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Vietnam

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Table of contents

Things to do and See in Vietnam

 

Ho Chi Minh City


Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is the main commercial centre of the southern part of Vietnam, receiving its name in honour of the leader who successfully led the nation against both France and the USA. Many of the seven million residents of so still like to refer to it as Saigon, even though it was officially changed to Ho Chi Ming City in 1975. The city has many reminders of its French past and nowadays the city has one of the fastest growing economies in the area and they can probably give that thanks to the Americans who showed them a thing or two about how to make a dollar. It’s a busy city and below is a list of a few things for you to do and see. The main backpacker hangout is Pham Ngu Lao in District 1, just a short walk (10-15 minutes) from Ben Thanh Market, which is where most tourists are located in the city. For more information go to www.saigontourist.net
 

Reunification Palace / Independence Palace

This is a hard building to miss as the red flag flies proudly above the building. The Reunification Palace or also known as Independence Palace is a 1960s monstrosity designed with the help of Soviet architects. Most people will remember the image of a North Vietnamese #843 tank crashing through the gates on April, 30 1975 signifying the fall of Saigon. The tank still graces the front lawn. Rooms open to the public remain exactly as they were in 1975, showing where important meetings were held during the war, as well as some of the private quarters of the president and his family. Most fascinating are a series of underground tunnels housing a telecommunications centre. Admission is 15,000VND, but prices are subject to change. For more information go to www.dinhdoclap.gov.vn

 

 

War Remnants Museum

Formerly known as the Museum of American War Crimes, the name has been toned down so as not to offend its US visitors and is now the War Remnants Museum. This museum shows the suffering inflicted on the Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s. This is not a museum for the sensitive as it houses instruments of torture and hundreds of photographs of atrocities committed during the 20th century and, in particular, the Vietnam War. It also has gruesome photographs, a simulated "tiger cage" prison and jars of deformed fetuses blamed on Agent Orange. At the front of the museum is a small collection of military hardware and, most interestingly, the mobile guillotine used by the French colonists to dispense justice throughout the country before World War II. Admission is 15,000 VND, but prices are subject to change at any given time.

 

 

Notre Dame Cathedral

The twin towers of Notre Dame Cathedral have been a familiar landmark in Ho Chi Minh City since the 1880s. In front of the cathedral in a small garden is a delicate statue of the Virgin Mary. It’s not your typical Cathedral, but its worth checking out.

 

 

Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Housed in the former building of the Government of Cochinchina, the Ho Chi Minh City Museum (formerly the Revolutionary Museum) contains artefacts, such as weapons, uniforms, medals and old photos, from the period of Communist struggle against the French and the Americans. Unfortunately, the exhibits are only labelled in Vietnamese but some are self-explanatory. Outside the museum is a collection of military hardware including a tank and a helicopter. Admission is 10,000 VND, but prices are subject to change.

 

 

Ben Thanh Market

Located in Chinatown this is the cities busiest market as you can but almost anything here. Due to its popularity with tourists, the market is now divided about half and half between tourist goods (jeans, T-shirts, smaller souvenirs in abundance) and the stuff of regular life (fruit and vegetables, rice, kitchen wares, flowers, meat, fast food, and local-style pickled fruits and candies). Most items are not price-marked, and vendors always quote a 50-100% higher price to tourists vs. locals, so the fortitude to haggle will save you some money. It’s a great place to come to look for a bargain to bring home.

 


War Surplus Market

War Surplus Market or sometimes called the American Market, in Cholon. It has loads of stalls with old American military gear of indeterminate authenticity, cheap t-shirts, and electrical supplies.


Cu Chi Tunnels

The Cu Chi Tunnels is an underground network which was excavated by the Vietnamese and used by the Viet Cong during both the French-Indochina War (1946-1954) and the Vietnam War (1955-1975). The tunnels took around 25 years to construct and were finished in the 1960s. It ran from North Vietnam southward through the Truong Son mountains and into western Laos. It stretched for over 200km and connecting numerous villages in the provinces, the tunnels once housed mini-hospitals, store rooms and factories, and were used as living quarters by both Vietnamese fighters and local villagers.

The tunnels stand today as a symbol of the struggle by the Vietnamese people on one of the most famous battlegrounds of the Vietnam War. Cu Chi district was heavily bombed during the two wars and was particularly targeted at night, forcing residents to live in underground tunnels. Today, visitors to the site can experience life underground during their tour of the tunnels and imagine what life would have been like for the Vietnamese. They can also gain a better understanding of one of history’s most atrocious wars, which saw 458,000 Americans soldiers killed and more than 303,000 wounded. Between 185,000 and 225,000 South Vietnamese were also killed during the war and between 500,000 and 570,000 were wounded; in addition, approximately 900,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were killed, along with over one million North and South Vietnamese civilians. Admission is 60,000 VND, but prices are subject to change. This is a must for any person coming to the country as its recent history and part we would all to forget about. For more information go to www.vn-tourism.com

 

 

 

Hanoi


The capital, Hanoi, with a population of over 3 million is set on the on the banks of the Red River. It’s a beautiful city which retains an air of French colonial elegance with pretty yellow stucco buildings lining wide beautiful streets in the middle of the city. Hanoi is also a city of lakes, which is what makes it so beautiful. The cities Old Quarter are the cities commercial heart of the city and it’s where most of the action is and it’s been around since the 15th century. The city has over six hundred temples and pagodas, which hail from the 11the century city. The most notable is the Temple of Literature, which encompasses both Vietnam’s foremost Confucian sanctuary and its first university. The city is beautiful and there are so many things to and see. If you are looking for a day trip definitely book yourself on a day trip to Ha Long Bay, which is 170km from the city and worth seeing.

Museums

The city has a number of museums all which are very fascinating to go to. Hanoi’s most popular attraction is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh was the father of the modern state and is still held in reverential regard. Other museums in Hanoi include the Bao Tang Lich Su (History Museum), the Bao Tang Quan Doi (Army Museum), Ho Chi Minh Museum, Bao Tang Cach Manh (Revolutionary Museum) and Independence Museum.

 

 

Old Quarter


The Old Quarter has 36 fascinating streets that are bustling with activity. This area is perfect for anyone wanting to go for a walk and check out some amazing French colonial buildings.

 

 

 

Hue


Hue is beautiful old religious city and it is divided into three urban areas, each with its own character and atmosphere. The 19th century walled Citadel, on the north bank of the Perfume River, contains the once important Imperial City. Across the Dong Ba Canal to the east lies Phu Cat, which is the original merchants area of the city and the port area where hundreds came in out of port.

Hué Imperial Palace (Citadel)

Hué was the political, cultural and religious capital of unified Vietnam between 1802 and 1945 when the Nguyen Emperors ruled the country. Today, the imperial city is home to many important sites, the most famous of which is the Imperial Palace (Citadel), comprising of three concentric enclosures, ranged behind the flag tower. Outside the Citadel’s outer wall lays the Imperial City, containing administrative offices, parks and dynamic temples with the royal palaces of the Forbidden Purple City. Unfortunately, due to wars and fires it has taken its toll on the area and it’s not the same as it was years ago. Today, the whole city, which was officially recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, remains an important cultural and religious centre, housing many other historic monuments and attractions, including eight Royal Tombs located outside Hué which house the remains of the Nguyen Emperors. The most famous of these tombs is Lang Gia Long (Gia Long’s Tomb) constructed in 1814, the tomb of the Emperor responsible for building Hué’s famous Citadel. Admission is VND 60,000 but prices are subject to change at anytime. For more information go to www.vn-tourism.com

 

 

 

Nha Trang


Nha Trang is the country’s most popular tourist destination, as it has best municipal beach in the country. If you are into diving or snorkelling Nha Trang and the surrounding islands is the best place to do it in the country. If you aren’t into diving or snorkelling you do have other water sports like windsurfing, kayaking and parasailing. If you are looking for accommodation go to southern streets around Biet Thu, which has loads of cheap accommodation and restaurants serving loads of great seafood. You should give yourself at least a week or so in Nha Trang, as it’s a chilled place that lots to offer.

 

 

 

The Rest of Vietnam


Da Nang

Da Nang is located in the middle of the country and it’s the third biggest city in the country. The cities growth occurred during the Vietnam War when the Americans used it as a base and there were thousands of troops stationed there. In most of the Vietnam War films they talk about China Beach and its located just north of the city. Today, if you were to walk along the wide charming streets you would see beautiful old French buildings, as the French are the old colonial rulers.

 

Hoi An

Located 25km south of Da Nang, Hoi An as been listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list and is a charming little city. Many tourists come to the city to get a tailored shirt or suit, as there hundreds of place to get one made. You can get a tailored suit with a shirt and tie for under £30.

 

Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta brings has daily floating markets where fruit and vegetables are peddled. Everywhere the green patchwork of rice paddies stretches into the distance and you can see conical-hated peasants bending down to tend to their plants. Here you will get good insight to how the village people live in the country.

 

Ha Long Bay

Located about 170km from Hanoi, near the port of Haiphong, is Ha Long Bay. This is an amazing complex of 3000 limestone islands rising out of the South China Sea. The area is strange, eerie and very beautiful. Many of the islands contain bizarre cave formations and grottoes. Near Ha Long Bay is Catba Island, a designated National Park and a rich repository of plants and wildlife. You can get organize a tour of the islands for a couple of nights on board a boat from Hanoi or if you are pressed for time even just do a day trip, which is highly recommended.

 


Whale Island

This Island resort is located two hours north of Nha Trang on a secluded island off the coast. It’s an absolute paradise with amazing beaches and a tropical environment, which is going to become a favourite among tourists to the country. It’s one of the best places in the country to go diving as well as there are a couple dive companies on the resort. The resort has 23 traditional bamboo style bungalows on the beach that are absolute amazing. If you have the time this place is a definite must.

 

 

 
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