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Since opening up to tourists in the early 1990s, Vietnam has evolved into a preferred holiday destination. Wonderful beaches, unique sites such as the spectacular Halong Bay, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, delicious cuisine and varied nightlife choices are the highlights. Vietnam boasts a colourful history and was ruled by dynasties for 2,000 years before being colonised by the French. The Vietnam War was a dark time but the nation has recovered since the North and the South reunited in 1976. Thailand to Vietnam is no more than two hours flying time.Don’t Miss
The weather in Vietnam is not cold and any time is a good time for a holiday, but avoiding the June to October monsoon season is best. The Tet New Year in January or February is a perfect time for a Vietnamese vacation. Ho Chi Minh City’s Independence Palace, site of the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and now called the Reunification Hall; Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Cu Chi Tunnels, a vast underground complex used by the Vietcong during the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War, are monuments to this city’s history. Hanoi attracts with its lakes and museums and is the gateway to Halong Bay, a World Heritage site and national park home to mostly uninhabited islands of limestone that rise up dramatically from the waters of the bay. The rice terraces of Sapa, once a French hill station, is now also popular for its dramatic mountain scenery and trekking opportunities.
Heading north from Ho Chi Minh City is the route to the old French hilltown of Dalat, 1,500 m above sea level and filled with pine forests; the beaches of Nha Trang and Da Nang; Hoi An’s historic district, a World Heritage site consisting of beautifully preserved buildings that reflect life of a bygone era, and, in Hue, the emperors’ citadel constructed to resemble a mini Forbidden City.Restaurants and Bars
Vietnamese cuisine satisfies all tastes. Pho (beef or chicken noodle soup) and banh mi (French style filled baguettes) are found everywhere. Standard Vietnamese coffee should not be missed while the egg coffee version is as good as any dessert. Banh xeo (pancakes), goi cuon (spring rolls) and cao lau (noodles and pork skin) are other must tries. Ben Thanh Night Market is the top dining zone in Ho Chi Minh City, while Hanoi’s Weekend Night Market is the best place to sample Vietnamese dishes.Activities
Crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels is an adventure with a difference when in Ho Chi Minh City. Other activities to enjoy here include taking in a water-puppet show and a cruise on the Saigon River. A Halong Bay sightseeing cruise gives stunning views of the limestone crags there. Fun lovers will enjoy the thrills of Vinpearl Waterparks in locations including Nha Trang and Phu Quoc Island.Shopping
Typical souvenirs from Vietnam include ao dai (traditional dresses), silks, caps with red-star logos, bamboo flutes, lacquerware, leather belts and handbags, and guoc moc (wooden shoes) in prime shopping hotspots such as Ben Tanh Market in Ho Ch Minh and Hanoi’s Old Quarter.