Discover Vietnam: Hanoi

By: Vinh Dao

Walk the 36 Streets in Old Quarter

From hidden cosy coffee shops in aging buildings and an emerging contemporary art scene to luxury cars slinking through the city’s intricate little streets, Hanoi truly knows how to welcome modernity while keeping true to its roots. Stylish, nostalgic, romantic and tested by the extremes of its seasonal weather, this is a city bursting with character.

Getting lost is compulsory when visiting Hanoi. Walk the 36 Streets in Old Quarter and allow yourself a day of wandering without purpose, a day of walking just for the sake of walking. Every street will lead you to a new discovery and every corner has its charm, if you suspend time for a while.

Nostalgia aside, the Old Quarter struggles with an influx of around 2 million tourists a year and has the challenge of balancing the need to protect its historically important structures with allowing economic development that may demand taller buildings. Pedestrianisation is one solution mooted but while that may improve the lot of the tourist, it will undoubtedly be resisted by residents who still have to conduct their day-to-day commercial activity.

The city is hot and sticky in the summer and wet and chilly in the winter. More greenery than is found in Ho Chi Minh City adds some cool relief in the summer while the mist rising from the city’s enchanting lakes adds a dreamy touch to the winter landscape.

From historical monuments to ancient pagodas and temples, a treasure trove of French architecture and creative new development all around, you are sure to be engaged as you explore Vietnam’s capital. From colourful street markets to trendy boutiques and upmarket modern shopping malls, the city also boasts a plethora of art galleries and shopping outlets.

Hanoi is a melting pot of delicious and affordable street food and fancier local and international fare. After lunch or dinner, it is customary to relax on little plastic stools in one of the cafes surrounding St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Check out the street scene or chat to some of the city’s residents. Warm up with some tra nong (hot tea) served in little glasses during the winter or with the customary tra chanh (lemon iced tea) in the summer months. Nibble some sunflower seeds and taste a true Hanoian local experience.

For a real treat, take an afternoon ride around West Lake (Ho Tay). Travel to Phu Tay Ho on the peninsula overlooking the lake to experience Hanoi’s more spiritual side. Savour banh tom Tay Ho, a delicious cake made from fresh shrimp and flour (and sometimes potato) with an ice-cold beer followed by freshwater fish and crab while waiting for the sun to set.


Recent Developments Turn Quy Nhon into a Hotspot

By: JK Hobson

It’s quite possible that Quy Nhon is the most underrated place to travel in Vietnam, but that may not be a fact for long. The central coastal city in Binh Dinh province is becoming the target of a huge wave of development, as prospectors seek out a new beach city to turn into Vietnam’s next big tourist destination.

Quy NhonImage source: Shutter Stock

If you find yourself nestled on a quiet beach in this quaint town you might ask yourself, “Why haven’t more people heard about this place?” Well, it may be at least in part due to the fact that Westerners have a hard time pronouncing it (kwee nyawn). In fact, you may have heard of the beach town but had trouble finding it on a map because for those not well-versed in Vietnamese pronunciation, it’s spelled way differently from the way it’s actually said. It’s also in a particular area of Vietnam that has stayed off of the radar of most tourists. Travellers so far have been more likely to visit neighbouring cities such as Da Nang and Nha Trang, places that are known to be developed, have attractive beaches, and are also home to international airports.

Quy Nhon Gets a Buzz

That said, as a tourist destination, Quy Nhon has got quite a lot going for it, and developers are setting up for what they think might be a veritable tourism goldrush. Its remote location, beautiful beaches, clear ocean waters and ancient ruins put it on British newspaper The Guardian’s top 10 list of sun destinations for winter 2018. The combination of quiet, tranquil beaches and scenic scrolling countryside also earned it a spot on the Dozen Dream Destinations for 2019 list for popular travel website Remote Lands, who called the central Vietnamese town “a bit of a dark horse” as a destination, but also that “it is on the rise”.

Quy NhonImage source: quynhonland.com.vn

Quy Nhon is quite a distance from Vietnam’s major cities, 650km from Saigon, 300km from Da Nang City and over 1,000km from Hanoi. This makes it a perfect getaway for locals and adventurous travellers seeking a quiet escape in an unfrequented area that’s off the beaten path.

New Airports

One of the reasons Quy Nhon is attracting attention as an up-and-coming destination is the relatively recent opening of international airports nearby, and the overcrowding of other nearby beach towns oversaturated with heavy tourism. City Pass Guide spoke with TJ from Epikurean Hotels and Lifestyle, a prominent resort developer in Asia: “Do expect to see more international flights in the near future, most likely in the next 36 to 48 months. On that coast, from Song Cau to Quang Nam, you’re going to see a lot of development in the near future. There are a couple of factors. You have the typical north-central and south powerplay. Quy Nhon is considered central. [Places like Nha Trang and Da Nang] are highly saturated and it’s getting extreme sensitive. Where can you go? You can’t go up north any further, because you don’t have more than six months of season, where in Quy Nhon you have 10 months of season. Look at this [shows us a photo of a clean, sunny beach with calm, clear waters]. This is the bad season. If you were to lose a ring in the water, you could probably come back and get it the next day because the water is so clear!” Unlike many beaches in more developed cities in Vietnam, the waters in Quy Nhon remain quite pristine.

Quy NhonImage source: flightnetwork.com

Development in neighboring central Vietnam cities like nearby Nha Trang seems to be hitting a ceiling of sorts. TJ shared with us, “Land prices are soaring in places like the northern part of Nha Trang. There’s a fair amount of speculation given. It becomes highly complicated and expensive to get an investment licence due to the speculation and the land-grabs. Also, the biggest and most important point is that the airports are saturated. Cam Ranh is the new international airport and it’s just a mess. It’s not a mess because of poor management, there are just way too many people!” As a result, resort developers are moving further north and south of Cam Ranh in order to create popular new tourist destinations.

According to the Saigon Times, Tuy Hoa Airport in the south-central province of Phu Yen was expected to begin welcoming international flights in November 2018. Dinh Viet Thang, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, said that the authority has been completing procedures to begin hosting international flights, with the first arriving from Russia.

Quy NhonImage source: quynhonland.com.vn

TJ explained, “If I was an airline operator, especially a charter operator, I would rather land in Tuy Hoa and move my customers north and south, rather than to land in Cam Ranh. To travel from Cam Ranh to Nha Trang is 60km, but from Tuy Hoa, it’s only 100km. The difference being that there’s zero traffic, it’s way cheaper and there’s way more negotiation power with the hotels in those areas. Then do the math”. If you calculate all of these factors, it becomes clear that the recent developments in Quy Nhon are not unwarranted.

More than Just a Beach Town

Quy Nhon offers more than just calm, picturesque beaches. History buffs will want to visit the Thap Doi Twin Towers outside of the city limits. These pyramidical towers are remnants from the Cham civilisation in Vietnam’s central region. Unlike much of the Cham architecture, the Thap Doi Towers are quite accessible, meaning you won’t have to climb hills in the blazing midday heat to reach them.

For anyone seeking a quiet getaway at a lovely Southeast Asian beachtown that isn’t overrun by tourism and development, the time is now to visit Quy Nhon. It’s on the brink of some major development, and you might want to get in while the getting is good.

Video source: Sỹ Ben Flycam

Banner Image source: Shutter Stock


Son Doong Cave

By: City Pass Guide

Video source: Ryan Deboodt


Best National Parks in Vietnam

By: Emily Pham

• Get out of Vietnam’s big cities and head to one of Vietnam’s national parks instead

• Phu Quoc National Park is great for marine life

• Cat Tien is the place to go if you want to stay close to Ho Chi Minh City

• Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park is best for exploring caves

• Ba Be National Park is a waterfall wonderland

• Vietnam’s Con Đao National Park is a protected wildlife sanctuary

• Cuc Phuong National Park is close to Hanoi and was Vietnam’s first national park!

national parks in VietnamImage source: blogspot.com

When people speak about destinations in Vietnam, many people will recommend big cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang, or beautiful islands such as Co To, Phu Quoc, Cat Ba etc. However, Vietnam is also famous for its many national parks. We introduce to you some well-known ones.

1. Phu Quoc National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Phú Quốc)

Phu Quoc is now one of the most overdeveloped islands in Vietnam, but more than half of Phu Quoc island is a national park, which is home to a diverse ecosystem with more than 200 kinds of animal and 1000 pieces of plant. Here, you can see some rare old-growth forests and Dipterocarp trees more than 100 feet high. From Ganh Dau village (làng chài Gành Dầu), you can reach Phu Quoc national park very easily for hiking, camping, scuba diving and so on. Dive deep into the clear water to see the abundant marine life, or explore this national park by riding a motorbike along its paths.

From Phu Quoc international airport, you can hire a motorbike to get to Phu Quoc national park.

national parks in VietnamImage source: uminhnationalpark.com

2. Cat Tien National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Cát Tiên)

Cat Tien national park is in Dong Nai province (tỉnh Đồng Nai), not too far from Ho Chi Minh City. It is said to be one of the most worthwhile parks in the south of Vietnam. This area is home to many primates and a great trekking destination. Going into this park in the early morning, you will hear the birdsong and cries of gibbons amongst the trees. Do not pack too much because this park nowadays offers tourism facilities for camping or paddling along the waterways. And, do not forget to get to Cat Tien Bear Rescue Centre, where you will see many amazing animals such as Asian black bears and sun bears.

You can travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Cat Tien national park by motorbike or coach, but the most suitable way for tourists is by coach. Buy a ticket at Mien Dong coach station (Bến Xe Miền Đông) and get to Cat Tien national park for only 150,000 VND.

national parks in VietnamImage source: i-to-i.com

3. Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Phong Nha - Kẻ Bàng)

Phong Nha - Ke Bang national park in Quang Binh province (tỉnh Quảng Bình) is famous for the largest cave in the world with whole ecosystems and forests within, called Son Doong cave (Hang Sơn Đoòng). With more than 300 caves, many waterways, mountains and forests, Phong Nha - Ke Bang national park is now a famous destination for tourists from all over the world. It is one of the must-see places in Vietnam and will provide long-lasting memories.

From Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, take a flight to Dong Hoi airport and then catch a motor taxi to Phong Nha - Ke Bang national park.

Video source: National Geographic

4. Ba Be National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Ba Bể)

Ba Be national park is home to mountains, waterfalls, caves and rivers. It is a tourist attraction thanks to the diversity of ecosystems with protruding peaks, plateaus and vast lakes. Making a boat trip to explore the waterways is an excellent thing to do, and you can hike through the plethora of forests with stunning views down to the lakes. You can also visit local villages to gain an insight into daily life.

Ba Be national park is 240 km north of Hanoi in Bac Kan province (Tỉnh Bắc Kạn). In Hanoi, Mr. Linh's Adventures at No. 83 Ma May Street organises a range of tours and homestays in the region—see MrLinhAdventure.com.

Video source: Mr Linh's Adventures

5. Con Dao National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Côn Đảo)

Con Dao national park combines marine environments with tropical forests, pristine beaches, lush mangroves and coral reefs. The area is strictly protected and retains a wild and majestic beauty.

From Tan Son Nhat international airport in Ho Chi Minh City you can fly to Co Ong airport (Sân Bay Cỏ Ống) on Con Dao island.

national parks in VietnamImage source: vietnamcoracle.com

6. Cuc Phuong National Park (Vườn Quốc Gia Cúc Phương)

This national park in Ninh Binh province (Tỉnh Ninh Bình) south-west of Hanoi is a famous destination with pristine trails and beautiful landscapes. It was Vietnam’s first national park and is the country's largest nature reserve, with a wide range of flora and fauna. It an attractive area for adventurous visitors.

From Hanoi, hire a motorbike or catch a coach at Giap Bat station (Bến xe Giáp Bát) to get to the park.

national parks in VietnamImage source: tripspoint.com

Have you been to any of these places? If so, share your experiences at xxxx.

Emily Pham shares her love of the country, including essential information on where to go and what to do, through her blog site vina.com.

Banner Image source: travelandinspiration.com


Michelle Phan discovering her Vietnamese roots

By: City Pass Guide

Video source: Michelle Phan


Family trip in Vietnam - 1st episode: Enter the Dragon

By: City Pass Guide

Family trip in Vietnam

Kathleen Brown, her husband John and their two adopted children, Peter Quang and Claire Xuan, are touring around Vietnam during their Christmas holiday. Kathleen is a long-time television producer and /media consultant for humanitarian agencies and her husband, John, a professional photographer.Every couple of days, they will post a story along with photos on their travels and adventures.

Family trip in Vietnam - 1st episode: Enter the Dragon

Shimmering, glowing, lush and mystical – dragons await us. To be transported by the water of the mighty Mekong is a journey down a rich, swift and congested highway in one of the most fertile, abundant and beautifully kinetic places in the world. Water becomes marketplace, superhighway and irrigation pipeline all in one.

Family trip in Vietnam

We’ve left behind the crazed, crowded shopping malls in the US just a week before Christmas, happy to avoid the rush only to run smack into liquid commerce riding the dragon.

Who knew?  Welcome back to Vietnam, my children, it’s going to be an amazing, exhilarating and remarkable ride.

In “international adoption parlance” our family is making a heritage tour or homeland visit. We return with our children, Claire who is 12 and Peter, 7, both born in Phu Tho province, northwest of Hanoi. They came home to the United States as infants shortly after being adopted by my husband John and me and now we visit Vietnam to reconnect them with the land of their birth. It is a path with heart.

Family trip in Vietnam

The Mekong is our first stop in this homeland journey. We take an overnight cruise on an ancient Vietnamese rice boat, which happens to be a gentle way to glide into a 12 hour time change-- not having planned --our more than 24 hours of air travel with delays, missed connections, lost luggage and only 4 hours of rest to recharge us.

The (Bassac II) cruise is our tonic – a sweet, neat and easy climb onto the back of these many dragons.

The Mekong Delta’s nine tributaries are referred to by the Vietnamese as the “nine dragons.”  Four of these tributaries empty into the sea, five more meander around the delta and find their way there eventually.

Family trip in Vietnam

At various points on the River, the tributaries can run along narrow cement canals or just as quickly open up to wide gaping exposures hosting barges moving masses of its silt-y bed to shorelines.

“Tuck-tuck”ing boats loaded with fruits, logs, gravel and other goods ply the entire region and its banks  which are punctuated with houses, docks, businesses, boat launches and the large loading docks of rice processing factories.

Rooster crows, karaoke calls and roiling outboard engines are the sound scape of the Delta.  It’s a wonder to behold and a sight to see – unlike any other river in the world. All of ones senses are engaged and enlivened on this river journey.

Family trip in Vietnam

We begin our journey in Cai Be and the kids enjoy seeing rice popped and coconut candies cooked and especially delight when they are invited to taste along the way. The next stop on our boat ride is a visit to a small village on the Mang Thit River.

There we walk along paths where pineapples, mangos and other fruits, herbs and flowers are grown. We visit a rice paddy to learn how the fields are prepared for planting and end the land portion of the tour with a visit to a family home to drink tea and taste local fruits. 

At day’s end we anchor at Tra On, a quiet spot on the river just downstream from Can Tho and the Cai Rang floating market which is tomorrow’s adventure.

Writer: Kathleen Brown

Other articles written by Kathleen:

Family trip in Vietnam - 1st episode: Enter the Dragon

Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 2: Cai Rang Water Opera

Family trip in Vietnam - episode 3: Hoi An ancient town

Family trip in Vietnam - episode 4: Hoi An Countryside

Family trip in Vietnam - episode 5: the LifeStart Foundation

Family trip in Vietnam - episode 6: Hoi An Cooking Class

Family trip in Vietnam - episode 7: Project Runway in Hoi An

Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 8: Water Puppets - Vietnam's Original Muppets

Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 9: Time to Cha Cha with the Chả Cá

Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 10: A Visit to the Hung Kings Citadel and Au Co Ancestral Site

Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 11: Our Visit to the Perfume Pagoda

Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 13: Saigon Street Eats

Family trip in Vietnam - Final Episode: An Afternoon in Cholon

Tribute Episode to our Guide Stars

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