Nature has gifted the country with breathtaking beauty,
and history gives her beauty a deeper root
The beauty of Vietnam is demonstrated by long coastlines and lush forests, as well as integrated cultures of East and West. Today, the country is being renewed with the pace of global modernization, yet its true essence has never been forgotten.
Quietness and Liveliness Meet
Hanoi, the capital, is located in the north of Vietnam and has a history of more than 1,000 years. It is one of the most Vietnam-styled places with women passing by in Ao Dai (Vietnam’s national dress) and hundreds of years of colonial-style French architecture can be seen everywhere. Noise and quietness coexist. Motorcycles are rushing around the streets and vendors are yelling behind their stalls. Meanwhile, some people spend the whole afternoon sipping a cup of drip coffee or enjoy art pieces at a gallery.
There is a large water area in downtown called Hoan Kiem Lake. The water is clear and the environment is inviting. Every morning, locals come for morning exercise: jogging, playing badminton or having yoga sessions. 36 Bank Street is always crowded with stores and people. Handicrafts, paintings, food are all packed inside the intricate narrow streets. In the distance, incense smoke flows out from behind temple walls. It’s a good idea to have a map before exploring the area.
Food culture plays a role in Vietnam as important as in China. Vietnamese food is rich in flavor and fresh in taste. Steaming, roasting and simmering are the main cooking methods. Lemon juice, fish sauce, vanilla and caraway are signature ingredients. Quan An Ngon is a chain restaurant in Hanoi involving almost all the street food of Vietnam: Pho, known for its elaborately prepared soup; Vietnamese Sandwich, a tasty transformation of Baguette; Vietnamese Spring Roll, attracting many with its super thin paper wrap and super rich fillings. Xoi Ye is a restaurant famous for glutinous rice. The cook caps glutinous rice with, in order, mung bean powder, roast pork/chicken/spiced egg, and fried minced shallot. Cha Ca La Vong is said to be the oldest restaurant in Vietnam, specializing in “fried fish cooked in a traditional way”. The golden fish cubes are accompanied with vanilla and peanut.
When May comes, flowers on the streets come to full bloom, giving the city a warmer and lovely ambience.
Sea and Culture Embrace
Located in the middle of Vietnam, the port city of Da Nang is a well-known seaside destination with a beautiful U-shaped bay. To its north lies Hue and to its south lies Hoi An.
At the east border of Da Nang is a 900-meter public beach, My Khe Beach. Locals and tourists alike love to hang around here. They bathe in the sun, take a stroll, play beach volleyball or even have group meditation. Fishermen are busy casting out nets and selling their fresh catches on site. Hoang Sa road is a “seafood street” with many stalls selling rich options of seafood at reasonable prices.
My An Beach lies to the south of My Khe Beach, with a quieter environment. A range of luxury hotels gather here, all with their own private beaches. Fusion Maia Resort is the first hotel in Vietnam that includes spa services into its room rate. Every guest can choose two spa treatments to enjoy freely per day. Crystal therapy, bamboo massage and reiki are among the most popular treatments. The resort also offers a variety of yoga and meditation sessions. Each villa is equipped with a swimming pool and a jacuzzi.
The route that connects Da Nang and Hue is praised as the most beautiful road in Vietnam, falling in the embrace of lofty mountains and endless sea. The most two famous sites along the way, though the entire trip is a joyful eye feast, are Hai Van Pass (Sea-Cloud Mountain) and Lang Co Bay. Hai Van Pass is topped by clouds and mist all the year round, blurring the boundary between the mountains, sky and sea. Standing at the mountain peak, you will have a panoramic view of the coastlines stretching away on both sides. Lang Co Bay features an arc-shaped beach. The water here is clear and the climate is pleasant. Taking a train, car or motorcycle are all good ways to fully enjoy the beauty.
Then you will reach Hue. Hue is a city in central Vietnam that was the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945. Possibly, the riverside beauty and extensive mountains attracted them. Today, the ancient city walls still lean against the mountainous backdrop, inviting many people to come to explore the imperial site. The Perfume River (Huong Giang) goes through the city at a peaceful pace. On the northern bank dwells the well-preserved imperial palace and the southern bank reveals a vibrant modern view.
Not being renovated, the palace is not so glorious as it was. However, a sense of beauty honored by time has been unfolded. Enter the palace through the Meridian Gate at south and get lost amidst palace halls, temples, gardens, red corridors and yellow lanterns. Y Thao Garden is a restaurant inside the palace serving court cuisine. It is said that the forefather of the restaurant’s owner was a cook in the royal court.
The new district at southern bank of the river gathers a wide variety of street food. Bun Bo Hue (Beef Noodle) is a local specialty. Restaurants to recommend: Lac Thien Restaurant, Kangaroo Restaurant. Coffee lovers won’t miss the authentic drip coffee at Stop&Go Café. Press a thick layer of ground coffee inside the special vessel. Pour in hot water and watch the coffee fall into the cup drop by drop. Sometimes, you need to wait for an hour. It’s worth it.
Enjoy boating on the Perfume River on a pleasant day, in the warm afternoon or sun-set moment. Trees and flowers clothes the banks. As you float downstream, you will meet several imperial mausoleums, magnificently standing there, with their image reflected in the water.
Hoi An is another charming town in the center Vietnam, a 40 minutes’ drive from Da Nang southward. It was once a busy trading port. Merchants from China, Japan and Europe came here for business deals, leaving behind their traces, especially in the architecture, culture and food. Don’t forget to cross over the Japanese-style stone bridge, have a look at Tân Ky ancestral house, take some photos of the narrow streets and enjoy “Hoi An Three Treasures”–White Rose, Cao Lau Vermicelli and Fried Wonton. White Rose got its name from the shape of the food. People fill in the paper wrap with dried shrimp floss and dried fish floss before wrapping it into a rose shape. Fish sauce, lemon juice, green onions and caraway are then placed on the paper wrap. When evening comes, thousands of paper lanterns light up the town and shimmer in the Thu Bon river.
In the suburbs of the town are vast rice fields. Rent a bicycle from the hotel and ride toward the suburbs. Very soon you will find yourself amidst a green ocean of paddy fields. Gardens and ponds RE scattered here and there. AT the end of the rice fields is An Bang beach where you can buy a coconut to refresh yourself, have a seafood meal or simply bathe in the sun.
Hoi An is not very big, yet there is no lack of wellness sites. Citrus Spa is widely known for its quality natural ingredients used in the treatments which are all locally-picked such as sesame seeds and lotus. Signature experiences include energy body scrub, personized facial, traditional Vietnamese oil massage. For the post-treatment relaxation, Citrus Spa creatively serves guests with mushroom porridge. A Luminary Life is a comprehensive wellness center aiming to balance body, heart and soul. A range of private and group sessions cover exercise, mindfulness, healing and art. Popular programs are sound therapy, osteopathy, acupuncture, dancing and community interaction.
Nha Trang is a strong rival of Da Nang in terms of seaside offerings. Da Nang boasts the most beautiful road of Vietnam and a short distance to charming old towns while Nha Trang features better diving conditions and more recreation options. There are 25 diving sites around Nha Trang. The average visibility is 15 meters beneath the sea surface. Slopes, caves and colorful carols compose a beautiful undersea world. Sailing Club Divers is a five-star PADI diving center in Nha Trang, providing diving trips to Mun Island and Nha Trang Bay.
Nha Trang Four Island Tour is a choice for most tourists. Renovated fishing boats will take you to the middle of sea and stop by four islands. Mun Island is ideal for diving and swimming. Mot Island is known for a bar above the sea. Tam Island features white and soft sand, lush plants and a variety of water activities. And there is an aquarium at Mieu Island requiring an extra fee.
Thap Ba Hot Spring Center lies 6 kilometers away from Nha Trang, famous for its mud bathing. The area is divided into different zones: shower zone, mud bathing zone, sauna zone and SPA zone. The correct sequence is: shower – mud bathing – sauna – shower – SPA treatment. The entire experience is truly interesting and works miracles on your skin.
For a more luxury indulgence, beachside resort Amanoi lies 55 kilometres south of Nha Trang Cam Ranh Airport in a region renowned for its spectacular mountain and coastal scenery. Meaning ‘peaceful place’, Amanoi overlooks Vinh Hy Bay on Vietnam’s dramatic central coast and is embraced by Nui Chua National Park. Magnificent views unfold from the hilltop infinity pool and the Central Pavilion, which houses the Restaurant, the Bar and a library. Down on the shore, the Beach Club, with its dining area and second swimming pool, overlooks a private sandy beach, lapped by the coral-rich waters of a marine reserve. Set by Amanoi’s lotus-filled lake, two Wellness Pool Villas allow guests to enjoy therapies in complete seclusion. Nearby, the main Aman Spa includes five double treatment rooms, two hydrotherapy suites, relaxation pavilions and a finishing salon. Fitness options include a light-filled gym, a Pilates studio, a yoga pavilion set over the water, and two tennis courts. The Individual Wellness Immersions invites guests on personized wellness journeys lasting from 3 days to 3 weeks.
The Past is Gone, Romanticism Lingers
Ho Chi Minh City is the economic center of Vietnam today. Many people still prefer its old name, Saigon. Frenchmen really left a lot behind in this city. You can sense that subtle feel of France when you are passing by the French-style buildings, resting under the Oriental plane trees, grabbing a sandwich transformed from baguette or sipping a cup of coffee at the street cafés. It’s crowded, but it’s romantic.
Pham Ngu Lao packs all kinds of stores, hostels and cafés in its narrow streats. Nearby, Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Museum has a rich collection of classic Vietnamese art pieces. Built at the end of 19th Century, the Central Post Office in gothic architecture is still in use, overlooking the tree-lined Le Duan road. Mekong River is made more widely known by Margaret Duras. Don’t hesitate to wander by the riverside or join in a one-day or two-day boating trip. You will pass rice field, coconut groves and fruit gardens. Riverside dwellers skillfully trade on the narrow watercourse. You can buy very cheap fruits from them as your boats pass by each other.
Ho Chi Minh City is home to five-star hotels with their characteristic spa offerings. Even these hotels like to call the city Saigon.
The Spa at The Reverie Saigon boasts the largest area in the city. Algae & Hot Stone Treatment wins wide praise. After a soothing hot stone massage, therapist will wrap the guest with heated Atlantic algae to infuse into the body rich vitamin and minerals. Xuan Spa at Park Hyatt Saigon uses natural ingredients found in the mangrove forests at Mekong Delta. Fresh gingers, citrus, cajeput, basil, cinnamon, the material used by Vietnamese for health-keeping since ancient times are now applied in the treatments at Xuan Spa. Thann Sanctuary at Pullman Saigon Centre offers authentic Thai healing. The interior features natural elements such as bamboo, wood and forests. In the fragrance of jasmine, therapist put crystal bowls on the seven chakras of the body, to detox and purify.
Pho 24 is a chain store in Saigon specialized in Pho with good dining environment and cordial services. There is no lack of French restaurants as well. Some worth a try are: La Villa French Restaurant, Le Bordeaux, Au Manoir De Khai.
This is Vietnam. When you come once, you will surely want to come again.