Festive breaks

The Guide is pleased to make a few tour recommendations to travellers hitting the road during the holiday season.

By Le Diem and Thanh Van on December 14,2014 09:05 AM

Festive breaks

Roads of Ha Giang

Though a Western celebration, Christmas and New Year’s have become more popular in many areas of Vietnam with each passing year.  It’s an ideal time of year for travellers to set foot in different parts of the country. Thanks to its natural setting and climate, Vietnam features a diverse beauty in different regions and also within the same region.  You can enjoy the familiar chill of Christmas in the north amid amazing views of a pretty bay or caves, on a windy plateau, or among pretty flowers blossoming on imposing mountains. Or in the south and the central region have a warm and sunny Christmas on a sandy beach or on pristine islands under golden sunlight.  Visiting Vietnam at this time of the year offers a number of different experiences as the Christmas and New Year atmosphere plays out with typical Vietnamese spirit.

Misty Sapa

Festive breaks

At a height of 1,600 metres above sea level, Sapa town in the northwest province of Lao Cai is popular in winter and at Christmas time for its coldness and mist. Mist blankets the landscape, shrouding immense mountains, broad terraced rice fields, rows of pine trees, and roofs of houses.

In Vinatour’s itinerary, visiting villages of the H’mong and Dao ethnic minority people at Cat Cat, Lao Chai, and Giang Ta Chai allows you to discover wooden and bamboo houses among terraced rice fields, local people in colourful dress, great coffee shops, and houses with old architecture.

Vinatour

54 Nguyen Du, Hai Ba Trung Dist., Hanoi

Tel: (04) 3942 4490

Email: info@vinatour.com.vn

Website: www.vinatour.com.vn

The Stone Cathedral in the centre of town is also worth a visit for its architecture and building materials. On Christmas Eve, local Christians walk through rocky mountains and paddy fields to gather here to celebrate the most important day of their year. The cool air is warmed by the flickering fires of grilled food stalls near the church, where local people and tourists can enjoy Sapa specialties such as savoury grilled meat and eggs or wine made from Docynia indica.

It now takes only three and a half hours by road from Hanoi to reach Sapa instead of a nine-hour train trip, thanks to the recently-opened highway connecting the two. Vinatour offers tours to Sapa for three days and two nights departing Hanoi, at VND5 million for two people, VND4 million for groups of three to five, VND2.8 million for six to nine, and VND2.5 million for ten to 15 in a two-star hotel. Add VND200,000 to 250,000 for three-star accommodation.

Breathtaking Ha Long Bay

Festive breaks

Twice recognised as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, in 1994 and 2000, many a traveller has fallen in love with Halong Bay’s magnificent landscapes.

On 1,553 square kilometres, its most outstanding feature and undoubtedly its greatest attraction are its nearly 2,000 islands and rocky karst outcrops. Many have been given names by local people based on their perceived shape, such as Man’s Head, Dragon, and Fighting Cocks. Viewed from above, Halong Bay resembles a geographic work of stone art.

Another unique geological feature of the bay is its limestone network, which formed over the course of 500 million years in different conditions and environments, with hollow islands covering caves and grottoes. The most commonly visited are Thien Cung, Dau Go, Sung Sot and Trinh Nu.

The Booking Office

27 Ma May, Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi

Tel: (04) 3990 7199  Hotline: 0169 361 0164

Email: booking@halongbaycastawaytour.com

Website: www.halongbaycastawaytour.com

One of the most interesting ways to experience Halong Bay is The Booking Offices’ three day, two night Halong Bay Castaway Tour, on a cruise and at a resort and geared towards younger people.

The tour starts with an open bar on the first night with a party theme. Guests will experience a full Halong Bay trip, passing by islands and floating villages, visiting amazing caves, jumping off the boat into the clean clear waters of Bai Tu Long Bay and Vinh Ha Bay, and taking on water sports such as kayaking and snorkelling as well as rock climbing. You can enjoy the second day relaxing at a resort on Cat Ba Island, with football and volleyball available on the beach and table tennis and pool in the resort’s entertainment area.

Book early as availability is limited at a price of VND3.5 million, including everything except drinks. Group bookings get a discount. The Booking Office also caters to mid-range and high-end luxury Halong Bay cruises, as well as all other tours to be experienced while in Hanoi.

Mighty stone plateau in Ha Giang

Roads of Ha Giang

Situated near the Chinese border, Ha Giang features the cold weather of the northern winter and grandiose scenery of stone plateaus spread over a total area of 2,300 square kilometres in Meo Vac, Dong Van, Yen Minh and Quan Ba districts. Over 80% of the area’s surface is covered with limestone and it has a high concentration of rocky peaks sitting more than 2,000 metres above sea level.

At the centre of the rocky plateau is Dong Van, 150 kilometres from the centre of the province and characterised by narrow valleys alternating with rocky mountain ranges containing fossils from 400 million to 600 million years ago. The plateau was recognised by UNESCO in 2010 as one of 77 geological parks in the world and is the second such park in Southeast Asia.

Vietravel

3 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi

Tel: (04) 3933 1978

190 Pasteur, D.3, HCMC

Tel: (84 8) 3822 8898

Email: info@vietravel.com

Website: www.travel.com.vn

Its stone mountains are imposing among centuries-old pine forests, beautiful terraced fields, and tiny houses. The road from Ha Giang to Lung Cu, on the border, is popular among travellers for its stunning views.

Adventurous travellers must not miss Ma Pi Leng Pass, which is legendary for its dangerous zig-zag roads amid an imposing range of mountains and forests in the clouds, with the beautiful Nho Que River cutting through the valley floor.

Ha Giang is also special for the villages and culture of ethnic minority groups such as the Tay, Nung, Dao, Mong, and Giay, and in particular the ancient mansion of the Vuong Family and King of the Miao ethnic minority.

Vietravel offers tours from Hanoi at VND3.2 million for four days and three nights.

White Plateau of Moc Chau

White Plateau of Moc Chau

When the first cold winds of winter blow through the air, the white flowers of spinach blossoms on Moc Chau Plateau attract a great many tourists.

Vietsense Travel

126 Lang Ha, Dong Da Dist., Hanoi

Tel: (04) 3972 8298

Email: Info@vietsensetravel.com

Website: www.vietsensetravel.com

About 200 km from Hanoi and at an elevation of 1,000 metres, Moc Chau Plateau totally changes in colour at this time, from the normal green of the grasslands to the white of the blossoms. Lying on a carpet of pure white flowers reaching almost as far as the eye can see while breathing in the fresh cool air of the highlands with mountains and hidden houses all around, you will feel as though you’ve strayed into a dreamland.

The numerous hills of green tea are another attraction of Moc Chau. Like artists with skilled hands, local people have created different-shaped trees, such as hearts, stairs, and a big cake.

Vietsense Travel’s tour takes you to Ang and Loong Luong village, Dai Yem Waterfall, and a tea plantation. The tour is two days and one night, at VND1,090,000.

Ly Son – where the mountains meet the sea

Festive breaks

The perfect blend of uniquely-shaped mountains carved from volcanic eruptions, deep blue seas and infinite fields of garlic paint a beautiful picture of Ly Son Island.

Nearly 30 km off the coast of Quang Ngai province, the island boasts the typical climate of the central region - warm all year-round. Asia Pacific Travel offers a tour to Ly Son Island this festive season for those who wish to welcome in Christmas under yellow sunlight amid white sandy beaches and mighty rocky mountains.

Asia Pacific Travel

66 Hang Than St., Ba Dinh Dist., Hanoi

Telephone: (04) 3756 8868, 3715 2327

Email: info@asiapacifictravel.vn, pacifictravel@hn.vnn.vn

Website: www.asiapacifictravel.vn

Tourists can visit ancient pagodas and temples such as Hang Pagoda as well as caves and national and historic relics such as Cau Cave, the An Hai communal house, King Well, the lighthouse, Hoang Sa Statue, and the Commemoration House for Hoang Sa Soldiers.

Fresh seafood is cooked in the unique way of the local people, with famous dishes including Ranina (spanner crab), seaweed salad, and Ta Ma fish with sweet and sour sauce.

A three-day, two-night tour costs VND2.4 million for six to nine people and VND2 million for groups of more than ten, while the four-day, three-night tour is VND3.2 million for six to nine people and VND2.7 million for groups of more than ten. Children under four travel for free, while those from four to ten years of age pay 75% of the full price.

Nha Trang – Life on the coast

Binh Ba island

Binh Ba island

The Fiditour tour departs HCMC on the night train to Nha Trang, before you welcome the sunrise at White Sand Doc Let Resort. Here you can enjoy fresh air, swimming, and a variety of local seafood before returning to Nha Trang and visiting Vinpearl Land on Hon Tam Island, which is known as entertainment heaven, with water sports, games and restaurants.

Fiditour

129 Nguyen Hue, D.1, HCMC

Tel: (08) 3914 1414, 3914 1516

One of the most exciting destinations on this tour is Binh Ba Island, which is one hour and 15 minutes by boat from Nha Trang. Binh Ba is famous for its lobster breeding and you’ll be able to enjoy delicious lobster dishes at cheap prices. You can also take a trip around the island by ‘tuk tuk’, passing by beautiful wild stretches of sand at Nom, Chuong, Tua and, especially, Nha Cu beach, where you can swim, fish and dive to see colourful coral. The tour also offers a visit to famous sightseeing spots in Nha Trang, such as Ponagar Cham Tower and the Hot Spring I-Resort.

The tour is for four nights and three days, from 1 to 4 January, and costs 4,740,000 (for foreigners) per person.

Festive season in Dalat

Da Lat

It’s hard to go past Dalat for those who wish to experience a true Christmas atmosphere in Vietnam. V Tour Company is offering a special tour over this Christmas and New Year season for travellers to explore Dalat, which is known as the city of flowers and for its elegant old French villas. The tour takes you on a journey to visit the Dalat - Highland Cultural Festival, the ‘Dalat – four flower seasons’ flower exhibition at Xuan Huong Lake, the city’s flower garden to see over 300 kinds of flowers, the superb Datanla Falls, the Dalat railway station, and an organic strawberry farm where you can pick fresh strawberries.

V Tour

260 Ngo Thi Nham, Dalat

Tel: (063) 399 7999, 398 8339

Email: info@vtourdalat.com

Website: www.vtourdalat.com

You can also visit beautiful spots in the rural area of the city such as Van Thanh flower village and Cu Lan Village, conquer the peak of Lang Biang Mountain, and visit Lat ethnic village to enjoy a traditional ‘gong’ performance and sip on can wine. On Christmas night you will visit three churches in Dalat: Donbosco Church, Domaine de Marie, and Dalat Cathedral (known as Chicken Church) to enjoy Christmas night in a chilly atmosphere.

The tour is for three days and two nights and priced from VND1,890,000 to VND2,450,000 per person, depending on the hotel category. Tours are held on 23, 24 and 25 December, and 31 December and 1 and 2 January.

Saigon by night on a Vespa

 

Saigon on a vespa

Asiana Travel Mate (ATM) will present a special version of its ‘Saigon Night Life by Vintage Vespa’ tour during Christmas and New Year, from 5.30pm to 10pm every day in December and January. ATMs team will pick you up at your hotel then head to a night flower market, which is situated entirely within the Ho Thi Ky apartment block in District 10, on the back of a vintage Vespa. You will discover small alleyways that lead to crowded residential areas and a world of thousands of colourful flowers. Next is Cho Lon (Chinatown). Along the way you can take in old buildings and ancient shrines whose complex, aesthetic architecture remain intact.

Asiana Travel Mate

HCMC Office: 113C Bui Vien St., D.1, HCMC

Mob: 0908 617 188

Tel: (08) 3838 6678

Website: www.asianatravelmate.com

You will learn more about local life and experience HCMC’s most vibrant shopping area. Then it’s on to Starlight Bridge, to enjoy the beautiful city sights and take a 154-metre long walk among LED-lit stars (simulated by lights on the ground). You will have the chance to discover one of the city’s new urban areas and learn more about the lifestyles of its younger generation, and take a trip under the Saigon River via the new Thu Thiem Tunnel. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve the team will drop you off at Bui Vien Street, the entertainment district for young local people and international travellers from all over the world.

The tour costs VND940,000 per person.

Picturesque Phu Quoc

Phu Quoc Island

 

Fiditour is offering a tour to explore Vietnam’s largest island, Phu Quoc Island, during the New Year over three days and two nights. Activities are held for you to experience daily life and the nature on the island, such as visiting a pepper garden and learning how local people plant it, Hung Long Pagoda, Ham Ninh ancient fishing village, where you can enjoy a variety of fresh seafood, and Tranh Stream, one of the island’s most beautiful landscapes.

Fiditour

129 Nguyen Hue, D.1, HCMC

Tel: (08) 3914 1414, 3914 1516

Phu Quoc is famous for its fish sauce, so the tour also takes in a visit to a fish sauce making village where you will see hundreds of huge wooden tanks processing the fish. A highlight of the tour is catching fish around the waters of nearby Mong Tay and Doi Moi Islands, and the superb natural beauty of Ganh Dau Beach. A visit to Duong Dong Market to buy local specialties and a pearl breeding farm to buy pearl jewellery is also not to be missed.

The tour is held from 1 to 3 January and costs VND6,095,000 (for foreigners) per person.

Heritage holiday

Da Nang
Da Nang

Saigontourist helps you explore the Heritage Road in central Vietnam, from Hue to Danang, Hoi An and Ba Na Mountain. Starting from HCMC the first stop is Hue, Vietnam’s former capital during the Nguyen Dynasty, visiting the Citadel and its system of three circles of ramparts, from outside to inside called Kinh Thanh Hue (Hue Capital Citadel), Hoang Thanh (Royal Citadel), and Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Citadel), as well as Thien Mu Pagoda, Hon Chen Temple, and the royal tombs of Emperor Minh Mang and Emperor Khai Dinh.

Saigontourist

45 Le Thanh Ton, D.1, HCMC

Tel: (08) 3827 9279

The next stop is Danang, a modern city with fantastic sightseeing spots to enjoy, including Son Tra Peninsula, Linh Ung Pagoda, with the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam, and Marble Mountains and the traditional stone engraving village. Hoi An ancient town follows, with a walking tour to unique architecture such as Cau Pagoda, Phu Kien Temple, and street of lanterns, as well as shopping.

Finally, you can explore Ba Na Mountain, where the four seasons have been known to occur within a single day: spring in the morning, summer at noon, autumn in the afternoon, and winter at night. A superb panorama of Ba Na is offered by riding the cable car and there are games and entertainment at Fantasy Park.

The tour is for four days and three nights departing HCMC on 1 January 2015, costing VND4,050,000 per person (excluding air tickets).

 

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