Iain Stewart, The Daily Telegraph, December 29, 2014
Forty years since the Fall of Saigon, Vietnam has come a long way as a holiday destination, writes Iain Stewart
2015 will mark the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon – and Vietnam has come a very long way since then, emerging as an increasingly popular destination for British visitors.
Its cities are absurdly in-your-face, driven by the buzz of a million motorbikes and the palpable thrust of energy and commerce, yet this is a nation that also does subtle - just try the food. Banh bao vac (steamed minced shrimp dumpling), for example, delicately combines salty, sweet and sour flavours with a topping of crunchy, crispy shallots.
Vietnamese cuisine has many intricate layers, so for a true understanding of it, take a course in Hoi An, a Unesco World Heritage Site which is loaded with cooking schools. While you’re in town, be sure also to find time for a quintessentially Vietnamese experience, a two-wheeler trip. Guided motorbike daytrips run by Hoi An Motorbike Adventure (motorbiketours-hoian.com) use meaty Minsk machines. Alternatively, you can glide about on a vintage scooter courtesy of vietnamvespaadventures.com
North of Hoi An, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is Vietnam’s hottest region for 2015. Riddled with an astonishing number of cave systems, including the Hang Son Doong (the world’s largest cave) the scenery is spectacular with rainforest, towering karst peaks and jungle rivers. In the last couple of years, accommodation choices have mushroomed to meet demand, including the Lake House Resort ( http://phongnhalakehouse.com ), though there’s still only one ATM in the one-horse access town.
Local tour operator Oxalis, co-run by British cavers, offer superb trips to the sublime swim-through caverns of Tu Lan and Hang En (the world’s third largest cave). Trips to Hang Son Doong itself are currently suspended (as authorities consider licensing a cable car attraction inside the cave, a proposal that’s been roundly condemned by conservationists).
How to go:
Responsible Travel (01273 823700; responsibletravel.com ) offers a 16-day Vietnam Adventure Holiday that includes HCMC, Hanoi and Hoi An and costs from £1769 including flights from UK.
This article was written by Iain Stewart from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.