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Magnificent rice terrace fields in the mountainous region of Sapa. Image: Unsplash

Say 'Xin Chào' To Enchanting Landscapes And Cultural Wonders In Vietnam

Vietnam has been inching up many people's travel bucket lists (ours included!), and it’s no surprise when there’s so much the country has to offer. If Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Ha Long Bay are the only places that come to mind when you think about travelling in Vietnam, we’re about to expand your horizons. Lezzgo.

Getting around Vietnam

Most destinations in Vietnam hit that “weekend getaway” sweet spot, and require no more than 4 hours of flight time. Once you get there, there is no shortage of transportation options. For short distances, make the most of your Grab app, which converts conveniently to the local version. Alternatively, hop on a bicycle rickshaw or a motorbike taxi, but remember to agree on the fare with the driver before you set off. You can also book a private charter if you’re feeling high SES.

If you plan to city-hop, you can consider taking overnight trains or sleeper buses for a budget-friendly option but if you’re a fussy traveller, we’d recommend you opt for something more comfortable. Naturally, domestic flights are the preferred choice for most travellers since they are quite easy on the wallet and there are more frequent departures.

Hoi An: An enchanting old-world getaway

Hoi An just oozes old-world charm, boasting a well-preserved ancient town where cobbled streets are lined with quaint yellow buildings. Alongside the meandering Thu Bon River, you’ll find delightful crumbling shop houses and weathered pagodas, while sampans gracefully glide to and from the old ferry quay. Here, you’re gonna whip your phone out a lot to capture stunning images of the captivating Japanese Bridge, Tan Ky ancestral house, and Phuc Kien Assembly Hall.

A mere 40km away from Hoi An lies My Son Sanctuary, a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site nestled in a valley near a serene stream. These stunning temples, built by the Cham people, date back from the 7th to the 13th century. For a nearby beach retreat, An Bang Beach awaits just a 10-minute drive away, perfect for a relaxing day by the sea.

And of course, indulge your taste buds with Hoi An’s signature dishes such as Cao Lau – an intriguing fusion of Vietnamese, Japanese & Chinese cuisine in the form of udon-like noodles accompanied with char siew-esque roasted pork and the secret Hoi An special sauce with a kick. A must-try as you won’t find this elsewhere in Vietnam. Don’t miss the white rose dumplings too (shown above) as the dumpling skin is only made in Hoi An.

Sapa: Admire the magnificent rice terrace fields

For those who want to clock their steps, Sapa is a mountainous region that promises awe-inspiring scenery and vibrant hill tribe cultures. Iconic terraced rice fields greet you everywhere you look, with trekking opportunities that lead to hill tribe villages like Cat Cat and Ta Phin, where you can embrace the traditional way of life among stunning vistas.

For an extraordinary experience, take a 6km cable car journey up 3,143m to the summit of Mount Fansipan, lovingly called the “Roof of Indochina”, and take in the panoramic views. If you happen to be there on a Sunday, don’t miss the vibrant Bac Ha market, where diverse tribespeople dressed in traditional garb showcase their wares.

Nha Trang: A Paradise for Beach Enthusiasts

For sun-seekers and beach lovers, Nha Trang is a coastal paradise boasting palm-fringed beaches and crystal-clear waters. This vibrant seaside city offers a plethora of water-based activities, from snorkelling and scuba diving to island-hopping adventures at Monkey Island, Hon Mun Island, and Yen Island, where untouched beauty awaits.

Soak yourself in mud baths and hot springs north of the city, or explore Vietnam’s historical and spiritual heritage at Po Nagar Cham Towers and Long Son Pagoda, home to a majestic 78-foot-tall Buddha statue. As the sun sets, the city comes alive with vibrant nightlife at hotspots like Sailing Club and Skylight Beach Club.

Da Lat: Romance in the Central Highlands

Da Lat is a captivating destination that’s perfect for a romantic getaway. This picturesque town with its cool climate and European-inspired colonial architecture is an idyllic spot, attracting honeymooners seeking a dreamy escape. Stroll around Xuan Huong Lake and immerse yourself in the vibrant market filled with fresh flowers and colourful produce. Or spend the night close to nature at The Camp Inn – a quaint “campsite” in a caravan fitted with retro furnishings and countryside vibes.

Explore the enchanting Truc Lam Zen Monastery and witness the striking Datanla Waterfall, where nature’s wonders provide moments of tranquillity. Some of Vietnam’s best coffee is grown on the slopes around the town, so don’t forget to sample some of Vietnam’s finest brews while enjoying 20°C weather.

Ninh Binh: Ha Long Bay on land

Very few travellers put Ninh Binh on their bucket list, but this captivating region known as “Ha Long Bay on Land” boasts an enchanting riverine landscape and majestic limestone mountains rising from lush paddies. Embark on a paddleboat tour along the shimmering rivers and traverse the legendary peaks from Hang Mua, offering surreal vistas of winding rivers and limestone outcrops. Explore gentle waterways and dripping grottoes with a sampan tour from Tam Coc and Trang An boat docks, guided by skilled boat people rowing with their feet.

Discover ancient history at Hoa Lu, once Vietnam’s capital, nestled amidst natural protection from karsts and rivers. For wildlife enthusiasts, head to the Van Long Nature Reserve for exotic row boat experiences and glimpses of rare creatures. Drop in at Bai Dinh Temple, the country’s largest complex of Buddhist temples, blending old and new styles, and uncover ancient temples hidden in caves, accessible through a climb of 300 steps.

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