Viet­nam will sim­ply amaze

Sunday Mail - Travel/Escape - - RAA TRAVEL -

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.

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