By: James WhitemanIf you can bear to tear yourself away from Saigon or Hanoi’s bia hoi, delectable street food and always vibrant culture, for just a few days, you will find Vietnam has even more to offer. Here are a four of my personal favourite short breaks from my time there:
China Beach and Hoi An
There are few finer ways to escape Saigon’s heaving streets than a few days R&R on picture-postcard China Beach, a legendary former American GI hangout. Follow this by wondering around the charming pedestrianized streets of nearby Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with wonderfully well preserved architecture. A tailored outfit or three may help you further unwind.
Sapa and around
The little explored far north of Vietnam offers a fascinating contrast to city life, home to a handful of the country’s ethnic minorities and hill tribes, each with their own language, customs and heritage. The town of Sapa is increasingly becoming a tourist hotspot, so treat it as a jumping off spot to more remote nearby areas if you want to escape the backpacker crowd.
Set amongst terraced rice fields and green mountains, it is an excellent place for trekking, with some organized tours offering an overnight stay with a family in one of the surrounding villages.
Known in Vietnamese as the Nine Dragon River Delta, the region is where the mighty
Mekong divides and empties into the South China Sea. This is the heart of the fertile South, and the centre of Vietnam’s rice production. If you thought if couldn’t get better than pho, wait until you sample the rice balls and delta hot pot…
Many teachers throw themselves headlong into Vietnamese urban culture by buying themselves a small motorbike. There is no better way to get to know the country than by riding off the beaten trail with some likeminded friends, so don your helmet, make sure your papers are in order, and go explore! The road from Da Lat to Nha Trang, and the Hai Van pass, south of Hue, are particularly spectacular. Cycling is also an extremely rewarding option if you have the legs for it!
No doubt there are some glaring omissions, so please comment below with your own travel picks.