What is the first word that comes to your mind when you say Vietnam?
The land of the Flying Dragon will surely surprise you with its unique landscapes and the mix between old and new. This country heavily affected by wars has managed to develop a lot lately and, I would very much like to see where it will end up in the next 2-3 years.
Vietnam offers you countless places worth visiting, so if you want to cross the country from the south to the north, you need at least two weeks. The infrastructure does not help you much to move very well by land, but, fortunately, there are airlines with a few low cost options. As we only had one week available, unfortunately, it was a challenge for me to choose what we would visit, taking into account the fact that it was the beginning of the rainy season. Fortunately, I can tell you that, although the weather forecast shows rain almost every day, we only had a few drops of rain on one evening.
In the north, the rainy season lasts from mid-April to mid-October. The southern area has a more tropical climate, and the typhoon season lasts from June to November.
Thus, I was only able to visit Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), the Mekong Delta, and spend a few beach days in Nha Trang.
Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)
We arrived in Saigon after about 15 hours, choosing to fly with Qatar Airways and having a 2 hour stopover in Doha. We obtained the visa at the airport, but it is important for you to know that you need to obtain a letter of approval before departure. This process also involves paying a fee and can take about 3 days. There are several sites that can help you get this letter, but I used the Vietnam Visa Pro site. With this letter, two pictures and a form I got a visa at the airport quite quickly. Therefore, get this approval in advance.
Saigon is a vibrant city, which amazes you from your first step, with the impression that sometimes it is one of the most modern cities, and other times that time seems to have stopped in place “100” years ago. Impressive buildings, parks, restaurants, rooftops, malls and shops with all the luxury brands are at home among the old streets. It is a city in continuous transformation and development, probably also due to the investment of China.
Here it is an adventure in itself to cross the street even on the zebra (crosswalk for my American friends), as they are not very used to stopping but rather to simply flowing around you like a school of fish. So, we tried to follow the advice of a local, and to cross firmly and courageously, without stopping or running.
Among the things not to miss, try to enjoy the traditional Vietnamese cuisine, with the essential pho, a very tasty soup with boiled beef, rice noodles, herbs or green onions. I think that I have the most photos of food and cocktails from this holiday than from any other. And, for a unique dining experience, try to get to Phường 8, District 4, where you will eat exactly as the Vietnamese eat. I let the pictures speak for themselves:
Don’t miss: Notre Dame Cathedral, Independence Palace, Opera, Saigon Skydeck, War Remnants Museum.
The Mekong River, also called the River of the Nine Dragons due to the number of arms in which it spreads into the Vietnamese territory, is in the southern part of Vietnam, and is said to be on the verge of extinction.
Millions of tons of rice are grown here, as well as a multitude of fruit trees. The more daring can taste a traditional wine: cobra wine, obtained by marinating a snake in rice wine. You can also visit the coconut factory and taste the delicious candies.
Beekeeping is another source of income for this island, especially through the royal jelly that you can try in a tea, sweetened with lots and lots of honey.
The main attraction, of course, is the trip on the river canals, with the three types of traditional boats. It’s an indescribable feeling!
There are several agencies that offer different types of excursions in the delta, so depending on what you want you have a lot of choices.
On the way back we stopped at Vinh Trang Pagoda which is the largest pagoda in Tieng Giang. It is surrounded by gardens, ornamental trees and bonsai, creating a relaxing atmosphere. The huge statue of the Happy Buddha, or “Bo Dai” in Vietnamese, will surely impress you.
The pagoda features a mix of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Cambodian architectural styles (remotely resembling the Angkor Temple)
Nha Trang, also known as the South China Sea Riviera, offers a six-kilometre stretch of white sand beaches, a multitude of tourist attractions, such as Buddhist temples and Gothic-style Catholic churches, as well as natural springs, salt fields and waterfalls. Some 19 islands are just a short boat ride away.
Therefore you won’t get bored!
We combined the moments of relaxation and laziness under the sun with those in which we discovered a little of the ancient culture. A tuk tuk is a super fun means of transportation, especially since the distances were not very long.
The Po Nagar Cham towers introduce you to the ancient world of the Cham population. They were built to honor the goddess Po Nagar – literally translated as “mother of the country” – who is said to have taught agricultural and weaving skills to the Cham people.
Long Son Pagoda also known as Chua Long Son is famous for the white statue of Buddha that can be seen from anywhere in the city. Climb the 152 steps and enjoy not only an impressive image of the statue, but also of the city.
From the many islands, we chose a day trip to Mun Island by speed boat direct from the port. Although the island is quite close to Nha Trang, here the water is much cleaner and with a wonderful color. Many tourists come to the small island for snorkeling and for a glass-bottomed boat ride. The view is breathtaking.
Vinpearl amusement park offers you an unforgettable day. In fact, I think that one day is not enough to enjoy all the attractions of this park: very clean and beautifully arranged beach, extreme water sports (here I tried parasailing for the first time), huge slides and many others specially created for a little adrenaline. The aquarium and the dolphinarium are not to be missed, especially since you have the opportunity to swim with a special species of dolphin. And, at dusk, relax watching the wonderful spectacle of lights and water!
Vietnam impressed me and far exceeded my expectations. I will definitely come back to discover as much of its beauties as possible.
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