Self-Guided Vietnam Travel

A country with over 50 sub-cultures, awesome landscapes with sandy beaches, tropical weather and friendly hosts aren’t found everywhere. Sure, you can enjoy these travel attractions by joining an organized tour or even hiring a private guide to escort you around the country, but both of these options create a barrier between you and the friendly locals.

Vietnam has over 86 million people and is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. The two main concerns of travelers – heat and monsoon rains have been addressed in recent years. Modern accommodations and transportation with air conditioning are prevalent and many Vietnam travelers have decided to brave the inclement weather of the monsoons to enjoy some of the benefits the rains – mainly better “beach” weather when the rains of the day have passed.

A large variety of Vietnam hotels has emerged in the past few years – small family run “mini-hotels” to 5-star luxury resorts – make comfortable accommodations available to every travel budget. The “Backpacker Telegraph” provides access to bargain hotels by way of the internet and word-of-mouth. Spend a little time “surfing the web” and you’ll find a wide range of places to spend a night or two to fit any budget.

Transportation “to and through” Vietnam can be financially managed by conducting a bit of research on the web. The large international carriers often offer great fares to various hubs in Asia. And the recent emergence of Asia’s regional bargain carriers will provide that last “hop” into Vietnam if you can’t manage to land in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) or Hanoi. Danang is now an arrival point for regional carriers from Thailand and other nearby countries.

In-country transportation can be arranged for a reasonable price by utilizing the “open tour” private tour bus industry, and if you’re really adventurous you can try Vietnam’s public bus system. Vietnam’s railroads provide excellent transportation from one end of the country to the other. Both the private tour bus companies and the railroad provide a number of choices in the area of comfort. “Hard” and “soft” are the adjectives used to describe the levels of service available on the train. You might even chance a local trip on motorcycle or enjoy a trip around town on a cyclo.

If you’re wondering what you do when you get to Vietnam, take a look at any Vietnam travel guide. There are “adventures” to meet the requirements of any traveler’s abilities and desires. Providers of local tour services can be found “online”, in travel guides, or “on the street” when you arrive in town. Waiting to arrange your tour until you’re “on-site” will allow you to make last minute changes to your plans, stay a few extra days at someplace that catches your fancy or spend your money on something else. If you’re on an organized tour you may end spending most of your time sitting near someone who’s a pain.

Vietnam Tours

One of the most requested sights people ask for when embarking on Vietnam tours is the rural experience. Many people appreciate that Vietnam tours give them a taste of the urban life of Vietnam and the country life as well. When taking Vietnam tours in the country areas, you’ll be delighted to see people tending to their rice fields using ancient techniques, children playing alongside beloved farm animals, and the humble architecture that spots the mountainous country landscape.

Hanoi, Hue, Saigon, and Halong are some of the most popular places Vietnam can take you. The Vietnam area is so vast that many people try to cover as much ground as possible in one trip. Using a professional Vietnam tours company ensures you’ll get the most out of your time in Vietnam without the stress of trying to be in too many places at once.

The topic is incomplete without mentioning the cuisine that Vietnam has to offer. From the urban to the rural areas of Vietnam you’ll be able to explore an exotic and palatable menu that will delight and inspire you. Vietnam is known throughout the world for its unique and tasty spin on traditional Asian cuisine, and experiencing this great food first-hand in Vietnam is something no one ever forgets.

If you want a truly rich cultural experience with your Vietnam, don’t pass over Hue. This ancient city is the old imperial capital city where you’ll find everything from rulers’ palaces to tombs, pagodas, and temples in the unique styling of Vietnamese design. Hue is a favorite place to take Vietnam tours for those who are interested in the true depth of history that Vietnam offers. In addition, Hue offers some of the most ancient and complex cuisine you’ll find anywhere in Vietnam!

If you want a few moments of quiet from the bustling Vietnamese culture when on Vietnam tours, make time to visit the Mekong Delta, Mui Ne, and Phu Quoc. These slow-paced villages will frame some of the most amazing scenery Vietnam has to offer and will entice you to take a break and simply rest for a while. Vietnam tours that focus on these special areas will ensure you get time on white sand beaches where relaxation is the main agenda. The water and beach atmosphere in Vietnam is famous throughout the world for a very good reason.

Hanoi is another popular destination for people. Hanoi is the current capital of Vietnam and is a favorite destination for all people taking Vietnam tours from around the world. Ho Chi Minh is a sight to be seen, and many people say that seeing this amazing space in person is the highlight of their Vietnam trip. Hanoi is another great place on Vietnam tours to experience the best cuisine and local beer that Vietnam has to offer. Hanoi is where the modern energy of Vietnam is most lively, and where you’ll get to see how Vietnam is evolving into the future.

Hoi An is the true souvenir destination. This creative city bustles with countless tailors, craftsmen, and artisans who work with ancient and modern Vietnamese art styles side-by-side. Vietnam is famous for clothing, and a Hoi An stop on your Vietnam tours will show you why. In just a couple of hours you can have clothing custom tailors to suit you using your own hand-selected fabrics. You can also find the biggest variety of traditional arts and crafts that Vietnam has to offer in this charming city.

Vietnam Wall

One of the more interesting sites we visited was Colonial Williamsburg. Betty might not necessarily agree with me, but the best moment for me was a dinner in a 17th Century Tavern on Main Street. I have a picture of us standing on the street outside the pub and we were dead tired.

Inside we ordered a drink on the rocks: a shot of Apricot Brandy, a shot of Peach Brandy and a shot of Rum. We placed our order and sipped on the drink while an Irish balladeer entertained us with his words and music.

The old Irish folk songs continued throughout our stay, with Betty and I thoroughly enjoying the 18th century cuisine, all the while, dining on a very good steak and potato meal. Of course, if the events had been reversed, the food first, then the drink and the music, I doubt the tavern would have been so memorable. The two of us being so tired, we may have fallen asleep instead. Whereas the strong drink had us primed for all that followed, and it was great.

On another day, across the street, we were entertained by a live play, one in which the audience was allowed to stand in the living room of an 18th century dwelling while the performance was under way, then later in the kitchen and slave quarters for the final acts.

The plot evolved a white man, set to marry a white woman and the man was trying to explain his intentions to his black concubine slave girl, and as would be expected, she didn’t understand. The performance was so real, it made me feel as if time had been turned back to the 1700’s and we were right there with them – the people that would have lived there during that era.

Another really great evening was a dinner-cruise up the James River, past the naval shipyard. But the highlight of our stay in Virginia Beach was a one-day bus trip up to Washington DC.

That night back in the room, Betty said she really enjoyed the trip. My thoughts were that it was a long bus ride up and back and being hurried from place to place was a little annoying to me. In one instance when I arrived back at the bus a little late, Betty said the driver had threatened to leave me behind. Luckily I showed up while the driver was still talking about it and he wasn’t forced to put his words into action.

Later, reflecting on the trip, I have to say it wasn’t that bad. We visited a portion of the capitol building, an old church and several museums. One of the museums had a giant blue whale hanging from the ceiling and a dinosaur exhibit, including a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t as large as I had expected. Of course, what we saw was the skeleton, minus any flesh and skin the prehistoric beast once had and that would have reduced its size and appearance.

The entire journey to the east coast and back took us a good two weeks to navigate the Jaguar through 14 states, including stops in Myrtle Beach, Tunica and other places to sightsee, shop and gorge ourselves on some really great seafood.

We returned by traveling down the coast to North and South Carolina then west across Georgia back to Oklahoma. I had wanted to stop in Tupelo, Mississippi, thinking that was the birthplace of Elvis Presley. I remembered Jerry Reed’s song, The Tupelo Mississippi Flash and thought he may have been referring to Elvis and mentioned that to Betty. But I don’t think she was that impressed or was tired and we did stop.

A few minutes later I saw the sign, Tunica, Mississippi, 22 miles and realized Betty’s true intentions and that was spend the night in one of the casinos and gamble a few hours before returning to Pryor the next day.

Reflecting on the trip as a whole, I was impressed but also disappointed that we didn’t get to see that much of Washington DC. Still the situation rectified itself a few years later when I was sent back to the capitol on a business trip and Betty went along. On that trip we had seven days to prowl the streets, restaurants, subways and any museums we may have missed on the previous trip – including most all the national monuments.

One evening we took a subway out to Wolf Trap and listened to Peter, Paul and Mary perform their hits before a sold out crowd: most of them crowded inside the semi-enclosed structure but also many of them seated outside on the grass.

The next morning we took a subway to see the war memorials: the Vietnam Wall, the Nurses Memorial and the Korean War Memorial. They were all very good but I was the most impressed by the one that had the least to offer and that was the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

When I say it had the least to offer, I mean it consisted of 50,000 plus names etched into a rock wall, and that was it. But the emotions were as thick as a 9-day pea’s porridge, and there was nothing there that should have set me off. I suppose it goes to show you the power of the media – because I was primed.

Sure, I was in the Navy during the Vietnam War but I wasn’t there where all the fighting took place. The closest I came to the action was two years on Guam, in 1966 and 67. There my only thoughts of Vietnam were the roar and black smoke from the eight jet engines of bomb laden B52s, as the monster aircraft flew out in the morning then returned in silence the same day, many times while we were enjoying a movie in the outdoor theater.

One of my cousins, Delbert Williams, spent a year in Viet Nam. He told me a sniper might have taken a shot at him while he was writing a letter back home, but other than that, nothing. Also one of the guys at work, Leroy Gibson said he was over there but didn’t want to talk about it. So that’s the extent of my first hand knowledge of the war – other than what I read in the papers and watched on the evening news.

Therefore, it’s hard to explain why I would have become so emotional on that day. I had no personal or emotional ties to anyone that was over there. Still, when we crossed the road to the sidewalk that led to the memorial, I could feel the pressure building as I approached a small table where a man about my age had a few pictures and some Vietnam memorabilia set up for sale.

One picture in particular showed a man in civilian clothes standing with one hand on the wall and inside the wall was the image of several soldiers, one of them with his hand on the back side of the wall with his palm matching up with the civilian on the outside.

When I arrived the memorial, there was nothing there for me, nothing but a black marble wall inscribed with the name of every American soldier, airman, marine, sailor and coastguard, both men and women killed in the conflict. Still, I could feel what others felt, those that were there – but why?

The following poem tells the story of a small boy who lost his dad in Vietnam then grew up struggling with the thoughts that may have gone through his father’s mind when he was sent off to war and later when he was killed in Vietnam. Finally, the boy, now a grown man, stands at the base of the wall with the thoughts swirling in his head, the emotions welling up in his being, his tears staining the marble. I called it simply: The Vietnam Wall.

Educational Holidays

National Parks to Visit in Vietnam

When you embark upon holidays to Vietnam you must visit some of the national parks. Cat Ba National Park is no exception, located in Cat Hai district, Cat Hai supports a diversity of natural habitats, including forested hills and small fresh water lakes. A total of 839 vascular plant species have been recorded at the national park. Another national park you should explore is Ba Vi National Park, located 50km west of Hanoi. The park has several rare and endangered plants in its protected forest, and its mammals include two species of rare ‘flying’ squirrel. Human encroachment on the area has made the chances of seeing any of these quite rare but anything is possible in Vietnam.

Holidays to Vietnam and Wildlife

When searching for holidays to Vietnam you may be persuaded by the wonderful wildlife this fascinating country has to offer. From the Asian elephant to the leopard cat, these stunning creatures are something extra special to see for sure. The country is home to 275 species of mammal, 800 species of bird and 180 species of reptile. The extensive forests of the central highlands and far north remain a home to some of nature’s most noble creatures, such as the tiger, Asian elephant, clouded Jeopardy and sun bear. If there is ever a time to explore the wildlife that Vietnam has to offer it is now, whether you enjoy bird watching or observing a tiger in the wonderful wild. The nature of the wild is precious and waiting to be explored. Holidays to Vietnam will leave you feeling inspired and relaxed.