Reasons to travel to Vietnam, where should one even start? The nature, history and culture don’t even scratch the surface of the draw that this country has for travelers. Vietnam is slowly emerging as a hot travel destination.
On every Vietnamese New Year, Hoi An is transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour and light for its Lantern Festival. The celebration lasts for seven days, with the road from Hoi An Bridge to the Hoai River Square decorated with thousands of colourful lanterns. Over 50 workshops take part in the event, each trying to create the prettiest lantern. The colours are bright and the designs are strictly traditional. It’s crowded, chaotic and festive, with spontaneous singing and food stalls at every turn. It is as much a celebration for locals as it is for visitors. The most breathtaking sight is thousands of lanterns floating on the river, hire a sampan boat to get a closer look. You can buy a lantern and set it afloat too.
With 1,600 limestone towers rising from its turquoise waters, Halong Bay is rightly considered one of Vietnam’s most beautiful spots. As a result, it’s on every visitor’s list and hundreds of boats offer cruise trips every day. The bay is huge, but it can still feel crowded. Bai Tu Long Bay, just a few miles away, offers the same jaw-dropping scenery. Here you can explore uncrowded caves and tiny beaches, and feast on super-fresh seafood. Boat trips to Bai Tu Long Bay leave from Halong City, just like the ones to Halong Bay. But you’ll head off in the opposite direction, to where the islands are a little less taller and a little more spread out.
After travelling 4,000 kilometers from the Tibetan Himalaya, the Mekong hits Vietnam. With islands, rice paddies, villages and a way of life that hasn’t changed for centuries. Ride with a cargo boat. Simply find a shady spot to gaze at faraway riverbanks as your boat, weighed down with fruit and rice sacks or take one of the many commercial cruises that parts of the river. The cruise from Cai Be to Can Tho is a great way to experience a night on the river. Travel southwards along the Mang Thit River.
WORLD’S LARGEST CAVE
Quang Binh is a wild region of jungle in Vietnam’s middle, close to the border with Laos. The area is surrounded with hundreds of deep caves, including one of the largest in the world, Hang Son Doong. It contains a skyscraper inside. Here you can hire guides to descend into the caves. If going underground doesn’t appeal, the area is also famous for trekking. The surrounding jungle is peppered with stunning waterfalls, lots of monkeys and flying foxes.
The market town of Sapa, in Vietnam’s mountainous north, first became popular as a French hill station. The town has fabulous view of the Hoang Lien Mountains and a colourful market attended by tribes from the surrounding countryside every Saturday. The town has become increasingly popular with tourists, but there are still old traditions hidden in its secret corners. One of those is the Love Market, where men and women come from miles around to sing songs of love to each other. It was originally held at the end of trading at the Saturday markets, but visitors taking many photos has driven the tradition underground. The Love Market still exists, but now it takes place in secret locations in the dead of night, away from the eyes of visitors.