Vietnam, North to South

Tourism in modern Vietnam is enjoying a boom time. As safety for tourists to Vietnam no longer presents great concern, this beautiful country can be explored from north to south, from Ha Noi to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

Visiting Vietnam offers travelers a rich and varied cultural history, combined with the charm of a country which is still very large rural, the exceptions being Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Its tourist industry has developed to the extensive that accommodation of excellent quality is available at popular destinations.

Hanoi is a unique city dominated by French colonial architecture with tree-lined boulevards, peaceful lakes and oriental temples. Recommended places to visit include the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda, Fine Arts Museum and Temple of Literature and the Lake of the Restored Sword and the Old Quarter of Vietnam's capital. Additionally the Museum of Ethnology and a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show in the evening at Thang Long Theater are very enjoyable.

Traveling to Halong Bay, takes approximately 3 1/2 hours by road (170 km) from Hanoi. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as is Hoi An. Halong Bay, in the South China Sea, is made up of 1969 islands and islets rising from the blue water on the area of ​​15,000 sq. km.

The bay is quite spectacular because of its craggy islands, islets, the mists and the sun. It is exceptional in shape, size and color and rich vegetation. There are many beautiful caves and stunning beaches to explore in the summer and autumn. The islands are said to be where the dragons descended into the sea when Vietnam was defending itself from Chinese invasion.

The foods of Vietnam vary from the north through the central region to the south, all with their own distinct regional variations. The common bond is the use of rice or noodles. Whatever your choice is for vegetarian, multiple dishes, contrasting flavors, varied textures and exotic ingredients Vietnamese cooking offers a wide selection to satisfy the most discerning visitors, To name but a few traditional favorites, Cha Ca, Banh Chay, Banh Troi, Nem Ran (spring roll but called cha gio in the south) and Pho Bo, a traditional beef soup and Gio Lua which is found at its best in the north.

The Vietnam climate allows for light traveling specifically as any necessary clothing can be bought locally and cheaply. As Vietnam stretches some 1000 miles (1,600km) so the temperature and rainy varies from north to south and from lowland to highland.

The far North (Bac Bo) resembles the four seasons we are familiar with in the temperate world. The low temp. in the winter (Jan-Feb.) can go down to about 35-40 deg. F. (2 to 5 deg. C) but in the summer, it can get to as high as 105 deg. F (40 deg C). The winter is the dry season while the summer is the wet one.

Central Vietnam – Lowlands and Highlands: (Dalat, Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, Nha Trang)

Summer: May – October Average temperature 23-24C Average rainy 210mm

Winter: November – April Average temperature 17-23C Average rainy 95mm

Central Vietnam – Lowlands and Highlands: Dalat, Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, Nha Trang The weather is fairly similar across both, although the highlands tend to be slightly cooler with higher rainfall as the majority of rain normally falls on the mountains before arriving at the low coastal areas.

Lowlands Summer – the weather is warm and reasonably dry from May to September. The monsoon winds then change bringing above average rain during late September. This time is not ideal as rain can be fairly constant – flooding and, in extreme cases, typhoons are also a possibility.

Highlands Winter temperatures can fall slightly below the average and rainy is higher than at lower elevations. However, most rain tends to fall during the summer months when it can be very wet – although these summer months do provide a respite from the often intense heat of other areas. The exception is on the Central Highland (Kontum down to Lam Dong) where it's cool year-round (temp. From 55 to 65 deg. F (13 to 18 deg C), with moderate rainfall.

In the Far South (Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the Mekong Delta or Nam Bo), it's pretty much warm year-round but the Dec. -Jan, low can be down to around 60 deg.F (15 deg C). The high temp., However, rarely gets above 90 deg. F (35 deg C). The dry season begins in Nov. and reflecting through April. The rainy season is from May through October.

Summer: May – November Average temperature 24-31C Average rainfall 265mm

Hot, humid and rainy but heavy downpours are usually short lived.

Winter: December – April Average temperature 22-33C Average rainfall 25mm

Remains hot and humid, although humidity levels are more bearable between December and February. During April and May the southwest monsoon winds bring rain showers to the Mekong Delta and southern Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City in south Vietnam lies on the Saigon River north of the Mekong River delta. The former French colonial city, home to over 5 million, is a bustling modern metropolis where travelers enjoy the historic sites and architecture and marvel at the intricacies of local Vietnamese handicraft.

Tao Dan Park a strong and youthful life force, and make it a fresh and peaceful space in the heart of the city. Open markets include Ben Thanh Market, the most famous in HCM City. Others are Binh Tay Market and An Dong Market but be sure to haggle when making a purchase.

Other places of interest include the City Museum with its secret tunnel under Gia Long Palace. A boat trip on the Megong Delta is certainly a must before enjoying the wonderful restaurants, bars, coffee shops and clubs particularly centrally located around District 1.

Ho Chi Minh is famous for its shopping. Dong Khoi and Luu Van Lang, a small street on the side of Ben Thanh Market decorated with ornamental trees and special lighting systems, being very popular for fashionable clothes and footwear. These connect with Nguyen Trung Truc Street and Phan Boi Chau Street where if you can not find what you want you probably do not need it.