Visiting Vietnam

 

Halong Bay

Towering limestone pillars and tiny islets topped by forest rise from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1994, Halong Bay's scatter of islands, dotted with wind- and wave-eroded grottoes, is a vision of ethereal beauty and, unsurprisingly, northern Vietnam's number one-tourism hub.

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Sapa

Established as a hill station by the French in 1922, Sapa today is the tourism centre of the northwest. Sapa is oriented to make the most of the spectacular views emerging on clear days; it overlooks a plunging valley, with mountains towering above on all sides. Views are often subdued by thick mist rolling across the peaks, but even when it's cloudy, local hill-tribe people fill the town with colour.

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Phu Quoc Island

Fringed with white-sand beaches and with large tracts still cloaked in dense tropical jungle, Phu Quoc rapidly morphed from a sleepy island backwater to a must-visit beach escape for Western expats and sun-seeking tourists. Beyond the resorts lining Long Beach, rapid development beginning on the east coast and mega resorts in sight of Sao Beach, there's still ample room for exploration and escaping the sometimes littered waters. Dive the reefs, kayak in the bays, eat up the back-road kilometres on a motorbike or just lounge on the beach, followed by a massage and a fresh seafood dinner.

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Hoi An

Graceful, historic Hoi An is Vietnam's most atmospheric and delightful town. Once a major port, it boasts the grand architecture and beguiling riverside setting that befits its heritage, and the 21st-century curses of traffic and pollution are almost entirely absent.1th century to honour a white horse that guided him to this site, where he chose to construct his city walls.

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Notre Dame Cathedral (Ho Chi Minh City)

Built between 1877 and 1883, Notre Dame Cathedral enlivens the heart of Ho Chi Minh City's government quarter, facing Dong Khoi. A brick, neo-Romanesque church with 40m-high square towers tipped with iron spires, the Catholic cathedral is named after the Virgin Mary. Interior walls are inlaid with devotional tablets and some stained glass survives. ed to behead Vietnamese revolutionaries. There are also displays focusing on the American pilots who were incarcerated at Hoa Lo during the American War.

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