Lush and fertile rice paddies, awe-inspiring beaches and misty mountainsides are just some of Vietnam’s attractions. Highly cultured and dignified, its imperial cities retain their French colonial charm alongside modern high-rises and ancient historical buildings. But perhaps Vietnam is at its most beautiful outside the cities: Halong Bay, for example, has been described as one of the great natural wonders of Asia, with its 3,000 islands and countless inlets. In the north west, the lush hill-tribe lands provide ample opportunities for wilderness trekking.
Cuisine is especially notable and varied, with some 500 traditional dishes. The ubiquitous ‘tea shop’, often simply a low table and wooden stools under the shade of a tree, is an essential part of Vietnamese daily life that may seem strangely familiar…
“One of my favourite experiences was spending an afternoon cycling along rural Vietnamese lanes, watching the farmers digging in the fields, ducks being herded into pens, pigs scratching at the dirt in the back yard, women hanging out their washing. It was like an ordinary scene from our local village, with a Vietnamese twist! Being on a bicycle, with a large straw hat to keep the sun off, I felt like part of the scenery”.
Fiona’s travel tips
FOR THE ACTIVE: Kayaking in Halong Bay.
MY FAVOURITE PLACE: Luang Prabang — sitting cross legged on the pavement at dawn watching the silent procession of orange-robed monks coming down the street towards me during the giving of alms.
BEST TIME TO GO : November to March
Cambodia: 14½ hours (indirect)
Laos: 15 hours (indirect)
Vietnam: 16 hours (indirect)
“All your information was detailed and clear. The guides were excellent, especially in Siem Reap. Quite the best holiday we have ever had!”Mr and Mrs Nigel Paton and family, Vietnam and Cambodia
Euan and Su Bowater, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand
“We had a brilliant hugely enjoyable trip and liked the Pandaw Mekong very much.”
“With the sole exception of the road to Ha Long Bay, we loved our three weeks in Vietnam travelling from Hanoi to Saigon, via the old imperial capital of Hue, the charming 17th-century trading post of Hoi An, the beaches of Nha Trang, the kitsch-veneered, faded elegance of Dalat (an old French hill station, where Graham tried the splendid golf course) and a couple of delightful days boating and cycling along the Mekong Delta. We didn’t want to leave Saigon. Particularly when we found it was snowing in London. But here we are, from 35C to freezing in 12 hours.”Sue & Graham Bell, Vietnam
“The Vietnam trip was excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed it – memorable for all the right reasons. In particular the hotels were well-chosen and uniformly of a very high standard, and each had its own individual character. Our local guides were also excellent – friendly, efficient and very informative.”Andrew and Suzanne Mounstephen, Vietnam
“The trip was awesome. I think the best I can say for our group is that we did not want it to end. We are still talking about how wonderful it was.”
Mrs Kate Huey and family, Indochina
“A fascinating historical and cultural insight and a wonderful trip all round.”
Mr and Mrs Stephen Scott-Smith, Cambodia/Vietnam
“All made very easy for us which is what we wanted… Excellent choice of hotels and flights”.
Mr and Mrs Walter Johnson, Pandaw River Cruise, Vietnam/Cambodia