While Paul has travelled all over Vietnam with Steppes for the past 19 years, his favourite part remains the tribal areas of the north which few foreigners ever reach. Charles and Clare, while more recent arrivals to our South East Asian team, have both travelled extensively in Vietnam and confirmed their addiction to South East Asia travel.
Why we like Vietnam
Vietnam is for variety. Its combination of culture, friendly people and beautiful landscapes makes a holiday to Vietnam an increasingly popular option.
Added to this, there are now direct flights to Vietnam and an increasingly efficient infrastructure make it easier to travel around. Fabulous hotels which reflect the culture and architecture of each region and some superb beach resorts to unwind at the end. The food, even in the simplest of restaurants, is divine.
What to expect on your Vietnam holiday
There are principally five major regions in Vietnam. The northern highlands, which form a ring around the second region, the Red River Delta, the Truongson Mountain range, the central coastal strip and finally the Mekong Delta.
Perhaps the most noticeable factor is that once you move north of the centre point, Vietnam has a more authentic feel with hundreds of bicycles, ladies in the traditional ao dai and delicious street food for which the north is famous. It is also in the north that the French influence is most noticeable particularly in the architecture of old Hanoi.
Do remember that with over 1,800 miles of coastline, you will find very different weather patterns from north to south at different times of the year. Choose carefully.
Some ideas for a Vietnam holiday
- Cruise the waters of Halong Bay.
- Take a rickshaw ride through the French colonial quarter of Hanoi.
- Wander around the UNESCO town of Hoi An, a perfectly preserved example of a 17th century trading port.
- Explore the myriad of waterways and villages that make up the Mekong delta.
- Trek in the northern hills and visit the minority tribes.
- End with a few days on the beach.
Beyond the ordinary
Charter a private boat with a group of your friends or family on a Mekong cruise.
During your visit, try a bowl of the popular ‘Pho’ pronounced fur which is eaten at all times of the day, every day. Made up of rice noodles in a broth flavoured with plenty of fresh herbs and meat, each Pho you try will be slightly different depending on its city of origin.
Vietnam is relatively safe, with only incidents of theft being the worst menace to travellers. We advise keeping an eye on your belongings when out and about in busy crowds, and leaving any valuables behind.
Yes, when visiting temples it is important to remember to cover up bare shoulders and legs. It is also appropriate to remove footwear before entering so bringing a bag to carry your shoes is always a good idea.
Generally most of the people you meet who suffered under Pol Pot’s brutal regime will talk to you about it if asked. It is tactile to mention the topic subtly at first to work out what the reaction is, and then move on from there.
The street food in Vietnam is some of the best in the world and a trip to this country should include trying some of the local cuisine. Eating at stalls which are busy and popular with the locals is our best tip, along with making sure food is fresh and has not been sitting around all day in the heat.