Why you need to visit Vietnam
Over the last ten years or so, Vietnam has emerged as one of Southeast Asia's most popular destinations, not to mention one of the region's fastest-growing economies.
A fascinating country, it offers everything you could want, from delicious cuisine, temples and ancient cities, to world-class natural beauty spots and fascinating culture. Here's our pick of just some of the reasons that you need to visit Vietnam.
To explore the Imperial City of Hue
While Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are the two biggest cities, the one with the most impressive architecture is, in fact, Hue, located in the central coastal stretch of the country.
The capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945, today Hue's citadel is scattered with impressive palaces, ornate pagodas and royal tombs. Once you've visited the citadel, take to the city's Perfume River for a trip aboard a dragon boat.
To taste its delicious cuisine
While it may not yet be as popular as Thai, Vietnamese cuisine is on the rise. In Vietnam, you'll be able to try all your favourite dishes in an authentic style, plus ones that you've never even heard of before.
Vietnam's signature dish that you'll find all over the country is, of course, pho - noodles served hot in a meaty broth topped with beansprouts, mint, lime and chillies.
Others you should try include chewy cầo lau noodles with crispy pork belly in Hoi An and tasty bánh mì sandwiches, filled with grilled meats, pickled vegetables and herbs.
Wash it all down with an egg coffee - a traditional coffee from Hanoi made with whipped egg yolks, sugar and thick condensed milk.
To trek in the hills of Sapa
Situated in the very north western part of Vietnam, close to the border with China, lie the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains and the hill station of Sapa.
A popular beauty spot for trekking and hiking, it's littered with steep rice terraces, lush jade-green mountains and tumbling waterfalls.
The area is also home to Mount Fansipan - Vietnam's highest peak. Challenge yourself by hiking all the way to the top (six to eight hours approx.) or take the easy option as you admire the views from the cable car.
Most of the treks from Sapa take visitors to meet some of the many mountain tribes that live in the area, including the Black Hmong, Red Dzao, Tay, and Phù Lá, which offer insights into their culture and way of life.
To ride around in a cyclo
While tuk tuks may be the transport of choice in Thailand, in Vietnam, it's cyclos.
These three-wheeled contraptions, with a bicycle part on the back and a wide seat at the front, make for a fun-filled way of travelling around the cities in Vietnam, giving you a prime spot for sightseeing. Drivers will be happy to cycle you from point to point or take you on a little city tour.
To cruise Halong Bay
One of the highlights, many look forward to, is cruising the spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Halong Bay, located in the northeast of the country.
The bay is dotted with soaring limestone karsts, and lush verdant islands, which jut out from the emerald-coloured waters below. Hop aboard a traditional wooden junk boat to experience the bay from the water; many of these you can spend the night on, too.
Owing to its natural beauty, Halong Bay has become incredibly popular and at certain times of the year, can feel too crowded. If this is the case, why not try and visit the equally scenic but lesser-visited Bai Tu Long Bay instead?
To learn about its intriguing history
Vietnam has a fascinating, turbulent history, much of it associated with the Vietnam War, which occurred from 1955 to 1975.
Many of the country's top attractions are associated with the war, and it's interesting as well as moving to see these sites in person. This includes the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City and the Củ Chi Tunnels, which you can still squeeze inside.
To marvel at the coloured lanterns in Hoi An
Hoi An is without a doubt, one of Vietnam's prettiest cities. Sitting on the Thu Bồn River, its old town is lined with old Indo-French style architecture and bisected by old Japanese-covered bridges.
But what makes it so captivating are the thousands of silk coloured lanterns that hang from the shops, the houses and across the streets.
The town is famous for its silk and tailoring houses, as well as its history as a Vietnamese trading centre during the 16th and 17th centuries. Hire a bicycle to discover the old town on two wheels.
To watch a water puppet show
If you want to see a traditional Vietnamese performance, you can't do better than water puppetry. This ancient art form dates as far back as the 11th century and features wooden marionette style puppets, performing over water.
The custom comes from the time when people used to perform puppetry in the flooded rice paddies. One of the best and most famous places to see this is the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi.
To relax on the beaches of Phu Quoc
Vietnam is home to many spectacular swathes of beaches, but some of the best and quietest can be found on the paradisiacal island of Phu Quoc.
Situated just off the southern tip of Cambodia, it can be accessed from Ho Chi Minh City or even Cambodia itself. The island is known for its exclusive resorts, white sand beaches dusted with palms and gin-clear waters, filled with exotic marine life and colourful corals.
Weather in Vietnam
The below guide gives an overview of the weather in Hoi An, which is situated roughly in the centre of the country's coastline. However, as a long sliver of a country in the tropical region of Southeast Asia, conditions can vary greatly throughout the year, from north to south and from the low-lying beaches to mountainous areas inland.
|Maximum daytime temperature °C|
|Hours of sunshine (daily)|
|Days with some rainfall|
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