Your Vietnam Travel Questions, answered by The Turquoise Team
Our wonderful Asia Product Manager, Rachel and Travel Specialist, Katie have recently returned from a research trip to Vietnam. Their highlights included Mai Chau and Halong Bay for the scenery and Hue for the history, but they found the beaches were also really unexpected and amazing. We have caught up with them and asked the questions you need to know…
How long do you recommend people stay in Vietnam to see all the highlights?
Two weeks is an ideal length of time to take in the highlights of Vietnam, but we’d urge you to take a little longer if you’d like to incorporate some of the more off he beaten track rural areas of the country, some of which we saw on our recent trip. You could easily spend two weeks just exploring the north and central Vietnam. The north of the country offers beautiful scenery, dotted with rural villages and historical places. The south is flatter, and time spent here is more about the local life and culture.
What would you say are the best places to visit & see in Vietnam?
Highlights for me are historical Hanoi, with is characterful old quarter, with a side trip to iconic Halong Bay. Mai Chau for a sense of rural living and beautiful mountain scenery and Hoi An, a charming UNESCO World Heritage town, originally a bustling trading port, now a beautifully preserved ancient settlement with original Chinese shop houses, French colonial buildings and the famous Japanese Covered Bridge. It’s only 10 minutes from the beach making it an ideal stop for beach and culture.
Can you travel by train in Vietnam?
Vietnam is an incredibly long thin country with contrasting landscapes. The journey overland is a bit to far to cover in a two-week holiday, so we’d suggest picking a few different areas and fling in between. However, just recently a new rail experience, The Vietage, has opened, linking Hoi An with the unspoilt beach region of Quy Nhon, 6 hours south. A rather long journey if travelling on the local train service, however, The Vietage has injected a touch of luxury to the journey with a private train carriage offering a far more comfortable journey, complete with delicious food and drink – a wonderful way to see the local landscapes and towns of Vietnam as you pass through.
What was your favourite view?
Halong Bay is iconic – an area of over 1500 limestone Karst Islands forming a spectacular seascape. The views from the deck of Heritage Ginger are breathtaking and an overnight cruise is a must, however, to top it all off we arrived by seaplane (an hour’s flight from Hanoi) which offered incredible views of the bay we were about to cruise through from the air!
What were your favourite local Vietnamese dishes?
Vietnamese cuisine is delicious and quite different from other part of Asia. I find it less rich with fresh salads, rice noodles, broths and everything is complemented with a tangy fish sauce. Hanoi Bun Cha is a delicious soup with rice vermicelli and meatballs, a Northern Vietnam staple, one of our favourites, and Pho – a light broth soup is perfect for breakfast lunch or dinner anywhere in the country!
Would you combine Vietnam with another destination or just stick to Vietnam?
There is so much to see and do in Vietnam that you’d easily fit all your time seeing the contrasting regions of the country, however, if time permits, we love UNESCO World Heritage Luang Prabang, a charming town in northern Laos. You can spend 3 or 4 nights here exploring the surrounding scenery, waterfalls, cruising on this northern part of the Mekong and even adding an ethical encounter at the start or end of your Vietnam journey. Alternatively….. or as well….. you could spend 3 or 4 nights in Siem Reap in Cambodia, discovering the incredible Angkor Temples which should be top of everyone’s bucket list. Both have connecting flights into and out of Hanoi, Danang and Saigon.
Was there anything which took you by surprise, in a good way, that you weren’t expecting?
The former capital, Hue is often overlooked due to time constraints on a journey through Vietnam, however it was fascinating to learn about the history of the various Dynasties, exploring the Ancient Citadel and Imperial City, home of the Nguyen Emperors right up to 1945. The city is a foodie haven, and we even had the chance to dine in a beautifully restored royal home, hosted by one of the descendants of the previous royal family – a truly privileged experience.
Weather-wise, what’s the best time of year to travel to Vietnam?
As the country is so long and thin, it is impossible to find perfect weather throughout the country. However, as a general rule, we’d recommend the northern and southern provinces of Vietnam between November and May and the central part of the country from February through to September, which is hot but less wet. Our guide said that September is his favourite month as there are far less tourists, so it is quieter and the weather is slightly cooler with just a few quick showers. This is when you’ll also find the rice fields in full colour.
Which Airline do you recommend for travelling to Vietnam?
Vietnam Airlines offers a direct service into Hanoi and Saigon, with connecting flights throughout the country and were very recently upgraded with modern interiors, comfortable seats, friendly service and great food. We were incredibly impressed.
Any other moments which you’ll never forget?
Waking up to amazing views at Avana Retreat then cycling through the beautiful Mai Chau rice paddies, saying hello to local people and seeing their daily life.
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