With over 80 million inhabitants and a young population, there is a tangible sense of growth and excitement as Vietnam adapts its Socialist rule to the modern age, overcoming a turbulent past and hurtling towards a prosperous future. Shopping in one of Hanoi’s increasing number of chic boutiques, staying at one of the latest stylish resorts or sampling Saigon’s emerging bar and restaurant scene, you will be amazed by the frenetic pace at which these great cities are developing.
Vietnam is however also characterised by the picture postcard of old Asia, which has captivated travellers for so many years. It is here that you will see many of the iconic images of a disappearing Asia – vendors in conical hats selling food from a shoulder yoke, endless green rice paddies being ploughed by water buffalo, sampan boats in narrow waterways or entire families being ferried around by a rickety cyclo.
Despite the fast-paced development of her cities, Vietnam retains a strong pride in the rich and complex fabric of her history. Allow your guide to unlock the ritual and ceremony surrounding the Imperial Citadel in Hue or explore the ancient port of Hoi An, whose lantern-lit old town has remained virtually unchanged for centuries.
The hill tribes of Northern Vietnam still wear the traditional colourful costumes and follow the same customs as when they migrated South to Vietnam hundreds of years ago. Vietnam offers a whole host of attractions including endless sandy beaches, the stunning mountain ranges near the Chinese border, the fertile plains of the Mekong Delta and the fascinating cities of Hanoi and Saigon.
Due to its long and thin shape, the country can be split into three distinct regions: the North, the Centre and the South. Each has its own attractions, cuisine, regional accent and weather patterns. As such, there is no bad time of year to visit Vietnam – when one area is raining, another is at its best.
The North has the coolest climate of Vietnam. The months of November to February can be as low as 5- 10 degrees Celsius in Hanoi, with the highlands of Sapa reaching even lower temperatures. A pleasant spring arrives in March and the North starts to become hotter and wetter from June onwards.
The summer months of July to September can be very humid; Hanoi and Halong Bay can be affected by typhoons which bring rain at this time. In contrast, Central Vietnam’s rainy season lasts during the winter months of October to January. September to November can also see typhoons but the rest of the year is usually sunny and clear, with temperatures reaching up to 30 degrees Celsius or more at the beaches of Hoi An and Nha Trang. Southern Vietnam follows a more typical tropical weather pattern.
The weather starts to improve around November and increases in heat steadily until April. May and June are humid with frequent thunderstorms and temperatures reaching almost 40 degrees Celsius. The rain usually begins in July and lasts until the end of September. During July and August, the rain is characterised by short heavy showers, usually in the late afternoon only. Now easily accessible from any of Asia’s main hubs and with a good infrastructure, Vietnam is an enticing destination. You are sure to be wowed by delicious cuisine, friendly people, stunning boutique hotels and above all, the sheer variety of scenery, activities and destinations in this enticing country.