Vietnam will simply amaze
FROM hearty soups, flavoured with exotic herbs, to crispy spring rolls and savoury crepes, food alone is reason enough to visit Vietnam, according to the RAA’s expert travel blogger John Pedler.
“You could quite easily while away your time in cafes, sampling delicacies, as day-today life swirls around you,’’ he said. “But then, you’d miss everything else Vietnam has to offer.’’
For a relatively small country, Vietnam’s diversity of landscapes and attractions is remarkable.
In the north, wooden passenger junks drift quietly among towering, limestone islands that rise sheer from the emerald waters of Halong Bay.
“It’s in this mystical place that fish farmers eke out a living on floating villages, as they have done for generations,’’ Mr Pedler said.
The capital, Hanoi, is a mix of old and new.
“While modern Hanoi reflects Vietnam’s charge into the 21st century, the French colonial architecture of the Old Quarter recalls another age,’’ Mr Pedler said. “It’s a joy to lose yourself among the impossibly narrow streets, where tiny shopfronts display colourful handicrafts from around the country.’’
He suggested travellers also “pop out of the hubbub’’ for a breather at peaceful Hoan Kiem Lake, where legendary warrior Le Loi is purported to have found a magical sword that helped him conquer his foes.
The former capital, Hue, was at the height of its power during the reign of the Nguyen Lords two centuries ago and monumental reminders of the city’s former glory remain.
Fortified behind a moat and 6m high wall, the ornately adorned Imperial Citadel protected the inner city, home to the rulers and their minions.
“Battle-scarred from the conflicts that have beset Vietnam in the past, the site is now protected by World Heritage listing,’’ Mr Pedler said.
“Wandering the narrow streets of ancient Hoi An is like stepping back in time.’’
For hundreds of years the town was a bustling port and many of the old houses and pagodas remain intact,’’ he said. “It was here that Chinese, Japanese and European merchants traded their wares and this population diversity is reflected in the various building styles,’’ he said.
“So valuable is the cultural integrity of Hoi An that it is also world heritage listed.’’
The southern “capital’’ Ho Chi Minh City, must be experienced to be believed, according to Mr Pedler.
“Ever on the move, the hectic traffic can startle firsttime visitors, but the city’s vitality is enthralling,’’ he said.
“For a blast from the past, head for the Reunification Palace, once home to the South Vietnamese president.’’ It was designed in the 1960s and Mr Pedler said the lurid decor remains unchanged since the day the tanks rolled through the gates in 1975, signalling the end of the Vietnam War.
Further south, the water world of the Mekong Delta is the nation’s bread basket.
“With a myriad of rivers and canals crisscrossing the countryside and farmers in conical hats tending their rice paddies, this is the Vietnam that many people recognise,’’ Mr Pedler said.
You can visit Halong Bay, Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta as part of RAA’s exclusive Indochina Explorer tour.
This 17-day, small group tour is priced from $2999 a person, including 16 nights accommodation, four, domestic economy class flights in Asia while on tour and extensive sightseeing.
More holiday ideas can be found on Mr Pedler’s blogs on the RAA website. MORE DETAILS/BOOKINGS: CALL AN RAA TRAVEL EXPERT ON 8202 4589 OR VISIT RAA.COM.AU
STUNNING: The tranquil, emerald waters and limestone islands of Halong Bay.