What are the World Heritages in Vietnam?
What major sights do you recommend in and around Hanoi?
What major sights do you recommend in and around Ho Chi Minh City?
What major sights do you recommend in and around Hue?
What major sights do you recommend in and around Da Nang?
How can I organize sightseeing excursions in Vietnam?
A. What are the World Heritages in Vietnam?
1. Halong Bay - UNESCO World Heritage (2 times with 2 natural values)
2. Hue old citadel - UNESCO World Heritage (2 times with 2 cultural values)
3. Hoi An ancient town - UNESCO World Heritage (cultural value)
4. My Son Sanctuary - UNESCO World Heritage (cultural value)
5. Phong Nha caves - UNESCO World Heritage (natural value)
A. What major sights do you recommend in and around Hanoi?
Hanoi has changed enormously over the last few years, but I still find it a beguiling city. The Old Quarter is as captivating as ever, while some of the revamped colonial buildings are just stunning.
The Old Quarter in Hanoi
I love wandering the intoxicating tangle of streets that makes up Hanoi's commercial heart. Many are still dedicated to one particular craft; don't miss the jaunty prayer banners of Hang Quat, Lan On's fragrant medicines and Hang Ma, draped in tinsel, votive objects and all manner of paper products.
Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi
Immediately south of the Old Quarter, Ho Hoan Kiem (Lake of the Restored Sword) takes on different personalities at different times of day. It's perhaps best at daybreak, when tai chi experts limber up in the half-light, or at dusk when old men come to play chess and couples seek privacy in the shadows.
The French Quarter in Hanoi
Continuing southwards, the French Quarter is full of stately colonial buildings on tree-lined avenues. Its centre-piece is the beautifully restored Opera House. Nearby, you'll find the elegant Metropole Hotel and Governor of Tonkin's Residence.
Water puppets in Hanoi
Though the traditional water puppet shows are decidedly touristy, they're still huge fun for all age groups. Performances consist of charming vignettes of rural life, such as ploughing, rice planting and children splashing in the paddy or herding ducks.
The Temple of Literature in Hanoi
The green lawns and gnarled trees of this Confucian temple are a pleasant respite from the noise, dust and confusion of Hanoi.
With a few days to spare, a trip to Halong Bay is highly recommended. You can either take a guided tour or do it yourself, in which case it's worth considering staying on Cat Ba island rather than the more touristy destination of Halong City. Other sights around Hanoi include the Perfume Pagoda (a vast, sacred cave accessible only by river), Tam Coc (another river trip, this time near Ninh Binh) or the mountain villages of Sapa and Bac Ha near the Chinese border.
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A. What major sights do you recommend in and around Ho Chi Minh City?
Larger and more cosmopolitan than its northern rival, Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon as most locals still call it) is a fury of sights and sounds. It can be bewildering at first, but it's never dull. Just find a sidewalk café and watch the world go by.
Cho Lon in Ho Chi Minh City
This ethnic-Chinese enclave - the name means "big market" - is an exuberant manifestation of Vietnam's new economic freedoms. The best thing is just to wander, taking in at least one of the Chinese pagodas, such as Quan Am.
War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City
Formerly known as the War Crimes Museum, this is one of those places you should visit, though it's not for the squeamish. Despite some obvious omissions, such as crimes committed by Communist troops, the museum is gradually adopting a more balanced, reconciliatory tone.
Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City
The former Presidential Palace is a museum-piece of 60's and 70's kitsch, complete with private casino, penthouse bar and red-plus cinema, while a helicopter moulders on the rooftop landing pad. Downstairs in the basement, combat maps still plaster the walls of the command room.
Jade Emperor Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City
Of Saigon's many pagodas and temples, this is the most captivating. It was built by the Cantonese community and is dedicated to an exotic array of deities, sheltered by a roof seething with dragons, birds and other, nameless beasts.
The most popular day-trip from Ho Chi Minh City takes you west to the Cao Dai Cathedral and the Cu Chi Tunnels. The cathedral is the headquarters of a wonderfully eclectic religion whose saints include Mohammed and Winston Churchill. Worshippers gather four times a day in front of the Supreme Being, represented by a rather unnerving "Divine Eye" on a star-spangled globe. The tunnels of Cu Chi have been enlarged for bulky Western frames, but it's still a sobering experience to crawl through this Viet Cong complex which reached underneath an American army base. If you've got more time, take a couple of days exploring the Mekong Delta.
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A. What major sights do you recommend in and around Hue, Vietnam?
Of all Vietnamese cities, this is the one I enjoy most. It's an easygoing, peaceful place with lakes and canals, tree-lined boulevards and a certain refinement thanks to its imperial past. Hue also has great cuisine and wonderful restaurants - not to mention all its historical sights. Unfortunately, many sights will have been damaged in the 1999 floods, though to what degree is not yet certain.
Imperial City in Hue, Vietnam
Despite the ravages of war, weather and time, the Imperial City still packs a powerful punch. Much has been done to restore the palaces, which gleam once more under a coating of rich red lacquer and writhing dragons.
Mausoleum of Tu Duc in Hue, Vietnam
Of Hue's seven royal mausoleums, this is the finest. Rather than dealing with affairs of state, Tu Duc preferred to hide in his lyrical pleasure garden. You can reach this and other Imperial Mausoleums on a boat trip down the Perfume River.
Hue Folksongs on the Perfume River in Hue, Vietnam
There's no better way to spend a balmy Hue evening than drifting gently down the Perfume River to the sound of traditional folk songs.
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A. What major sights do you recommend in and around Da Nang, Vietnam?
Da Nang is one of Vietnam's fourth largest city. Now a major harbour it was once home to a huge American Air Force base in the Vietnam War. Many visitors don't take to Da Nang, but I find it a surprisingly relaxed, amiable city, with its French past still very much on show. Though it doesn't boast any breathtaking sights of its own, both Hoi An and My Son are within easy reach.
The Cham Museum in Da Nang, Vietnam
Da Nang's most important sight is this unique collection of Cham sculpture dating from the fourth to fifteenth centuries. It won't take more than an hour to explore and is a must if you're going to visit My Son (see below).
Provincial Museum in Da Nang
Best for its coverage of local ethnic minorities, including a beautifully melodic water harp made by Xedang people. The museum is undergoing very protracted renovation work, so not all rooms are guaranteed to be open.
Somehow this little town retains its charm despite the tourist hordes. Its most noteworthy monuments are the two-hundred year old homes of Chinese merchants and their colorful Assembly Hall. Add to that a tasty local cuisine, dozens of good restaurants, a riverside setting and some of the best tailors in the country.
Once a magnificent Cham temple complex, My Son now comprises an atmospheric collection of ruins mouldering away in a bowl of lush, wooded hills.
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A. How can I organize sightseeing excursions in Vietnam?
Within the cities, you're probably best off exploring by yourself, or contact us at email@example.com for tailor-made tours.