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Pearls of Vietnam


For many British travellers, their only exposure to Vietnam has been through the doomed love story that is Miss Saigon. But though the Vietnam War undoubtedly scarred the country and its people, the country we see to day has risen phoenix-like from the ashes, an emerald jewel of a country which fascinates and inspires those fortunate enough to visit. From the floating markets of the Mekong Delta to the pristine beaches and islands of Nha Trang, and the historic architecture of the Old Port at Hoi An, the pearls of Vietnam are numerous, varied, and guaranteed to capture your heart.

Vietnam boasts some uniquely well preserved ancient architecture, but compared to Angkor Wat in neighbouring Cambodia, these structures are far less well known, and you can therefore visit them without the crowds. The ruined temples of Mỹ Sơn were constructed from the 4th century onwards, and exhibit a strong Hindu influence. Although Mỹ Sơn is in a fragile state, it is recognised as one of the most important temple complexes in Southeast Asia, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), the architectural influence came not from India but from France: this part of Vietnam was a French colony for nearly 100 years. Walking along the graceful wide boulevards here, and in Hanoi, glancing up at the colonial era buildings, and stopping in a street side cafe for a crisp baguette and dark espresso, you could almost be in France.
But there are, of course, parts of Vietnam which are uniquely Vietnamese, with a strong indigenous variety. We urge you to leave the cities behind, at least for part of your stay, and to venture up into the Vietnam’s highlands, where more than 50 different hill tribes survive. Amidst the mountains and terraced paddy fields there are opportunities for trekking, and also to meet some of Vietnam’s colourful ethnic minorities. Each of these groups has its own distinct culture and language, as well as styles of dress. Some of them share aspects of their culture with tribes from Thailand or China, where they migrated hundreds if not thousands of years ago, but in every case they are proud of the aspects of their identity which make them unique, and they will be delighted to educate you about their beliefs and way of life. Many of these tribal communities produce hand dyed and embroidered textiles, beaded and sequinned jewellery, woven scarves and carved votive items, and the income they receive from selling these in the lively markets is an important component of the local economy. They also make memorable souvenirs and gifts.
Vietnam’s natural environment is undoubtedly one of its pearls, and the landscapes in the region of Sapa are some of the most spectacular. Mountains rise up behind the terraces, and the rivers winding through them foam with white water from the snow melt. Greener and softer, the Cuc Phoung National Park — Vietnam’s largest nature reserve — is thickly forested, and home to more than 2,000 species of plants. This fertile ecosystem supports a great number of animals and birds, and highlights for wildlife lovers include pangolin, macaque and gibbon, jungle cat and wild dog, leopard, flying squirrel, and porcupine. Hornbill, pheasant, partridge, babbler, barbet, and peacock will keep bird watchers enthralled.
And then there are the beaches! With more than 3,000 km of coastline, it is easy to escape the crowds. The islands of Nha Trang have the perfect balance of gin-clear water, white sand, coral reefs, and world class hotels, including the stunning Six Senses Ninh van Bay. Alternate your days between snorkelling and diving, relaxing in the spa or on the beach, and taking a cultural excursion to see the 8th century Po Nagar Tower complex of temples. If you are ready to experience paradise, let us whisk you away to see the pearls of Vietnam.

Article written by:
Shari Burton
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