Exploring Vietnam in 2013 is now more accessible than ever thanks to an increased air service between London and Ho Chi Minh City.
Throughout the summer Vietnam Airlines will offer five weekly services connecting London Gatwick and Vietnam – with two flights into the capital city of Hanoi and an extra service into Saigon, to make three flights per week. Direct flights from the UK to Vietnam have only been on sale for 18 months since Winter 2011 and to increase to 5 per week further confirms the Brits love affair with Vietnam. In fact some 100,000 British travellers explore Vietnam every year.
2013 marks 40 Years of Peace in Vietnam where a ceasefire was declared in the Vietnam War. And throughout this year cultural events, educational programmes and special festivals will be held across the country to mark this milestone.
So what can tourists expect from a trip to Vietnam? Picture buzzing cities, fascinating culture, soaring mountains, centuries of history, miles of coastline, beautiful national parks and UNESCO recognised Heritage Sites.
- Base yourself in Ho Chi Minh City and as well as exploring all that the hot humid city has to offer, you can also access the Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnels easily. In Saigon visit the impressive Reunification Palace, the sombre War Remnants Museum and the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral.
- Most popular Vietnam tours travel from the south to north (or in reverse) taking in the key sights. And next up after HCMC is Danang on the east coast where travellers can visit the Cham museum who ruled central Vietnam 192 AD to 1835. Hike the Marble Mountains and chill out on one of Da Nang’s beaches, such as China Beach, where American troops used to rest up during the Vietnam War.
- Next head to Hoi An which is an ancient trade port and now a UNESCO recognised site. Walk over the delightful Japanese Covered Bridge (Cau Nhat Ban), Walk the pedestrian-only streets admiring merchants houses which date back hundreds of years and see the My Son ruins up close just outside Hoi An.
- Also on the east coast is Hue where the main attraction is the early 19th century Imperial Citadel which was based on Beijing’s Forbidden City. A highlight is a cruise on the Perfume River which also takes in the Thien Mu Pagoda and the Tu Duc and Khai Dinh Emperors’ Tombs.
- Don’t miss Halong Bay, aka descending dragon bay, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. And deservedly so – even in the mist it’s a beautiful and captivating spot. Of course travellers can enjoy a junk trip over the waters to witness everyday life, but there is also so much more do to in Halong Bay.
- Final stop on most itineraries is Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. Cooler than Saigon but no less busy, there are a wealth of cultural sites here. Don’t miss the beautiful Old Quarter with traditional colonial style houses and take a sombre walk through Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum where the man himself lies embalmed.
Of course there are many more stops available in Vietnam such as Sapa in the Tonkinese Alps, which is perfect for hill walking and offers the opportunity to stay with local families on a get-away-from-it-all homestay. Or sample the luxury resort life of Nha Trang with its palm fringed golden beaches which stretch for 7km. And there’s Phu Quoc which lies in the far south of Vietnam and offers beautiful beaches on the coast with lush tropical forests on in the interior, coupled with a laidback atmosphere.
So why not make 2013 the year you finally get to Vietnam? You won’t regret it!