From beaches to UNESCO World Heritage sites, be charmed by Vietnam's natural beauty and fascinating history as we go on a tour south from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City
Issue: Aug 2009
August is high tourist season in Vietnam and we recommend a week there if you can. You'll be amazed at how this popular tourist destination has everything from great beaches to World Heritage sites!
Colonial cruisers in Hanoi
Hanoi is always a great place to start off your Vietnam escapade. For half a century, this quaint city was the capital of French Indo China, hence its unique Parisian air.
[Left to right] Tour boat pier in Halong Bay, Vietnam. The Somerset Grand Hanoi offers the perfect respite for sightseers after a long day out
If you are looking for a romantic break, spend the night on the Emeraude cruising Halong Bay. It resembles a Mississippi steamer of old and is decked to the nines in Old World glamour.
Since 2003, the paddle steamer has been taking guests for one-night cruises amidst towering limestone islands. Board the four-decked Emeraude at Hong Gai and settle into elegant cabins with private baths.
For landlubbers, check into the Somerset Grand Hanoi, which is near to major attractions such as the Hoan Kiem Lake and the Hanoi Opera House. You can also hunt down interesting buys from the historic and quaint Old Quarter. Otherwise, just relax and prepare for an exciting trip ahead by checking out the Grand Hanoi's sauna and jacuzzi.
Historical Romance in Hue
Hop onto an overnight sleeper train from Hanoi to Hue, and get there just in time for lunch.
[Left to right] A section of the emperor citadel, Hue, Vietnam. Magnificent archway inside of the citadel in Hue
Given that Hue was once the capital of an empire, it seems modest at first glance. But a visit to the Imperial Palace, also called The Citadel, puts paid to that notion.
Beyond that, a 12-km journey into the countryside is well worth it because it reveals a treasure: The tomb of the Emperor Minh Mang is an elegant complex of 40 buildings devoted to his afterlife.
His hundreds of wives and concubines lived here till the end of their days.
Sunshine in Danang
Just 80 km south of Hue, is sunny Danang where there's plenty of sand and surf for those itching for a tan. August is one of the hottest months here so pack the sunscreen.
[Left to right] Tropical beach and jungle. Ancient Female Bas Relief in Cham Museum, Danang, Vietnam
The many luxurious hotels there sit on one of the best beaches facing the South China Sea: China Beach. The huge icily air-conditioned rooms are the ideal retreat after a day in the sun.
Spa pavilions grace the beach and the lush inner courtyards. They allow you to get an open air massage amidst the palms, ixoras and hibiscus.
Bridge over Hoi An
From Danang, be sure to take a short drive to nearby Hoi An - a UNESCO World Heritage site.
[Left to right] The Hoi An Bridge. Hoi An Harbor, Vietnam
This ancient seaport looks pretty much as it did centuries ago when foreigners and locals created a fusion of architectural styles.
Visit a wooden bridge that was built by the Japanese trading community in 1593 to link them with the Chinese quarter. One end is guarded by monkey statues, while the other is guarded by dogs.
This signified that work on the bridge started in the Year of the Monkey and ended in the Year of the Dog.
Dalat's Mountain Roads
It's nice and cool in Dalat, the main city in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
[Left to right] A mountain pass in Dalat. Dantala Falls, Dalat Province.
Temperatures hover around 18 degrees throughout the year, making this City of Eternal Spring the ideal escape from the summer heat.
Vietnam Airlines has daily short flights between Dalat and Ho Chi Minh City, and there is also one flight per day between Dalat and Hanoi. The airport is around 30 km south of the city. It is also possible to reach Dalat by bus or car. It is five to six hours to Ho Chi Minh City (308km).
Admire the waterfalls and visit Love Valley, dubbed the most romantic place in Vietnam. Dalat is the best place to play golf in Vietnam.
Trekking to the nearby minority villages, cycling, rock climbing and rappelling are available.
Don't Miss Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City, though renamed, will always be "Saigon" for those familiar with the country's past. Popular with expats and immigrants, it is now considered one of Southeast Asia's liveliest cities.
[Left to right] The Cathedral of Notre Dame, built by the French in the late 1800s, stands in the central district of Saigon, Vietnam. Thien Hau Pagoda, Cholon (Chinatown), Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.
Visit the markets, street cafes and pagodas of Cholon in the day then head for watering holes at night.
The rooftop bar called Saigon Saigon at the Caravelle Hotel has great views of Notre Dame Cathedral and the Opera House. It was made famous by a generation of war correspondents in the '60s and '70s.
Souvenir shoppers should not miss out on dolls and tailored and embroidered clothes.
The Good Life
Round off your stay in Vietnam with a relaxing night at Somerset Chancellor Court, Ho Chi Minh City
Be sure to check in to the Somerset Chancellor Court when you're in Ho Chi Minh City. The apartments are a stone's throw from the War Remnants Museum and Ben Thanh Market. For nature lovers, you can easily get to the zoo and the botanic gardens. It is also near healthcare centres, hospitals, banks and consulates.
The Somerset Chancellor Court has its own beauty salon, convenience store, laundry and dry cleaning services and doctor on call amongst other great features. An ideal pit stop from your exciting Vietnam travels!