons and tigers and replicas of Nha Trang's Cham Tower and Hung King Temple. The street Truong Dinh bisects the park, and on the northeast side of the street, you can find a modern sculpture garden.
Many locals visit the park early in the morning to walk or practice tai chi, and the nearby Tao Dan Cafe is known as the “bird café” for the groups of birdkeepers who congregate here to show off their cages of songbirds. At the northern corner of the park, you can see the historic building of the former Cercle Sportif, a colonial-era French sporting club that is now the Worker’s Club, with a swimming pool and tennis courts.
The colorful cafes and cheap hostels of Pham Ngu Lao Street may attract a budget-friendly crowd, but the well-heeled set know that Dong Khoi Street, with its elite boutiques, French architecture and trendy cafes is the premier commercial center of the city to see and be seen.
Travelers can wander through up-market shops selling silks and other handmade items, or comb through the stocks of high-end luxury brands at more mainstream stores. Visit the polished storefronts and quaint cafes off the hidden side streets for a less touristy vibe, and head to the nearby opera house, Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office to take in some of the city’s most popular sites.
Als het startpunt voor het merendeel van de cruises komen de meeste bezoekers naar Halong Bay door Bai Chay. De grote stroom toeristen heeft geleid tot een groot aanbod van hotels, restaurants en souvenirwinkels langs het water. De naam Bai Chay betekent “geblakerd strand”, als herinnering aan de bosbrand in de 13de eeuw die over het vasteland woedde. Grote delen van de turbulente geschiedenis zijn al lang niet meer herkenbaar.
Het grote zandstrand van Bai Chay is de hoofdbestemming voor de bezoekers, met een lengte van 500 meter. Het bruist van de activiteit, zowel overdag als ’s avonds en ‘s nachts. Wandel langs de schilderachtige haven van Bai Chay, waar een groot aantal witte zeilboten op hun passagiers liggen te wachten; ga met de lift naar de top van de Bai Chay-brug voor een uitzicht over de baai; of ga naar het strand om te zwemmen, probeer watersporten als waterskiën en kajakken, of bekijk een traditionele show met waterpoppen.
Giac Lam Pagoda is widely recognized as an important and historic pagoda, the oldest temple in the city. Built in 1744 on an undeveloped area of jungle, it has since been consumed into the west of the city.
Originally thatched, the buildings have undergone significant remodeling at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Historically significant, it is now protected as an official cultural heritage site. In the main garden stands a famous bodhi tree donated by Sri Lanka to the temple in 1953, in its shade stands a statue of bodhisattva Aralokiteshvara. In the grounds also stands a 32 meter (100 foot) high seven story hexagonal stupa; in total there are over 100 statues to admire. There is also an eerie and worth seeing funerary chamber with photos and shrines dedicated to former monks of the temple. At the main altar, Buddhists pray for peace and good health.