Northern Vietnam - Hanoi and Halong Bay
Many Explore adventure holidays in Vietnam begin in its fascinating capital, Hanoi. This small city is a blend of French colonial architecture and more traditional Vietnamese buildings, with Chinese influences apparent around almost every corner. Hanoi’s jewel is its Old Quarter, a bustling area of narrow streets filled with shops, markets, street vendors and food stalls. It is a wonderful place to explore on foot and immerse yourself in. Just 3 hours drive from the capital is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Halong Bay, a place of mystery, intrigue and beauty. Halong actually means 'descending dragon' and it is said that an enormous beast had careered into the sea, cutting the fantastic bay from the rocks as it thrashed its way into the depths. The best way to explore Halong Bay is to take a cruise around this area on a traditional junk boat which allows for the discovery hidden islets, small village communities and the caves and grottos that the Bay is famous for. There is so much to see here; another option is to kayak Halong Bay, or perhaps discover the lesser-visited Bai Tu Long Bay on one of Explore’s tailor-made adventures.
Central Vietnam – Hue and Hoi An
In terms of adventure travel, the centre of Vietnam has so much to offer, from the recent history of the Vietnam War and the DMZ, to the ancient historical sites of My Son and the Imperial City of Hue. At the end the scenic drive along the Hai Van pass lies the fishing port of Hoi An. This centuries-old merchant town is a firm favourite on most people’s Vietnam trips, with its medieval buildings, colourful lanterns and Japanese architecture; it is perfect for a walking tour through its narrow streets and along its waterways. For those who wish to get off the beaten track, Dalat and the Central highlands offers breath-taking mountain scenery and rural village communities, far off the main tourist-trail.
Southern Vietnam – Saigon and Mekong Delta
Southern Vietnam is where the country’s booming economy is most evident – in Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is more commonly known by the locals, towering sky-scrapers and gleaming glass structures rub shoulders with old colonial buildings like the Notre Dame Cathedral, although there were precious few of these buildings left by the time the terrible Vietnam War came to an end in 1975. A visit to the War Crimes Museum gives a harrowing account of the war far from the Hollywood films, whilst a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels offers first-hand experience of guerrilla warfare and demonstrates the ingenuity of the Viet Cong. A few hours drive away, the lush fertile plains of the Mekong Delta feel like travelling back in time, where glass structures and concrete roads are replaced with stilt houses and floating markets. Here the best way to explore is on two wheels, and a cycling tour in the Mekong Delta gives the opportunity to discover the small villages that are dotted between this complex network of waterways.