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Extended Journeys to Vietnam

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Have more time, second trip to Vietnam, or looking for something specific? Here are some additional highlights when creating your custom Vietnam travel plan. If this is your first taste of Vietnam, visit our Essential Vietnam page to discover must-see sites, attractions and travel destinations.

The North:

Sapa

Explore remote mountain areas, hike through rainforests and overnight in village homes or charming lodges. At the colorful hill tribe markets you'll see the Hmong and Red Dzao tribes and gain insight into ways of life lost to the modern world.

Dien Bien Phu

This sleepy town served as the theater for the end of French colonial rule in Vietnam. During the famous 57-day siege on French troops, the Viet Minh troops, led by Ho Chi Minh, forced a defeat through a combination of brilliant guerilla tactics and sound logistical decisions. The fall of Dien Bien Phu shocked France and brought an end to French Indochina.

The town acts as a gateway to the very traditional hill tribes that thrive in this outpost region. The Lao Cai province is virtually untouched by tourism in Vietnam and trekking conditions at times may be harsh, but the satisfaction of discovering remote cultures remains supremely alluring. One of the great advantages of exploring in the Dien Bien Phu area is that it is now accessible by plane from Hanoi.

Cat Ba Island

A short boat ride from Bai Chay, Cat Ba lies in the midst of beautiful Halong Bay. It is one of the few national parks set aside by the Vietnamese government, and it protects the island's wildlife and unique ecosystem. A deep forest serves as cover for the many inhabitants of the island including monkeys, birds and wild boar. Exploring by foot will surely reward one with glimpses of wildlife, caves and secret swimming spots. A one-hour trek up Cat Ba's highest peak allows a magnificent view of surrounding Halong Bay.

Return to Hanoi via Haiphong and you'll see northern Vietnam's largest port before it emerges into the global-industrial market. The town's center still holds some historic French architecture, which rivals many of the buildings in Hanoi.

Cuc Phuong National Park

This large park contains 85 square miles of pristine rainforest that is home to an astonishing number of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. Explore Con Moong Cave, one of the park's many grottoes - within the cave, stone tools of prehistoric humans have been discovered. Stroll one of the various nature trails that bisect the park's grounds. The park is also a research center for the Frankfurt Zoological Society, which studies and cares for the rehabilitation of Vietnam's native monkeys. Depending on staff availability, a guided tour of the research facilities may be arranged.

The Central Region:

Danang

As you cross Hai Van Pass from the north, the climate changes instantly. The splendid Lang Co Beach rises up into the hills before you reach the pass, stretching far to the north with an unobstructed panorama of beach, dunes, mountains and sea. Danang is noted as the former home to an American military complex.

The nearby R&R site of China Beach (My Khe) is now a peaceful shoreline for the brave basket-boat fishermen. The Cham Museum provides an excellent introduction to the Champa Empire, which preceded the Vietnamese civilization by a thousand years. Towering above China Beach is a group of limestone pinnacles known as the Marble Mountains. Although crowded with insistent young pedlars, this historic site was once utilized as a Viet Cong stronghold and houses an amazing cave-temple with expansive views of the coastline.

The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

Those who watched the daily broadcasts of war will certainly remember the 17th parallel as a sight of some of the most horrific battles ever waged. The former firebases and battle sites of Khe Sanh, Camp Carroll, The Rockpile, Dong Ha and Hamburger Hill were all located within the area south of the DMZ. During the worst times, the Vietnamese built a series of underground tunnel-cities, of which Vinh Moc is best preserved.


A day trip from Hué will be long as you forge over the potholed roads searching for signs from the war. Very little remains of the former battles (Vietnam's second-largest export during the '80s was scrap metal) but the scenery and ethnic villages are stunning and the locals are quite hospitable. Although the terrain has changed, the DMZ remains as a dark memory for both Vietnamese and Americans.

Pleiku & Buon Ma Thuot

These interesting Central Highland areas near the Cambodian and Laos borders are home to many of the ethnic tribal minorities of Vietnam. These two towns also have the dubious distinction of being the sites of the first battle (Pleiku) and the last battle (Buon Ma Thuot) of the American-Vietnam war. Just recently opened to visitors, this is one of the least visited parts of Vietnam. Elephant treks can be arranged, starting from Buon Ma Thuot.

Nha Trang

In future years this will probably develop into one of Southeast Asia's largest beach resorts. At the moment, however, it remains a seaside town reeking of faded French-colonial elegance and a hint of the economic development boom to come. The town, fringing one of Vietnam's most beautiful beaches, also is the site of Po Nagar Cham Towers. This site, used for Hindu worship between the 7th and the 12th centuries, is still a vital shrine for ethnic-Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists. You may consider a stay at the hilltop Bao Dai's Villas. Built in the 1920's, this villa once housed Bao Dai, the last Emperor of Vietnam. Some of the best swimming and snorkeling in Vietnam can be done around the islands that dot the South China Sea near town.

Nha Trang also boasts the home of Alexander Yersin. Dr. Yersin became famous in the medical field with his discovery of the origin of bubonic plague. He later established four Pasteur Institutes throughout Vietnam, took part in the foundation of Dalat and settled in Nha Trang. His home, now a museum, is open daily.

Dalat

Nestled in the central highlands, Dalat was once known as Le Petit Paris. At an elevation of 4,400 feet, the town was settled by the French who chose to escape the summer heat in Saigon. Vietnamese tourists now frequent the area as a popular honeymoon destination. Dalat is considered one of the most appealing towns in Vietnam, with its magnificent colonial villas, premier golf course, fruit orchards and comfortable weather. The town is also a major trading center for Montagnards (or hill tribes) and was the summer residence of Bao Dai, the last emperor.

The Southern Region:

Tay Ninh

This province, surrounded on three sides by Cambodia, is the site of the Holy See of the Caodai religion. This relatively new faith combines elements of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity and other religions and lists among its saints Victor Hugo and Joan of Arc.

(They practice séances and claim to have last spoken to William Shakespeare in 1935.) This excursion glimpses a truly unique religion and town.

Mekong Delta

Accessible from Ho Chi Minh City, this beautiful and fertile agricultural area beckons the visitor. You will be engulfed in a sea of green rice fields, bountiful orchards, rural villages, attractive small cities and an extensive network of tributaries and rivers. This is the richest part of Vietnam with farmers prospering from the fertile land.