Places To Visit In Vietnam
Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country on the South China Sea known for its beaches, rivers, Buddhist pagodas and bustling cities. Hanoi, the capital, pays homage to the nation’s iconic Communist-era leader, Ho Chi Minh, via a huge marble mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) has French colonial landmarks, plus Vietnamese War history museums and the Củ Chi tunnels, used by Viet Cong soldiers.Popular destinations are Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Hạ Long Bay, Sa Pa and Imperial City of Hue.
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Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City (commonly known as Saigon) is a city in southern Vietnam famous for the pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War. It's also known for its French colonial landmarks, including Notre-Dame Cathedral, made entirely of materials imported from France, and the 19th-century Central Post Office. Food stalls line the city’s streets, especially around bustling Bến Thành Market.
The story of wartime Saigon is told at the War Remnants Museum, the tunnel network at Củ Chi and Independence Palace, where North Vietnamese tanks famously breached the gates in April 1975. The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens are home to elephants, tigers and rare orchids. Native plants and animals may also be seen at the Cần Giờ Biosphere Reserve, a mangrove forest at the mouth of the Saigon River. The Jade Emperor Pagoda is filled with incense and carved figurines, and features elaborate statuary and a turtle pond.
Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences. At its heart is the chaotic Old Quarter, where the narrow streets are roughly arranged by trade. There are many little temples, including Bach Ma, honoring a legendary horse, plus Đồng Xuân Market, selling household goods and street food.
Other landmarks include One Pillar Pagoda, a tiny temple atop a stone pillar, and the 11th-century Temple of Literature, once home to a Confucian academy. French colonial buildings dot the city, from the neoclassical Opera House to the Gothic Revival St. Joseph’s Cathedral. The mausoleum of Communist leader Ho Chi Minh and a museum at Hoa Lo Prison (also known as the Hanoi Hilton, which held prisoners of war) recall the Vietnam War. Cultural activities range from tai chi martial arts around Hoàn Kiếm Lake to traditional chamber music and water puppetry.
Hạ Long Bay
Hạ Long Bay, in northeast Vietnam, is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. Junk boat tours and sea kayak expeditions take visitors past islands named for their shapes, including Stone Dog and Teapot islets. The region is popular for scuba diving, rock climbing and hiking, particularly in mountainous Cát Bà National Park.
Erosion has created enclosed lakes such as Ba Ham Lake on Đầu Bê Island. There are also hundreds of caves, some with stalactites and 19th-century French graffiti. These include Đầu Gỗ Cave, reported resting place of the bamboo stakes legendary military commander Tran Hung Dao used to repel 13th-century invaders. Most of the small islets are rocky and deserted but larger islands, such as Tuần Châu and Cát Bà, have settlements and beach resorts. Also typical of the bay are floating fishing villages such as Ba Hàng, where houses are built on wooden platforms.
Sa Pa is a town in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains of northwestern Vietnam. A popular trekking base, it overlooks the terraced rice fields of the Muong Hoa Valley, and is near the 3,143m-tall Phang Xi Pang peak, which is climbable via a steep, multiday guided walk. Hill tribes, such as the Hmong, Tay and Dao, make up much of the town's local population.
Hoàng Liên National Park is home to many native animal species, forested slopes and dwarf bamboo on the highest ridges. Local waterfalls include the Love Waterfall, flowing down Phang Xi Pang, plus the tiered Thác Bạc (Silver) Waterfall and Cat Cat Waterfall, in the Hmong village of the same name. Sa Pa itself has a French colonial church, a museum of local culture and a market with food stalls and hill-tribe handicrafts. Homestay visits are possible in some hill-tribe villages.
Imperial City of Hue
Hue is a city in central Vietnam that was the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802 to 1945. A major attraction is its vast, 19th-century Citadel, surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls. It encompasses the Imperial City, with palaces and shrines; the Forbidden Purple City, once the emperor’s home; and a replica of the Royal Theater.
Dragon boats ply the Song Hương River, dubbed the Perfume River for the fragrant flowers that drop into it from nearby orchards each fall. To the south lie 7 imperial tombs, including the Tomb of Tu Duc, with a lotus-filled lake and pavilion. Another significant site, Thien Mu Pagoda, dates to 1601 and contains a monastic complex and 12 wooden sculptures of the temple’s fearsome guardians. Other diversions include bustling Dong Ba Market and eateries serving local dishes such as bun bo, a spicy beef noodle soup. Day trips include picturesque Thuận An Beach and tours to the Demilitarized Zone.