5 ideas to see more in Vietnam
The first ever direct flights from the UK to Vietnam will start on 8th December 2011 and are set to catapult Vietnam's popularity to new heights. These new non-stop flights with Vietnam Airlines will reduce journey times by up to seven hours and make it easier for travellers to explore the country's lesser-known gems.
1) New infrastructure opens up the Mekong delta
Know as the country's 'rice bowl', the Mekong delta is a vibrant slice of the real Vietnam. Bustling towns, floating markets and sleepy villages dot the lush waterways that are the lifeblood of millions.
Can Tho is the Delta's capital, famous for its rice and tropical fruit, and now just a three hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City thanks to the new Trung Luong Freeway and bridge. The floating markets are a must with fruit sellers tossing exotic fruit, like fiery-red rambutan and violet mangosteen, from boat to boat.
With the new road and flights giving travellers more time on the ground, Chau Doc, a hidden gem in the depths of the delta, is set to become a new highlight. On the river route between Cambodia and Vietnam, this traditional town is an eclectic mix of Cham, Khmer, Vietnamese and Chinese communities. The diversity and rich history are apparent in a plethora of ancient mosques, temples and pilgrimage sites. Watch traditional weavers at work in sleepy Cham villages where life goes on as it has for centuries, climb Sam Mountain for views over Cambodia and stroll the riverside boulevards at dusk to see groups of children practising traditional martial arts. Base yourself at the Victoria Can Tho Resort and Victoria Chau Doc Hotel, the most stylish properties in the area.
Sample package: Eight nights at the 4* Victoria Can Tho on a B&B basis for £1,379 per person including flights with Vietnam Airlines from London Gatwick. To book call 0871 703 4240 or visit www.travelbag.co.uk
2) Combine surf and spa in Vietnam's sunniest spot
With more than 3,400km of coastline, Vietnam can give Thailand a run for its money with diverse beach breaks thanks to the new flights. Where better to start than the sunniest spot? Set on a swathe of sand, Mui Ne with its swaying palms seductively unfurls itself along the coast attracting sun worshipers with its year-round sunshine. Its limited rainfall makes it perfect for beachside R&R as does its many spas but it's also the wind and kitesurfing capital of Vietnam. Those seeking adventure can test themselves against the seasonal winds which draw surfers from all over the world or explore the dramatic red and white sand dunes that loom large. Mui Ne blends action and inertia to perfection.
Sample package: Eight nights at the 4* Victoria Phan Thiet on a B&B basis for £1,239 per person including flights with Vietnam Airlines from Gatwick. To book call 0871 703 4240 or visit www.travelbag.co.uk
3) Take a luxury train journey to the rooftop of Vietnam
Perched amid the towering mountains and plunging valleys of the north, Sapa is set at 1,600m under the shadow of Fansipan (3,143m), the country's tallest mountain. Reaching Sapa has never been more appealing: travel in style onboard the luxurious Victoria Express Train from Hanoi for a journey that recalls a more romantic era of train travel. Enjoy four course meals of both traditional Vietnamese and Western cuisine and fine wine in the dining car, while exotic landscapes flit past between the charming cities of Hanoi and Lao Cai (a short drive from Sapa). Once in Sapa its time to explore on foot as this is the trekking capital of Vietnam. Follow local guides on trails through rainforest, hidden villages, terraced rice paddies and waterfalls. More than 30 minority tribes live in and around Sapa such as the friendly Hmong and Dzao people. To fully appreciate their diversity, visit one of the many local markets such as Bac Ha and Coc Ly where ethnic groups gather once a week to trade local products including food and fabrics.
4) Explore central Vietnam on a sidecar safari
For a new way to see the popular area of central Vietnam, Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort and Spa is offering chauffeured tours in its fleet of vintage motorbikes. The new motorcycle sidecar safaris allow guests to feel the wind on their face, experience unobstructed views of paddy fields, minority villages and spectacular coastline and go off the beaten track in a WWII motorcycle. There are a range of exhilarating journeys to choose from, starting with day trips around charismatic Hoi An, a living museum with its 19th Century houses and bridges up to 3-8 day safaris. These longer trips take in the imperial capital of Hue and the lush jungle and traditional villages near the Laos border with the option to stay in guesthouses or 4 star hotels. Let a local driver concentrate on the road while you soak up the varied landscape and bustle of local life.
Eight nights at the 4* Victoria Hotel, Hoi An Beach Resort and Spa on a B&B basis for £969 per person including flights with Vietnam Airlines from London Gatwick and internal flights. To book call 0871 703 4240 or visit www.travelbag.co.uk
5) Stopover in Vietnam en route to Australia
The new flights from Vietnam Airlines create a brand new stopover option for travellers flying to Australia. From December, Brits can break their journey Down Under at Ho Chi Minh City. Stopover packages include a city break in Ho Chi Minh City combined with a visit to Can Tho for a taste of the Mekong Delta or a blend of city and beach with nearby Mui Ne, Vietnam's sunniest spot. Both are possible in 3-5 days. Vietnam Airlines flies daily to both Melbourne and Sydney direct from Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam Airlines will operate four flights a week, two to Hanoi and two to Ho Chi Minh City, both operated non-stop by Boeing 777-200ER from Gatwick.
Victoria Hotels & Resorts
Victoria Hotels & Resorts is a collection of French colonial style boutique properties in culturally rich locations across Vietnam and Cambodia. There are five properties in key destinations in Vietnam, from Can Tho and Chau Doc in the Mekong Delta, to the diverse beach resorts of Hoi An and Phan Thiet to the hills of Sapa in northern Vietnam as well as Victoria Angkor in Siem Reap in Cambodia. The Vietnamese-owned company also offers unique transportation including a luxury train from Hanoi to the hill tribes of Sapa and traditional rice barges for cruising the Mekong to help travellers to explore these fascinating areas in style and comfort. The traditional design, great service and unrivalled knowledge of the destinations, make Victoria the ideal way to discover the life of the region's generous and smiling people.
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