Yes, I guess I am dating myself, but I can still hear Robin Williams voice belting out “Good Morning Vietnam” from his movie of the same title and I won’t soon forget it. But Vietnam is not a country you will soon forget either once you have been.
The people are warm, welcoming and curious about visitors to their beautiful country. With Asia celebrating Lunar New Year this week, now is a good time to visit Vietnam for the festivals, celebrations and special food dishes, which we will talk about later.
The best time to visit Vietnam is between November through April as this is the dryest season. Although Vietnam is typically hot and humid.
You will need a Visa to travel to Vietnam. Your passport must have 6 months validity remaining from the day of departure from Vietnam. You must obtain a Visa before you leave home. If you are planning on visiting Vietnam first, heading into another country such as Laos, Cambodia or Thailand and then re-entering Vietnam, be sure you get a multiple entry Visa. This will save you from having to get another Visa while in Vietnam.
Health: Be very cautious about drinking non-bottled water and using ice cubes in drinks. Always drink bottled water. See your doctor for the necessary vaccines and recommendations 4 to 6 weeks prior to travel. This gives you ample time to get the vaccine and have them take full effect. Visit http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/vietnam.htm for more information.
Ho Chi Min City, formerly Saigon is located in the south and is Vietnam’s largest city. The traffic jams are extensive. Motorcycles and bicycles fill the city and the vast number can be overwhelming and surprising when trying to be a pedestrian safely in the city. Be patient…it is an experience you will never forget. The city has central urban districts and they give this vibrant city a small, intimate feel. Here you will find French architecture, upscale shopping and incredible culinary experiences.
While in the south, make a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Here you will crawl through a small trap door into stiffling tunnels to enter an underground village. If you suffer from claustrophobia, do your best to get into the tunnels for an educational and historic visit. The tunnels have dormitories, a kitchen, meeting room and a hospital. During the war thousands of Viet Cong were based in the 125 mile network of tunnels.
Also in the south is the Mekong Delta. The Delta is 2nd only to the Amazon for it’s biodiversity and the name means, “mother water.” The Mekong is the agricultural heartland of Vietnam. Farmers tend to their rice paddy fields, maintain orchards, fish the rivers and canals. Several companies offer some great options for Mekong Delta river cruises and they will take you into Cambodia also. While cruising your stops will include rickshaw rides into town, a visit to a local farmers home and experience floating markets. The river cruises allow you to get into the heart of the region and see the local culture.
Well, that went fast, we have finished southern Vietnam. Please stop by later in the week when we will continue our journey into the central region, finishing in the north of Vietnam. We will focus on the destinations and the food of Vietnam.