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The must-see wonders of Vietnam

November 13, 2012
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Expect deserted forest lands and spotless sandy beaches contrasted with gleaming high-rise buildings and sparkling lights amid the endless hectic city streets – Vietnam is Asia's fastest rising superstar, a spirited destination that has us reaching for our passport and longing to discover its many marvels. The country's rich culture and history intrigue millions of visitors ever year, from VIP stars such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to backpackers from all over the world.Vietnam's unique diversity has surpassed all its neighbouring countries and, shedding its past reputation, is becoming one of the most sought after long-haul travel destinations around – naturally, when you can explore the magic of Saigon, soak up the atmosphere in Hui and discover the legendary floating markets of Phung Hiep.


SAIGON, HO CHINH MINH CITYMust-sees include the Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, the overflowing Ben Thanh market and Notre Dame Cathedral which captures the zeitgeist of French colonial times in Saigon. Journey out of the town to the world famous Cu Chi Tunnels where thousands of Vietnamese people lived underground during wartime period.Don't be disheartened by the swarming seven million motorbikes and the incessant sound of Honda's honking – Saigon's buzzing energy earns its glowing reputation and is definitely worth a trip.Sip on a sumptuous cocktail on the terrace of the Hotel Continental like the characters in 2002 blockbuster The Quiet American, or admire the views of the Hotel de Ville and the Opera House from the top of the Rex Hotel, whose building was a former daily briefing centre for GI's during the war.For a shopper's paradise, discover designers galore on Dong Khoi street decorated with star-studded names such as Chanel, Hugo Boss and Prada, and taste Vietnam's best coffee at Trung Nguyen cafe.


HOI ANA far cry away from Saigon's manic mayhem, Hoi An's small fishing town located on a scenic riverside boasts white sands and turquoise waters from just 5km away. The town used to be a major international port in the 17th century and even today, evidence of its grandure remains.

Bustling with tailors on every street corner and markets strewn in impressive French buildings, the finest silk goods are to be bought here. Hoi An is perfect for a touch of rest and relaxation after a visit to bustling Saigon. Try Cham Island diving or immerse yourself in the culture with an Hội An Eco Tour, a unique cultural experience where you can learn how to catch fish and row a basket boat with local fisherman through the coconut palm trees.


HANOI AND HALONG BAYPacked with a combination of French flair and Vietnamese vitality, Hanoi is another city not to be missed off the trail. Visit the Temple of Literature and stroll across the wide Parisian-style boulevards, or relax in one of the many bars and sample a delicious bia hoi (draught beer). Take in the beautiful Hoan Kiem lake in the historical centre of Hanoi, one of the major scenic spots here, and taste Banh Beo (cake delicacy) in Hanoi's famous night market.Escape to paradise on a cruise to Halong Bay. Sail through the stunning waters of this UNESCO World Heritage site and admire some of the 2,000 limestone islands along with the crystal clear lagoons, thick forests and the natural beauty of Cat Ba Island National Park.

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