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Vietnam

03 July 2014

Staff

The countries of Cambodia & Vietnam are fast becoming sought after destinations.  The combined pull of awe-inspiring monuments, intriguing culture, delectable food, marvellous shopping, a fascinating bloody history and great value for money contribute to a memorable visit.

Located next to each other with Vietnam spooning Cambodia’s eastern border, means easy accessibility for visiting both countries at the same time and a number of Tours will combine both destinations.  You can see the main highlights in 10 – 14 days without feeling too rushed.  Airfares are reasonably cheap and can save precious holiday time travelling between cities.   I travelled on a mixture of boat, Junk and aircraft and Ferry which were all reliable and of a reasonable standard.

Having travelled through Cambodia I boarded a speedboat in Phnom Penh and journeyed along the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers for the Vietnamese Port of Chau Doc and the sleepy town with its bustling and pungent Market.

The river trip was a great chance to observe the locals going about their daily lives along the riverbanks, making it hard to believe this was once the most dangerous stretch of river during the Vietnam/American War.   The border crossing was a unique way to enter Vietnam with Customs in Cambodia in a small hut, getting back on board the boat to motor across the small stretch of river that is “No man’s land” only to disembark again for Vietnam Customs.  The local kids (girls and boys) were rapt with the hairclips we handed out and it was so much fun to play hackysack with them while we waited for our passports.

After a fantastic 3 hour boat ride through the maze of waterways and islands making up the Mekong Delta, we arrived in Vinh Long and proceeded by coach for 4 hours to teh capital, Ho Chi Minh City.

Saigon is a bustling city, a blend of modern and traditional with friendly, welcoming people.  There are several main sights and I would recommend a ½ day City tour to help you get your bearings and learn the fascinating history.  Binh Tay in Cholon, Chinatown with its grand French façade and chaotic Wholesale Food Market has an amazing array of all the most incredible ingredients you can cook with (or maybe not in some cases) and well worth a stroll around in spite of the crowds and heat.  You cannot miss the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, established as a means of staging guerrilla warfare against the French and Americans.  These tunnels provided an unimaginable dwelling for whole families at times and it gave me a new respect for the ingenuity and sacrifice of these people.  Not sure if I would try the snake whiskey again, I think it may be an acquired taste.

I flew into the beautiful city of Hue, once the capital of Vietnam and home of the Emperors.   This picturesque city and its stunning ancient architecture is located on the banks of the Perfume River and was the setting for the bloodiest conflict during the war with America. 

The drive north through the Hai Van Pass provides spectacular rural and coastal views.  Make sure you stop at the mythical Marble Mountains and their caves with their sacred Buddhist shrines.  The walk to the top is worth the views of the surrounding countryside and China Beach.

A short drive brings you to my favourite place in Vietnam, the delightful Hoi An. 

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