Sights & Delights

Stretching nearly 2,000 kilometres in length and featuring mountains, valleys, beaches, bays, and farming fields and with a long-standing culture and history, Vietnam conjures up different images in the mind of each and every expat. The Guide asked a few to share their most unforgettable trips.

By Le Diem on January 14,2015 03:00 PM

Sights & Delights

Vung Tau. Photo: Nguyen Nguyen

Mr Anthony Pudney from Australia, an entrepreneur living in HCMC:

Anthony Pudney

Mr Anthony Pudney

I have many reasons for Dalat being my most wonderful trip in Vietnam. It reminded me of home. It’s very clean and pretty with a natural ambiance of cool fresh air and beautiful flowers. It is also peaceful and quiet. You can walk everywhere, which is also great because most western people love to walk. No traffic, so it’s probably one of the few areas I see that has people walking around and feeling relaxed. Dalat has a great bustling night market with food like corn on a stick, pancakes with egg, seafood, and fresh fruit, as well as flowers and clothing.

As it’s well known for its romantic setting so many people come here for rosy holidays. I also have a personal memory, of proposing to my wife at a beautiful lake.

We found the people in Dalat to be very nice. Government officials are also nice and people seem to be willing to help each other more than in the big cities. I also found people leave motorbikes around without being worried about it being stolen. Transport to the city from the airport is quite good for tourists.

I believe that Dalat is the most beautiful city in Vietnam because of its natural beauty. Though with any beautiful city, it’s the people that make it so attractive to live in, with their kind and humble ways. I also see a big future for Dalat, with the opportunities for business here. That’s why we have been there many times and plan to live there next year.

Villas in Da Lat

Villas in Da Lat

 

Ms Gabriella Angelini from Italy, a student at the Hanoi University:

Sights & Delights
Ms Gabriella Angelini

When I came to study in Vietnam I saw some real Asian culture and thought it was extremely interesting. I travelled to the centre of Vietnam backpacking for a month and found many beautiful places. One that won my heart was Hoi An.

Although the town is very small it’s very beautiful, with ancient architecture and lanterns, especially at night when they are lit up in different colours. It’s also special because of all the shops with lanterns and tailors that sew a traditional dress for a very cheap price. I did a lot of shopping while I was there.

But what I liked the most was the beach. I rented a bike in the morning and when I got there I was almost alone, with just a few local people, and both the beach and the sea were so pretty and quiet. It was the perfect place to be. The dock was also really beautiful, as was the market with its different colours, fruit, and souvenirs. I also tried the typical local dishes of My Quang and Cao Lau, which I liked a lot.

My friends and I agree that a person can either love or hate Vietnam, because it is so peculiar. But I can say without a doubt that I got to see the real Vietnam, and I definitely loved it!

 

Sights & Delights

Chua Cau (Bridge Pagoda), Hoi An. Photo Tran Bao Hoa

Sights & Delights

Mr Otohiko Kozutsumi

Mr Otohiko Kozutsumi from Japan, Director of MicroAd Vietnam JSC in HCMC:

Whenever my Japanese friends ask me ‘Where is the best sightseeing place in Vietnam?’ I always answer ‘Hoi An, especially at night!’, although I have visited many other famous sights in the country. Hoi An reminds me of my childhood in Japan. The ancient and traditional city is a little bit similar to ancient and rural cities in Japan. At noon it looks like Kyoto, though the architecture is totally different, but I think atmosphere is a little similar. At night it’s like Matsuri (a Japanese Festival) with many Chochin (lanterns). When I was child I used to go to a small Matsuri. Hoi An’s lanterns are almost same as our Chochin - amazingly beautiful at night. It also has impressive historical buildings and streets.

I went to Hoi An with my wife and we were really relaxed and enjoyed it. But there is something odd about the taxi and entrance fees. We took a taxi from Danang to Hoi An but were not sure if the fare was reasonable or not. When we visited the Japanese Covered Bridge and the other historical buildings in town, we paid a fee but saw that other tourists didn’t. It was unfair and we sensed we’d been cheated. I think they should have a clearer system for transport and visiting fees. But they were just minor annoyances. I still love Hoi An. We would like to visit again with our baby and tell him about my childhood.

Ms Julia Stanton from the UK, Head of English at the British Council in HCMC:

Ms Julia Stanton
Ms Julia Stanton

I travel a lot for work and was pleased to discover Phu Yen province last September. I stayed in the extremely quiet city of Tuy Hoa, which was extraordinary for a provincial capital. The hotel was on the beach road and the hotel’s restaurant over the road on the beach. The beach was fantastic - miles of unspoilt coastline and clean water.

Every morning there were quite a few local people on the beach enjoying a swim before starting their daily life. I also enjoyed an amazing restaurant that offered the Vietnamese equivalent of salmon sashimi; very delicious. This place is such a contrast to the hustle and bustle of Nha Trang, where most of the population of Tuy Hoa have moved to and is just two and a half hours away. It’s fast becoming a stop on the backpacker trail for those wanting somewhere quieter and there’s an American guy who has set up backpacker lodgings in town, but there are plenty of hotels too plus daily flights from HCMC and Hanoi.

I have also had some other beautiful trips, like the one to Bai Tu Long Bay a few years ago and my first trip to Halong Bay in 1998, when there were fewer tourists and Cat Ba Island only had two hotels. Bai Tu Long Bay was just as beautiful as Halong Bay but without the tourists and we had the whole boat to ourselves to admire the beautiful scenery. We stayed overnight at a homestay on an island with a lovely family who looked after us well and the next day we cycled around the island, which was beautiful. I guess what fascinated me most was in the next bay there were thousands of tourists and we had the whole bay to ourselves. Vietnam is very much like that. There are certain places on the tourist trail where there are thousands of tourists and then, just up the road, there are none or hardly any, and these are often Vietnam’s best kept secrets.

I also experienced my worst trip, visiting Sapa in the overnight train a long time ago. In 2000, the trains still ran a dual pricing system, so foreigners always paid more. I was shocked when I got on the train to find that the standards were very low, as I was faced with sleeping on a wire bed with no mattress and some dirty sheets. Fortunately, my cabin mates had a bottle of whiskey with them and we spent the whole night drinking instead of sleeping. Six years later I braved the train to Sapa again, and since the trains had been upgraded and the dual pricing system abolished it was a much better ride.

Sights & Delights

Ha Long Bay.

 

Sights & Delights

Mr Jason Bayly Stark

Mr Jason Bayly Stark from Australia, a former official at the Australian Embassy in Vietnam:

When one of my expat friends described it as the most idyllic parts of Vietnam he had ever seen, I decided to take a trip to the Ngoc Son Ngo Luong nature reserve in the buffer area of the wonderful Cuc Phuong National Park. I definitely agree with him.

We had a four-hour drive in a van through the Hanoi traffic to the stunning mountains and lush river valleys of Hoa Binh. After a heart-stopping hill climb our van eventually could go no further due to wet season road damage, so we had to walk and trek for two hours through stunning rice fields, forests, and villages to our destination in Mu village. The highlight of the trek was washing away the sweat in an amazing waterfall. Fed by spring water, the waterfall was clean, refreshing and so beautiful.

Our traditional Muong stilt-house homestay was also perfect. Situated next to the aqua blue-green water of Mu Stream, accommodation doesn’t get much more tranquil than this. It’s like a natural spa to ease the heat of Vietnam’s summer, and the people in the village are so friendly. The food was also amazing, with a bonus of traditional Muong dancing and drinking later that night.

Our guide from Indochina Best Travel Company, Duyen, was also amazing on that trip. She had the perfect combination of good English and countryside charm and enthusiastically cared of us fragile foreigners.

Unlike so many places in Vietnam, this place has not been spoilt and become overly touristy. I returned twice - once for a mountain bike trip with friends for some extra adrenaline and the other with my family from Australia, to show them a slice of the real Vietnam. Those interested in longer trips can trek right through from here to Cuc Phuong National Park. The whole area is worth seeing.

Hoa Binh. Photo: Thai A

Hoa Binh. Photo: Thai A

 

Mr Martin Ratia from Australia, retired and now living in Vung Tau:

Mr Martin Ratia
Mr Martin Ratia

Why would I pick Hon Tam Island as an ideal destination from my recent trips? Because it’s an eco-green development that rose like Vietnam’s famous lotus flower from what had previously been a bunch of fairly unremarkable small islands off Nha Trang that were and still are visited daily by boatloads of partying backpackers, mostly for the seafood lunch, snorkelling, and the ubiquitous floating bar.

The trip to Hon Tam Island begins with a very enjoyable speedboat ride southeast for 10-15 minutes, then guests are welcomed ashore before departing for a wide range of activities, including what must surely be the only tethered ‘hot air balloon’ that gives an unmatched panoramic view of the surrounding ocean and islands all the way back to Nha Trang.

Tennis? A golf driving range? Mini golf? Or just a pleasant day on the beach, with or without watersports, and interspersed with buffet meals in a traditional long house-style restaurant? Hear that music? It’s the dancers who perform several shows a day at the swimming pool, a favourite with everyone. We particularly liked the choice of three adjacent pools, one with a Jacuzzi!

Day visitors return to the mainland in a range of slow or fast vessels, depending on their preference, while others stay overnight in one of the very stylish bungalows set back from the beach. Compared with neighbouring islands (the excellent VinPearl excepted), Hon Tam is a true symbol of purity grown out of mud!

Besides Hon Tam I have had other great trips in Vietnam but one thing that always irritates me when travelling here is arriving at the airport and being faced with taxi drivers who demand exorbitant amounts of money upfront before they’ll even turn on the engine. I have also had uncomfortable trips to Can Tho due to the transport. It’s always a very nervous time on the bus because of the erratic driving, stopping anywhere to load yet more passengers onto an already full bus, and horns blaring all the way, etc. But our friends told us last year that everything had finally changed and the bus ride is now relatively safe and comfortable for our latest trip this year. We were delighted with the difference and no longer have any qualms about taking that particular three-hour bus ride from HCMC. Can Tho itself has also changed very much for the better. No longer a ‘small country town’, the recent development of infrastructure showcases a city that’s proud of its mantle as ‘Capital of the Mekong’. Development alongside the river, especially, has turned the central part of the city into an area well worth visiting by tourists and expats alike!

Nha Trang

Nha Trang

 

Mr Jon Myers from the US, founder of Jon Myers Design Studio in HCMC:

Mr Jon Myers

Mr Jon Myers

I’ve been to Nha Trang some eight times or more - I don’t remember. It’s always been my most favourite destination in Vietnam. It has very nice beaches. Once thing I can appreciate is the good balance of city and beach. I like the fact that the hotels are not built right on top of the ocean, so this leaves the beach intact.

You should not miss the opportunity to enjoy the hot springs up in the mountains; great value for your health and relaxation. When in the beach city don’t forget to try the delectable fresh seafood, right on the street or at nice restaurants that open late.

The nightlife is also fun, with many bars and clubs. My favourite one is the Sailing Club. Right on the beach, it offers a nice view and has great food and service. After 10pm it turns into a hotspot for nightlife with lively DJs and a fun crowd dancing barefoot on the sand.

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