Where Vietnam may welcome eight million visitors in one year – Bangkok counts the same number from China alone. As much as this beautiful country is becoming an increasingly popular choice for vacationmakers, there remains much to explore in relative peace. Vietnam’s many attractions and experiences won’t remain secret for much longer, however, making right now an ideal time to make the journey. Have a read of our five reasons why you should visit Vietnam now and discover for yourself why this enchanting country steeped in history should be your next destination.
CLEAR BEACHES, CLEARER WATERS
Relatively undiscovered, and definitely underrated compared to some of the seaside destinations of neighbouring Thailand and Cambodia, Vietnam boasts some of the most beautiful white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters that can be found in South East Asia – it’s just that not as many people have found them yet.
In the north, the celebrated Ha Long Bay (a World Heritage Site), with its emerald waters and spectacular scattered limestone islands, is the main attraction. Although technically not a beach in itself, you can easily head to Cat Ba Island to visit the less-visited but no less alluring Lan Ha Bay, offering more isolated white-sand beaches with stunning views.
Along the central coast, City Beach in Nha Trang (‘The Pearl of the East Sea’) presents a great setting for water sports and day trips by boat, as well as fantastic seafood cuisine. Further north, the beautifully preserved World Heritage site of Hoi An provides a more serene coastal retreat, a picturesque and authentic window into life in a traditional Asian trading port. From here, take a day trip to the unexploited Cham Island (a World Biosphere Reserve 18km off the coast). With its turquoise waters and pristine coral reefs, it is a diver’s paradise.
Vietnam has something to offer travellers of all taste, and the options are endless. For isolated indulgence, head to Con Dao and Phu Quoc, some of the most beautiful islands in South East Asia. For culture-seekers, Hoi An has lost very little of its authenticity, still home to relics of various Asian cultures, such as the Japanese Pagoda Bridge. The thousand-year-old capital of Hanoi is a fascinating harmony of local legacy, European colonialism and metropolitan modernity, home to historical landmarks and gleaming entertainment complexes.
The rugged Cat Ba Island offers a range of activities for the adventurous, including climbing, hiking and kayaking. For the urban jungle experience, visit the bustling and buoyant Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi’s younger, more populous cousin. Ha Long Bay is as famous for its biology as its beauty; one of the most famous examples of karst (limestone pillars) scenery in the world, it is a geological site of great importance, a must-visit on any eco-enthusiast’s itinerary.
Ever-improving infrastructure has seen the rise of a more high-end trend in the tourism sector as the luxury travel industry goes from strength to strength. Practically unheard of outside the major cities in previous years, luxury boutiques are springing up inland as well as in quieter seaside towns from north to south. From highly-acclaimed international names to charming independent set-ups, there has never been more choice for the comfort-conscious. Of course, no matter where you stay, you’ll enjoy excellent and sincere Vietnamese hospitality. Whisper it quietly, but now is the best time to head over and enjoy the luxury lifestyle before everyone else does – we’ll keep it our little secret.
Our favourite boltholes include: the Nam Hai in Hoi An, inspired by traditional architecture with a feng shui philosophy; the Amanoi on the south coast, featuring one of the best infinity pools in Asia; and the romantic, French colonial-inspired La Veranda on Phu Quoc.
IT’S A GREAT WELLNESS DESTINATION
If you’re seeking a rejuvenating retreat, a healthy holiday, a weekend of wellness – Vietnam is the dream destination. The local cuisine is celebrated as being one of the healthiest in the world, admired for its use of fresh ingredients, minimal use of oils and plenty of herbs and vegetables. The cooking philosophy is based around the Asian principle of five elements; for example, of five fundamental taste ‘pillars’ (sweet, spicy, sour, salty and bitter) appealing to the five senses. Many recipes incorporate and balance these elements across the fragrance, taste and colour of the dish, using simple ingredients for sensational results. Vietnamese food is almost always naturally gluten-free, and chock-full of vitamins and minerals. The national dish, Pho, an aromatic noodle-based soup enjoyed all over the country at any time of day, is as healthy as it is popular and packed with antioxidants. Lean meat and fresh vegetables feature heavily in Vietnamese stir-fries. Our favourite foods include the papaya salad and goi cuon (rice paper spring rolls). From street food to seafood, you can be sure of a mouth-watering experience when you sit down at a Vietnamese table.
In June, over 500 yoga students will take part in a free sunrise demonstration (hosted in Nha Trang) to celebrate International Yoga Day, just one example of an ever-growing trend towards health and wellness tourism, which has developed significantly in recent years. Stunning, serene settings in highland or rural areas (or undiscovered coastal resorts) combined with traditional hospitality and cuisine make for a perfect holistic holiday. International category-leading brands and quieter boutique hideaways alike offer pampering packages and experiences to suit mind, body and soul.
ECONOMIC AND TOURIST DEVELOPMENT
As tourism increases across South East Asia in general, the Vietnamese government is taking steps to attract more foreign visitors, making travelling in and around the country easier than ever before. This active public campaign includes visa exemptions for short-term visitors, a reduction in tourist visa fees, and international advertisements and promotions on behalf of the National Administration of Tourism. Multiple-entry visas are a popular choice for travellers looking to twin their visit with a stay in a neighbouring country.
Tourists are reaping the benefits, as an increased level of investment has opened up a wide range of improved options across the country, from modern hotels to unique tour experiences. Generally, improved roads, efficient online ticketing systems and a rapidly-growing aviation industry have made previously unknown or underdeveloped areas more accessible to foreign visitors.
Still, and even by South East Asian standards, Vietnam offers great value for money compared to some of its neighbours, even in the major cities where US$2 will buy you some of the finest quality street food in the world.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO VIETNAM
If Vietnam sounds like a destination you’d like to visit, get in touch with our travel experts to start planning your trip today, or click below to check out our top Vietnam itineraries.