Travel Doctor: Vietnam

As far as travel is concerned, curiosity never killed the cat. Asking questions is a fundamental part of any trip. Whether you’re quizzing family and friends or consulting the internet, in travel, there’s no such thing as too many questions.

We couldn’t buy into this philosophy more at Black Tomato and that’s why we encourage each and every client to ask as many questions as possible before they depart. From kit-list help and route plans to seasonal suggestions and restaurant recommendations, we’re open to all questions and recently we’ve decided to answer a few of our most frequent requests for some of our top destinations. In May we looked at South Africa, this month we thought we’d take a look at one of our favourite Asian escapes; Vietnam.  We’ve been catching up with our Travel Expert, Camilla, posing her a few of the questions we hear most often.

Next month we’ll be looking at Argentina. To have your question published on the website, tweet us @black_tomato and your query might make it onto the list…

What’s your favourite hidden gem in Vietnam?

There are so many, but if I had to choose one I’d say Mai Châu. Head 160km away from the bustle of Hanoi and you’ll find verdant rolling hills and picturesque rice fields aplenty. The area is also home to several indigenous tribes with whom we can arrange a visit to get an idea of the traditional way of life in this hidden region of the country.

What essentials should I pack for my trip?

This really depends on the kind of trip that you’re taking, but as a rule I suggest lightweight clothing for anyone travelling to Vietnam; particularly in the cities as it can get quite humid. The beauty is that the tailoring in Vietnam is fantastic too – so if you’re caught short you can always stock up!

We’re trying to see as much as possible in a 10 day window. What’s the best route to get the most out of our time?

All of our trips are tailor-made so this would honestly depend on you and what your specific interests are, how often you are happy to move from place to place etc. This also depends on the time of year, however most of our clients tend to head from North to South – typically starting in Hanoi for 2 nights, then Halong Bay for 2 nights and on to Hoi An for 2 more before a beach stop for 3 nights and a final night in Ho Chi Minh City.

What are your top three experiences to do in Vietnam and why?

I always suggest a cooking class on any itinerary. Vietnamese cuisine is one of my favourites, and after visiting it will become one of yours too. My favourite has to be Red Bridge cooking school in Hoi An, I always return home with some top tips for the kitchen. Secondly, I’d say touring the night markets of Saigon by Vespa has to be up there for me. It’s completely immersive; you’re picked up from your hotel by a local driver and hop on his/her Vespa before visiting all the truly local food spots, trying all manner of delicious Vietnamese dishes.

What time of year is best to visit Vietnam?

Because of the sheer length of the country, Vietnam actually has opposing weather patterns depending on where you are, which means that its an all year round destination and there will always be somewhere that’s beautiful and sun-filled. Peak season in Vietnam (and Indochina in general) tends to be from November – April, as the weather is usually dry and warm. This applies to everywhere except for Northern Vietnam, which can be quite a bit cooler at this time but this still doesnt take away from the beauty of the region.