Read an Excerpt
From Moon Vietnam
In a thousand-year-old city, you would expect some things to get lost in the mix, obscured by cramped shops and narrow houses or buried under the incessant blare of traffic. But along the busy streets of Hanoi, every era of the city’s history shines, in its gracefully aging cathedral, sturdy Communist architecture, and the vibrant Old Quarter. It is a place to savor rather than sightsee. While Hanoi’s eclectic attractions make for a fascinating, patchwork history, the main draw of the capital is its infectious energy, which permeates every nook and cranny of its jam-packed neighborhoods.
- Hoan Kiem Lake: Take in the bustle and noise of downtown Hanoi from the shores of this legendary lake, where history and mythology meet.
- Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum: Pay a visit to Vietnam’s most revered national hero, embalmed and at peace under glass in a blocky, Soviet-style mausoleum.
- Temple of Literature: A long series of lacquered pavilions and spacious courtyards, lotus ponds, and stone stelae, this Confucian temple marks the site of Vietnam’s first university.
- Vietnam Museum of Ethnology: Learn all there is to know about Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups, from the Kinh of the coast to the H’mong, Thai, Gia Rai, and scores of other lesser-known minorities that populate the country’s mountainous interior.
- Minority Villages: Whether perched on the steep cliffs of the Hoang Lien mountain range or sheltered by lush green river valleys, Sapa’s minority villages are a world apart from the rest of the country.
- Mount Fansipan: Reach the “Roof of Indochina” via a long, action-packed ascent that winds through clouds and over limestone ridges to the summit of Vietnam’s highest peak.
Boasting wild, uncharted jungles and karst-studded seas, Vietnam’s northern coast captivates travelers with its breathtaking scenery. Whether on water or land, the otherworldly landscapes of the region provide a stunning backdrop for adventure. If you’re seeking a respite from the urban bustle of Hanoi, these are some places you should visit.
- Ha Long Bay: Relax amid the placid waters and craggy, mist-drenched islands of Vietnam’s most storied natural wonder.
- Cat Ba National Park: Kayak, climb, and hike through the tangle of dense green jungle, still wild and untouched, that extends across the island’s northern half and into the bay beyond.
- Lan Ha Bay: Take in stunning, mist-covered views among the limestone giants of this bay, a captivating miniature version of Ha Long.
- Trang An: Explore limestone karsts, waterlogged paddy fields, ancient temples, and tunnel-like caves in what’s called “Ha Long Bay on Land.”
- Cuc Phuong National Park: With a handful of independent hikes and a top-notch primate conservation center, this park brings adventure and an up-close look at endangered Cat Ba and Delacour’s langurs.
Continue south and you'll hit the nerve center that is Ho Chi Minh City. Get anywhere near the flashing neon lights, full-throttle traffic, sardined houses, and soaring commercial towers of the country’s southern hub and it becomes clear why Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is the future of Vietnam. Indisputably the economic heart of the nation, this fast-paced, ever-expanding behemoth has charged fearlesslyand sometimes recklesslyinto the 21st century, carrying along a diverse and multifaceted population, a keen business acumen, and an irrepressible spirit. Step into the chaos with optimism, and you will be rewarded by life in Vietnam’s largest city.
- Reunification Palace: This opulent palace was once home to the presidents of the short-lived Republic of Vietnam.
- Ben Thanh Market: Frenetic and fast-paced, the city’s most iconic market hosts dozens of multilingual vendors and over 3,000 stalls packed to the ceilings with everything you could imagine.
- War Remnants Museum: Thoughtful and at times harrowing, Saigon’s best museum provides insight into life during and after the American War.
- Thien Hau Pagoda: A centuries-old Chinese pagoda in the heart of bustling District 5 was built by Chinese refugees as a thank-you to the goddess of the sea after their treacherous emigration.
- Street Food in Northern District 1: The best of Vietnamese cuisine finds its way to the dented metal carts and bamboo poles of Saigon’s street vendors.