Vietnam Travel



Vietnam Travel This Summer

Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City – Arrival 
We arrived at Tan Son Nhat airport and went to the center of city. Interesting traffic, there are no rules really. After freshen up, we visited the post office and Notre Dame Cathedral before enjoying a dinner at an simple soup restaurant and late drink at the famous the Rex Hotel with a breath taking view of Ho Chi Minh City. Its an ok place to chill out and its quite easy to get there. There was a nice band a that Friday Night, playing oldies (as every night I guess).

Day 2: Ho Chi Minh City – City full day visit
In the morning, we went to visit War Remnants Museum. Once known as the Museum of American and Chinese War Crimes, its name was changed so as not to offend American and Chinese tourists. Its biased, but impresses by its laconic presentation. Inside you can find “Some Pictures of US Imperialist’s Aggressive War Crimes in Vietnam”. The museum displays US armored vehicles, artillery pieces, bombs, infantry weapons and even a guillotine. There are pieces on the My Lai massacre and the napalm, Agent Orange and phosphorous bombs used on the Vietnamese. Though certainly not an unbiased representation of events in Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s, many pictures were famous in western media. The display of this well known photographs side by side with black & white Vietnamese snapshots is chilly. The Reunification Palace takes its name from the reunion of the Northern and Southern Vietnam. It looks like the South Vietnamese government left minutes ago and remains one of Ho Chi Minh’s most interesting sights. The elegant 1960’s architecture and well-appointed rooms befit a high ranking government official as was the case when the South’s leaders occupied the premises. Today, it emits a spooky silence especially in the cellar, with all the war rooms. An odd highlight is a film on Vietnamese history, laced with the usual propaganda that concludes with the playing of the national anthem. My American wife felt uneasy. You cannot help but notice the famed Communist tank that was shown in the media around the world crashing through the fence that some would say symbolized the NVA victory. After a break we went to the bustling Ben Thanh Market and night out again in Ho Chi Minh city

Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City – Mekong Delta
Heading out of the bustling city, we rode along rice field to My Tho, one of Mekong Delta province. Upon arrival in My Tho, we embarked on a boat navigating around the small canals in the delta region, which passing My Tho fruit market. Joining in with daily activities of local people and enjoy the atmosphere of water world along the canal and along the Tien river. The exciting cruise continue to Unicorn island, here we can taste many seasonal fruits and enjoy the local traditional music, performed by the islanders. Having lunch at a typical country garden house. Next stops were the coconut candy “mill” and some other local industries in Ben Tre province. Drive back Ho Chi Minh for overnight.

Day 4: Ho Chi Minh City – Cu Chi
In the morning, we went to Hoc Mon district to visit Cu Chi tunnel. My son enjoyed the day trip we had to Cu Chi and the introductory video. We were impressed by the ingenuity of the CuChi network – and the people who must have designed, constructed, used and actually resided in them! Our guide, an old man, who worked for the American during the war, told us quite personal stories. These tunnels apparently started out as a network in the war against the French, which was much extended to the 200 or so Kms they are today.
We found this setup very well done – gave a really good visual perspective of the tunnels, how they were used as an obviously effective means of fighting the war, and, regardless of politics or war affiliation in general, you could not but be impressed by the capability and capacity for enduring extreme conditions of the people this area. Back to Ho Chi Minh city in the evening do some shopping. We bought also some books of local history, in particular about Cu Chi while having dinner. Nice.

Day 5: DaNang – Hoi An
We took a morning flight to Da Nang Airport, then transfer to Hoi An about 35km away. In the afternoon walking visit Hoi An ancient town, the town with mixed the culture of Vietnam/Chinese/Japanese with Chinese tiled houses, Chinese temples, Japanese covered bridge. Hoi An today must look much as you would expect ready novels of old Vietnam. Few new buildings have been erected in the town; much French architecture and many Chinese temples survive from the colonial period.
The town deserves the UNESCO World Heritage Site status because of its well-preserved 16th-19th century structures.
We were in Hoi An three days — longer than originally planned. It was warm and dry, except one time the monsoon shut down the city for a few hours, making the dinner even more romantic. We strolled about the old city for hours at a time, enjoying what is one of Vietnam’s most fascinating towns. Overnight in Hoi an.

Day 6:  Hoi An  – My Son Trip
Heading out on small roads, we rode to My Son, Duy Xuyen District, Quang Nam Province.  My Son shows the remains of an unique culture (4th to 13th centuries) which owed its spiritual origins to Indian Hinduism developed on the coast of contemporary Viet Nam. After heavy bombing in the Vietnam War there are still remains of a series of impressive tower-temples located in a dramatic site that was the religious and political capital of the Champa Kingdom for most of its existence. Full moon night in Hoi an. No traffic, except bikes and pedestrians.

Day 7:  Hoi An  – Cham Island by speed boat
Took a speed boat to Cham Island Vietnam paradise islands with coral reefs & quiet sandy bays, similar to Thailand thirty years ago. Overnight in Hoi an.

Day 8: Hoi An – Hue with rented car
Continued to Hue through Marple Mountains Hai Van pass. Arrived in Hue in the late afternoon, check in hotel.  Cycle tour to visit Imperial Citadel, another World Cultural Heritage site. Then we visited Thien Mu pagoda, King Tu Duc tomb, King Minh Mang tomb. Overnight in Hue.

Day 9:  Hue – DMZ
While we were in Hue, we decided to take a day-long tour of the DMZ. As often it felt a bit voyeuristic and morbid, like war tourism. Hue is just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), the line that divided North and South Vietnam and where some of the worst fighting and bombings of the Vietnam/American War took place. Hue itself suffered huge numbers of civilian fatalities in 1968 after the North Vietnamese troops captured the city in the Tet Offensive. Visited the tunnels, kind of air shelters. Went further to the village of Khe Sanh about seven miles from the Laotian frontier on Route 9, the northernmost transverse road in South Vietnam. The Route 9 runs from the coastal region, through the western highlands. A build-up of Marine forces took place and actions around Khe Sanh commenced when the Marine base was isolated. During a series of desperate actions that lasted 77 days, Khe Sanh Combat Base (KSCB) and the hilltop outposts around it were under constant North Vietnamese fire. Very haunted place, very senseless fights. You can buy American and NVA IDs…

Day 10: Hue – Hanoi
Did a boat ride at the perfume river in south-north direction past the temples of Hon Chen and Ngoc Tran and then turns north-west, meandering through the Nguyet Bieu and Luong Quan plains. Continuing on, the Huong River then flows to the north-east to Hue city, only an echo of Truong Son mountain, and passes the resting place of Nguyen emperors. Left Hue for Hanoi on the last flight at 21:35. Small airport, most notable, a bunch of drunk (and fat) American girls making noises in the silent airport. Embarrassing. We were picked up from airport Noi bai airport and transferred to our hotel in the center of old city. Was an OK hotel for one night, but I switched to a little fancier Liberty Hotel next morning. In hindsight, that was a very good decision, this hotel had a friendly and professional staff, who helped us all the way. North Vietnam people are more reserved but also more straightforward, they can be downright helpful to downright sincere.

Day 11:  Hanoi full day visit
Visited major cultural sites around Hanoi city. The first visit to Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam (the Temple of Literature & the first university in Vietnam) then we went to Ba Dinh Square for visiting Uncle Ho’s (Ho Chi Minh President) Mausoleum, His Residence area, and one Pillar pagoda nearby. Visited war museum.

Day 12: Hanoi – Halong junk boat overnight
This day, we visited Halong, a World Heritage Area of outstanding natural beauty.  The travel started at 8:30am, after 3 hour and a half, we arrived at Halong. Upon arrival, transfer to a junk for a cruise around Ha Long Bay with a delicious local seafood lunch served on board. Passing Dog Island, Incense Urn Island, Ga Choi Island, Finger Island, Hoa Cuong Island, and visited Surprise cave and short swim, kayak we skipped. Hade dinner on board. In the evening, enjoyed the night on deck and later over night on board with the sound of heavy monsoon rain.

Day 13: Ha Long bay  junk cruise – back to Hanoi 
In the morning, cruising to Bai Tu long bay, Fire Island, Bo Nau Island, fishing village. Had lunch on boat and arrive at Ha long wharf about 12.00 noon. Overnight in Dschunk. Return to Hanoi by private car, arrived in Hanoi about 16.00 pm.  After short hiccup (my wife left passports in the bus – and we got them back in no time), we enjoyed Hanoian daily life strolling around the old streets in the Old Quarter close to our hotel. Evening shopping and dinner.

Day 14: Hanoi full day visit
In the morning, Quan Thanh temple and Tran Quoc pagoda. In the afternoon, we visited the largest and most interesting Museum of Vietnam Ethnology, and the museum of revolution, then go back to the Old Quarter to our hotel. Evening shopping and a stop at Thang Long Theatre for enjoying the water puppets show. Enjoyed dinner at local restaurant. Last night in Ha Noi.

Day 15: Hanoi City – Departure