BLOG

Vietnam: Hanoi, Halong Bay and Hue

by Nina Farrimond | 24 August 2017

Vietnam is a country that's exploded in popularity for UK travellers recently but now really is the time to go as its government are allowing UK passport holders to stay visa-free for up to 15 days until June 2018.

My tour with Intrepid Travel went from North to South, taking in all the key points of interest. Explore Vietnam was great value for money, although there are very few excursions and meals are included so travellers have to factor in some extra cash. On a positive note, it means the money is being spent in the country with local people.

The tour began in the capital Hanoi. The city is very busy and mopeds line the pavements forcing pedestrians to dodge the moving traffic in the streets. I stayed in the Hoan Kiem District (known locally as the Old District) which is central for everything the city has to offer tourists, including the Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest Buddhist temple in Hanoi dating back to the 6th Century, and Hoa Lo Prison, built by the French in the 18th Century to hold Vietnamese prisoners during the war. The latter is known locally as the Hanoi Hilton and is a must-see. The tour only included one night in Hanoi but this it can be extended to allow more time to explore.

Halong Bay is just a three to four hour bus ride away from Hanoi. Most tours, including mine, offer a night on a boat which takes you out to the so-called floating Islands. The onboard accommodation was very comfortable and the food served was delicious and included local seafood. Rooms have their own en suites with hot water showers and there’s a dining space and a viewing deck on top.

One of Seven Wonders of Nature, Halong Bay has almost 2,000 islands. Local legend has it that a mother dragon and her children came to Vietnam to support the local people. When they arrived they dropped fire pearls from their mouths which became islands. Invaders that attempted to attack the country by boat then crashed into the islands. The mother dragon and her children didn’t return to heaven and remain in the bay - In Vietnam the dragon is a symbol of luck, power and wisdom.

Due to the area now being one of the new Seven Wonders of Nature, there is a restriction in place as to where boats can sail and drop anchor overnight. The down side to this is that it feels a little congested at times - we were surrounded by around 15 boats when we dropped anchor for our overnight stay.

I was advised that other companies that are more expensive can provide a more personal experience in quieter locations. But no matter who you sail with, one thing you should recommend to your clients is a kayaking trip around the islands. An early morning paddle got me away from the hustle and bustle of the larger boats to enjoy a more peaceful setting.

Once back in Hanoi bags are collected from the hotel and it’s straight onto the train station to catch an overnight sleeper train to Hue. This city was the capital from 1802-1945, when Ho Chi Minh became president. The royal family that resided at the Imperial Citadel in Hue were the last royal family of the country and the then King was asked to become an advisor to the government.

The Imperial Citadel is a must see in Hue, as is the Thien Mu Pagoda, founded in 1601 making it the oldest in Hue. This was the temple of Thich Quang Duc, the monk who set himself on fire in Saigon on June 11 1963 to protest the excesses of president Diem’s Regime. The car he drove to Saigon is on show at the pagoda. It is said the only part of him that didn’t burn was his heart, and this is now in a glass chalice at Xa Loi Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City. It is regarded as a symbol of compassion.

Other things to do in Hue include visiting the Royal Tombs, especially Tu Duc's. He ruled Vietnam from 1847-1883 and was a renowned romantic poet. Legand has it he ate 50 course meals and had 104 wives, but was unable to father any children. The tomb of Tu Duc is one of the architectural masterpieces of the Nguyen Dynasty and rightly a recognised World Cultural Heritage Site.

In the evening there was a chance to visit a local family's house for dinner and this is definitely something I’d recommend. Not only are you supporting local families financially, but you are experiencing real home-cooked Vietnamese food and having an authentic cultural experience with local people.

Check out the blog next week to hear about the rest of Nina's journey down to southern Vietnam.

Go back

Other blogs

10 different ways to experience Las Vegas

Las Vegas is, to many, a small slice of liberal heaven right in the middle of the desert. But beyond the always-open casinos and late-night bars and nightclubs, there is another side to the city.

by Ben Coren | 06 December 2017

Destination news from WTM 2017

The UK’s biggest B2B travel show has closed its doors until 2018 but don’t worry if you missed out, here’s our first quick-read news round-up from some of the destination stands we stopped at.

by Laura Gelder | 09 November 2017

First timer in Tokyo

Selling Travel’s  Jessica Pook, jets off to the VTJM Awards in Tokyo and quickly finds herself caught up in the bright lights of the big city. 

by Jessica Pook | 04 October 2017

A fast-track around Africa

Selling Travel’s new Editorial Assistant, Jessica Pook, catches up with African specialist DMC Kamageo for an update on destinations and product covering Uganda, Botswana, Malawi and more.

by Jessica Pook | 06 September 2017

Vietnam: Hoi An to the Mekong Delta

Nina Farrimond heads south, taking in ancient Hoi An, the lively beach resort of Nha Trang, bustling 24/7 Ho Chi Minh and the meandering Mekong Delta on an Intrepid tour.

by Nina Farrimond | 31 August 2017

Vietnam: Hanoi, Halong Bay and Hue

UK passport holders don’t have to pay a penny to enter Vietnam until June 2018, but that’s not the only reason to visit this fascinating country, says Nina Farrimond.In the first of two blogs, she explores Hanoi, Halong Bay and Hue.

by Nina Farrimond | 24 August 2017

Brussels beyond the bureaucrats

Look behind the headlines and beyond the suited bureaucrats associated with the European capital and you’ll find a city which is surprisingly off-beat and reassuringly inclusive, says Hannah Wallis.

by Hannah Wallis | 16 August 2017

Bright lights, no city

Enter a whimsical world of shimmering lights and mythical landscapes with Maria Martinez-Ugartechea, as she searches for Aurora Borealis amongst Iceland's waterfalls, lagoons and glaciers.

by Maria Martinez-Ugartechea | 26 July 2017

The City of Angels' wild side

A trip to cosmopolitan Los Angeles reveals a city with a surprisingly wild side. Sheena Adesilu explores beaches, shopping malls and mountains in urban California.

by Sheena Adesilu | 24 July 2017

Walking with elephants

Amelia Glean packs her trunk and swaps the nightclubs and neon of Bangkok for a Magical Elephant Mahout Training Course in the jungles of north Thailand.

by Amelia Glean | 13 July 2017

Ain't no mountain green enough

Scaling an active volcano isn't everyone's idea of fun but Lombok’s Mount Rinjani provided James Gray with a lofty challenge as well as pause for thought on adventure tourism’s environmental impact.

by James Gray | 05 July 2017

Sydney's endless summer

Cities aren’t always the best place to be on a hot day but Ellie Smith discovers that Sydney is made for sunshine. If you're looking for some cool ideas for summery Sydney then read on.

by Ellie Smith | 28 June 2017

A pilgrim's (slow) progress

Jessica Pook tramps a well-worn route up one of Ireland’s most celebrated mountains and discovers you should always be prepared for the weather, and lows as well as highs.

by Jessica Pook | 21 June 2017

Checking in with Airbnb

Ben Coren tries out Airbnb for the first time on a trip to Birmingham and discovers it's not as bad as he thought. Find out why he thinks all travel professionals should experience it - just once.

by Ben Coren | 07 June 2017

Dusseldorf on a shoestring

Been to Berlin? Had enough of Hamburg? Carly Hacon explores one of Germany's lesser-known cities, Dusseldorf, and shares five fun things you can do for under five Euros!

by Carly Hacon | 01 June 2017

A budget-busting 24 hours in Dublin

The fair city of Dublin is known for its musical pubs, heavy-drinking locals and literary legends. The Irish capital can be a tourist trap and the Pound to Euro exchange rate isn’t great at the moment but here’s how to enjoy yourself, even if your bucket list has a budget.

by Carly Hacon | 24 May 2017

Terminally dissatisfied

Ben Coren muses on the ‘hipsterisation’ of his favourite airport terminal and recalls a simpler time when you could browse for CDs and eat a normal burger before your flight.

by Ben Coren | 18 May 2017

Opposite ends of Japan

High-rise, high-octane Tokyo and subtropical Okinawa are oceans apart in every way but Laura Gelder finds the two a perfect example of Japan’s split personality

by Laura Gelder | 03 May 2017

The Palm Beaches' 10 hottest openings

The Palm Beaches in Florida has been a hot holiday destination since the late 1800s, but in 2017 this retro-cool vacation spot has been ramping up its offerings with some exciting new openings!

by Laura Gelder | 27 April 2017

Looking for culture in the everyday

Laura Gelder examines why it’s the little things which delight when it comes to cultural exploration. Why book a city tour when you can visit the loo or supermarket for nothing?

by Laura Gelder | 09 March 2017

The world is a book...

...and those who do not travel read only a page. On the 20th anniversary of World Book Night, Laura Gelder looks at how literature can inspire and inform travellers.

by Laura Gelder | 01 March 2017

We all need a little paradise

As the sixth series of BBC One’s Death in Paradise comes to a close tonight, Laura Gelder muses on why murder and sunshine are a winning combination for the winter blues.

by Laura Gelder | 23 February 2017

Canberra: from brunch to bush walking

Give Canberra chance, says Laura Gelder! Even Australians don’t stick up for their capital but this city that has the best of brunch and the bush – what more could you want?

by Laura Gelder | 16 February 2017

Child’s play in Cambodia

Julie Baxter explains why getting ripped off will be the most enduring and endearing memory from her trip to the steamy jungles of Southeast Asia and how tourism is a life force for Cambodia.

by Julie Baxter | 25 January 2017

In conversation with Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi's profile had risen steadily over the last few years and 2016 saw some notable achievments. We quiz Nabeel Al Zarouni from the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority on what agents can expect in 2017.

by Laura Gelder | 18 January 2017

Starting in Saskatchewan

Famous for farming and being flat, Saskatchewan wasn’t the obvious first-stop for a first-timer to Canada, but Laura Gelder soon discovers there is more to the prairies than meets the eye.

by Laura Gelder | 04 January 2017

The jungle city

Panama is Central America’s glitzy high-rise hub and has long lured tax-avoiding millionaires, but did you know it has an old town to rival Havana and a jungle on its doorstep?

by Laura Gelder | 21 December 2016

A taste of the Oriental Express

Julie Baxter savours the flavours of Asia onboard the Eastern & Oriental Express, travelling from Bangkok to Singapore. Warning: do not read if you’re hungry!

by Julie Baxter | 14 December 2016

Why authenticity is fake

A word used all-to-often in travel marketing, what exactly does authentic mean in the context of a destination? Can you tell what is and isn’t? Does it matter?

by Laura Gelder | 07 December 2016

On board Thai Airways

Julie Baxter enjoys her time onboard Thai Airways Economy Class on her way to Thailand, weird seeing as she doesn't like to fly.

by Julie Baxter | 24 November 2016

Captivated in Carcassonne

Julie Baxter walks the medieval ramparts of this beautiful hilltop city in Languedoc, southern France, searching for the romantic knights and tortured witches of her imagination and finding much more than she bargained for.

by Julie Baxter | 26 October 2016

It's a personality thing

At this year’s ABTA Travel Convention there was lots of chat about traveller personalities and how defining them can help you sell better. Laura Gelder asks: are we segmenting or just stereotyping?

by Laura Gelder | 19 October 2016

Five reasons to get training

Travel Uni and Equator Learning have merged to create a ‘mega-platform’ for travel training with over 80 courses. Find out the benefits of training and just what's on offer.

by Laura Gelder | 12 October 2016

Oman – from zero to hero

Missed our Selling Travel Dialogue on Oman? Never fear because we summed it up here. Read on to find out what the sultanate can offer your clients and how you can harness new flight routes from Oman Air.

by Ben Coren | 05 October 2016

Currywurst and Cold War in Berlin

Fuelled by apfelstrudel, bratwurst and beer, Julie Baxter checks out the German capital’s suave and eclectic mix of historic monuments and creative spirit and traces the shadows of a turbulent past.

by Julie Baxter | 27 September 2016

A Caribbean city in Colombia

Elegantly crumbling, grandly colonial, colourfully Caribbean and quintessentially Colombian, Cartagena was the face that launched Colombia into mainstream tourism. Discover why it's so irresistible.

by Laura Gelder | 21 September 2016

An ice time in Alaska

Fishing can be a chilly pastime at the best of times, but what about when it's through a hole in the ice? Our intrepid editor tries his hand at ice fishing in Alaska's Mat-Su Valley near Anchorage.

by Steve Hartridge | 09 September 2016

The best of Bond

Do you love James Bond films for their exotic locations as much as the action man himself? We certainly do! Here's a list of our favourite locations, ranging from iconic cities to ingenious baddie lairs.

by Laura Gelder | 08 September 2016

Rendez-Vous Canada

Travel trend spotters constantly talk about authenic experiences but when it comes to Canada, how many travellers have First Nation culture on their itinerary? Find out why they should and how to find it.

by Julie Baxter | 01 September 2016