The Far North

vietnam northWhen you head east from Hanoi you eventually arrive at the South China Sea, here you will find Vinh Ha Long, or as it's widely known Halong Bay. You cannot go to Vietnam without visiting Halong Bay. This is scenery that is comparable with the Grand Canyon in the States; it has a profound affect on you when you see it for the first time and it seems to stand out in your memory when you get back home. 

There are approximately 1,600 islands speckled all around the Bay, some well known, some don't even have names. The sight of the traditional orange sails floating by, adds to the spectacle. The name Ha Long means in Vietnamese "Dragon Descending" they say that a dragon lives in the waters here, that he flung himself into the sea and that he thrashed the islands into shape with his tail.

Cat Ba
This is probably the biggest island in the Bay. It is also a national park. Closeby you will find some of the finest sights in Halong bay which makes it a good spot to head for. Quite a lot of Cat Ba is covered in forest, and you will find wild cats, deer and monkeys in the forest still. There are also hot springs here on Cat Ba. There's a nice hike uphill, if it's not raining or wet, a bus departs for the park quite often. The little girls selling drinks will guide you along, when you get to the top enjoy the wonderful view of the surrounding nature and the all-encompassing sea. Make sure you visit an island that is unihabited, and spend at least one day swimming there. There's also an 18 km hike across the island which can be quite tough, climbing is included and you can visit some caves along the route, the hike ends in the village of Viet Hai. Make sure you organise a boatman to pick you up from there. Hang Dau is one of the finest grottoes to visit, the French actually called it the 'Grotte de Merveilles' which roughly translated means wondrous grotto. Hang Hanh is a tunnel cave that runs about 2 km. Tuan Chau is an island that used to be a great favourite of the Vietnamese elite, Ho Chi Minh had a residence here on this island. Avoid the likes of Bai Chay which is a charmless tourist trap, and Hon Gai which is grey and dull.

You will see the boat people who live on their boats all year round, they fish by night, and carry tourists during the day, they cook and wash and live on these boats. Most of them can't read or write, though some might know a couple of words in English.

The North East
Highway 1 will take you up to the wonderful Lang Son province, which is about three hours north of Hanoi. It is covered by 80% of forest and there are tigers, chamois, bears, deer, and lizards all to be found here. This province is mainly for nature lovers and there's not a great deal of sights for the average tourist.

The Far North
In the flat rice-growing region of the Red River, a place which has had many clashes with its big neighbour, China you will find many Ethnic communities living on farmland between the hydroelectric power stations. This is tough country to travel in, roads are quite often trecherous, only the highly seasoned traveller makes it as far as here.

Hoa Binh is a beautiful region, which is west of Hanoi, with highland valleys and mountains, the villages are mostly Tai or Hmong. Canals cut through rice paddies, and it's a treat to ramble through villages of high-stilted houses. This is gold country, you may find groups of people up to their knees in water sifting through the mud looking for tiny pieces of gold. The best weavers in these district are the White Tai and the Black Tai, you will find looms under most of these houses. There is often traditional music to be heard here, with musicians playing reed pipes, cymbals, and even accordian, (though not traditional) check it out for a visit.

Moc Chau and Mai Chau, one's a village, the other is the valley, with the Black River always closeby. This is a great spot for trips into the highland villages, if you go beyond here you will need a jeep or four-wheel drive. Highway 6 from Moc Chau is the road to take, it winds through hills towards the west, the hills which are perfectly cultivated, reap tea, fruit and even cotton. In Son La, very early in the morning (6 am) you will find many Ethnic groups come together to the market including the Black Tai, the White Tai, the Hmong, Xinh Mun and the Muong. The prison is worth a visit, which was probably worse than 'Devil's Island', anyone who had a sentence that lasted for more than a year in this place, normally died. This prison housed many communist prisoners during the French colonial time. If you get to this neck of the woods make sure you have lots of film for your camera. A party of 15 Belgians spend their holidays here every year in this part of the country walking from town to town and along the Chinese border towns.

Sa Pa and the Hill Tribes
This a mixture of the Swiss Alps and the Himalayas.A great place to go for nice walks into the surrounding countryside. The highest peak around here is Fan Si Pan at 3,4143 mts. you have to have a guide but that shouldn't be a problem evrything you need for a four-day trip to the peaks and back can be hired at Sa Pa. Apart from in the month of December it can be tough to reach and hardgoing has to be expected, though it is not very steep. Fan Si Pan is a fine place for bird watching and the wild Rhododendrens. If you take this hike during the rainy season it could take more than four days. For More info contact Steve. He knows the country like the back of his hand and will do all the arranging for you beforehand.  
If you are staying in any of the guest houses in Sa Pa and it does get cold make sure you do not use the charcoal burners. They emit carbon monoxide fumes which can be deadly. 
During the weekends, tourists flock to see what has been foolishly called "the Love Market", it's just a market and it does present an opportunity for young people to meet, but please show a little respect for these communities, and don't poke your cameras up their noses if you do see a couple talking. 
Don't buy anything in Sa Pa at the market or from the Vendors till you are ready to leave for another destination, a quick glance is enough to have these people stick to you for days trying to sell you something.
If you are going to buy something an hour's bargaining is normal for these communities, so don't give them what they ask for initially, otherwise you will upset the balance within the community.

Hmong men and women wear dark blue clothing, and you will notice that their clothing are indigo-dyed, this explains the indigo fields around their villages. The women also wear big silver circular ear rings. The same embroidery motifs can be found in neighbouring 'hmong' countries such as Thailand. The Dao people can be easily recognised by the small pieces of embroidery that they wear, this embroidery is very colourful. Dao men and women also carry a tasselled shoulder bag. 
Check out the small Catholic church here, which is used by a very small community of Catholic who hold tenaciously on to their faith. Mass is said daily without a priest, and it is a mass held in each memory. You will see them in the mornings and evenings attending mass here. 
Bac Ha has a wonderful little market to visit, as is the Can Cau market which is north of Bac Ha.


Hanoi is written as two words in Vietnamese: Ha Noi....Ha which means river, in reference to the Song Hong River, or the Red  River, and Noi, meaning inside. Dating back to the neolithic era this city has a fine rich and quite complex history , going right back to the settling of the ancient Viet people in the Bach Hac and Viet Tri regions, which can be found in the Vinh Phu Province.

Nowadays, Hanoi is quite clearly on its way to being a very cosmopolitan city with a most unusual European style to it. This capital city of people who have always had to fight to preserve their independence and who have battled for generations to ward off invaders especially from the North, has a Parisian feel to it. People in Hanoi are always boasting about their beautiful city, of course they won't tell you it's mainly due to the decidely French influence. Hanoi has always had that dual personality of going forward and holding onto tradition. Hanoi has an almost romantic air about it which doesn't seem Asian in the least. It has many trees and lakes. The heart of the city however, lies in the Old Quarter, an area filled with artisans and craftsmen, this place goes right back to the 15th century. Check out the street facing the cathedral which will take you to Chua Ba Da, between the cathedral and Ho Hoan Kiem. This fine pagoda which is quite small, houses a small statue of a woman who is believed to have magical powers, unfortunately what you see is not the original which has been lost and replaced by a replica in wood.

There's a fine line up of gilt Buddha statues on the central altar. North of the cathedral is a small but interesting pagoda which is known as Chua Ly Trieu Quoc Su, it is also known as Chua Kong, the pagoda of Confucius. It was built during the Ly dynasty in the 11th century and later restored in 1855. Check out Ho Hoan Kiem (Lake of the Restored Sword). If you get up early you will meet many people here doing their daily exercises. The evenings see the area buzz with activity, music blaring from speakers, and where outdoor cafes sell beer and coffee. The old Palace of the French Governor can be found here, a yellow building now called the State Guest House, was built in 1918. Bao Tang Lich Su, which is probably the best museum you will find here, Neolithic relics and bronze age implements are on display here. Recommended! The Bao Tang Cach Mang is a very interesting museum showing the struggle of the Vietnamese people from way back up till 1975 this is also worth a visit.In 1886, "a big church" as the Vietnamese call it was consecrated on Christmas night, Mass restarted here in the 1990s and it now has full houses for the mass.

Chua Ba Da is a very charming Pagoda which was constructed in the 15th century. Check out the central altar inside. The French took revolutionaries to Hoa Lo which is also known as the Hanoi Hilton, an infamous prison that was used to house U.S. servicemen, but was also used to torture and guillotine the Hanoi revolutionaries. Just across the street you will find the Hanoi People's Court.There are 36 lanes in the Old Quarter which date back to the 14th century. Travel agents, cafes and clothing can be found here as well as a host of other products. There used to be 36 craft guilds each with a communal house, but they have been shut down.Ho Chi Minh wrote Vietnam's state of independence, which closely resembles that of America's, in a small house here which can be found on Hang Ngang and is now called Independence Museum. Den Bach Ma, the White Horse Temple, on Hang Buom, is dedicated to the deity Bach Ma, there is a huge wooden horse outside. This was built in the 19th century. Check out the end of this street which runs into Ma May, which still has a good collection of colonial facades that are in dire need of repair. Cho Dong Xuan, is quite an interesting area to check out, there are lots of counterfeit stuff which can be purchased here, including Calvin Klein products as well as some good kitchen utensils. Vodka, Wine and even Russian caviar can be had here for a reasonable price, these are , of course , the real Mc Coy. The traditional medicine shop which is closeby sells the famous snake wine and all sorts and types of cures for almost everything, you'll even find lizards preserved in alcohol. They sell gecko elixir which is a great remedy for all types of ailments. 

West of Hanoi The Van Mieu or Temple of Literature was built in 1090 and is dedicated to Confucius, this building was later joined to Vietnam's first university. Students who wanted to become senior mandarins came here to study. Chinese and Vietnamese as well as literature and philosophy were taught here to aspiring government administrators. The sign above the main entrance asks visitors to get off their horse before they enter the temple. There are five wall courtyards each with a wall bordering it. If you go through the Dai Thanh Mon you will find an open courtyard with a central pool which is called the Well of Heavenly Clarity. The French put an end to examinations here in 1915. This was part of their strategy to close down all Chinese-Vietnamese schools still in operation One of the symbols of Hanoi is the flag tower of Cot Co which lies to the north on Duong Dien Bien Phu. This was ordered to be built in 1812 by the Nguyen Dynasty as part of the Hanoi Citadel, the hexagonal 60-metre (180-ft) tower is about all that is left of the citadel, which was flattened at the end of the 19th century. Next to it, the Bao Tang Quan Doi (Army Museum; which is open daily from 8am to 4.30pm, admission fee), this was reworked in the 1990's by a skilled company of renovators and it shows Vietnam's battles for independence and unification against the French and Americans and their supporters in South Vietnam. The wreck of a B-52 bomber is in the courtyard. If you take a peek inside you will find the uniforms of captured American airmen, and photos of heroes on the Vietnamese side and many things which are said to have belonged to the long-gone heroes of the defeated South.

Lenin in Hanoi
vietnamThere's a small statue of Lenin across the street in a triangular-shaped park , it shows him striding forth dressed in a suit and looking larger than life itself. You'll see groups of kids on the plaza in front of the statue playing games till all hours of the night and in the pleasant park behind it.If you continue north west up Dien Bien Phu, there's a small road called Chua Mot Cot which leads to the Chua Mot Cot (One Pillar Pagoda). This was constructed in 1049 under the Ly dynasty, this highly original wooden pagoda is constructed on one single pillar which rises out of a lotus pool. This was recently renovated after the French soldiers when they were leaving Vietnam had blown it up in 1954. The banyan tree behind the pagoda was planted by Pres. Nehru of India in 1958 during an official visit to the then young Vietnamese Republic. 
Behind the park with the pagodas rises a massive, angular Soviet-style structure, the Bao Tang Ho Chi Minh (Ho Chi Minh Museum; open Tues-Sun, 8am-4pm; admission fee). Visitors should proceed even if the vast car park is empty; it is still probably open. The many exhibits include interesting snaps, papers, and personal items (such as Ho's pencil) which pay homage to Ho Chi Minh's life. You will also find a letter, written by Ho in English, from Thailand to the Com intern in the late 1920s stating his efforts to organise Vietnamese immigrants in Thailand and Laos. Observe the gigantic table with its unimpressive bowl of imitation fruit, an iron tower, a volcano, the Ho statue evoking a sort of Buddhist altar. American pop tunes supply the museum's background music, check out the souvenir shop that sells "Good Morning Vietnam!" T-shirts. Down the stairs on your way out you will be shown to a room, where an orchestra plays a small piece of music normally for a very small group. Recommended!

The Tey Dang dinh, or communal house in Hanoi's Bay Vi suburb is worth visiting for its beautiful architectural structure and carving. The original construction date is unknown, but inscriptions on a beam reveal that it was extensively restored in the 16th century and that further repairs were carried out in 1808, 1926, and 1942. Built entirely of hardwood, it comprised five partitions and four roofs, whose curling tops are decorated with tu linh - dragons, unicorns, tortises, and the phoenix, the four animals that according to folklore bring happiness. Many valuable woodcarvings grace the interior.

Behind Thu Le Park in the north west of the city is the 11th century Voi Phue (Temple of the Kneeling Elephants), built by King Ly Thai To in honour of his son who distinguished himself during the war against Chinese Song-dynasty invaders by charging the enemy with his squadron of elephants. The simple lakeside temple houses statues of the prince and his generals. In front of the temple are stone statues of kneeling elephants.

vietnamSouthwest of the city, in the Dong Da district, is the Go Dong Da (Mound of the Multitudes) on Tay Son. Legend says that Go Dong Da was formed by the bodies of Chinese soldiers killed after Quang Trung's victory. Very little remains of the temple that was constructed on the site, but dozens of steps lead to the top of the mound. Beyond the mound is a large statue of Quang Trung. Tang Dan Toc Hoc Viet Nam (Vietnam Museum of Ethnology), on Van Huyen, is Hanoi's newest and superficially most modern museum. Few tourists come here, but it would especially appeal to children. For those heading out to the northwest part of Vietnam, this is a good introduction to tribal clothing and housing. There are audio tapes, videos, full-scale models, crafts, and musical instruments. However, at least so far, few of the 54 ethnic groups are represented. It's to be expected that there would be no mention of the communists' assimilation policies, now largely abandoned. But perhaps because the French funded the museum, there is also the curious omission of genocidal colonial practices, such as forced labour on plantations, that wiped out some tribes and permanently altered the cultures of the others.

The Tey Dang dinh, or communal house in Hanoi's Bay Vi suburb is worth visiting for its beautiful architectural structure and carving. The original construction date is unknown, but inscriptions on a beam reveal that it was extensively restored in the 16th century and that further repairs were carried out in 1808, 1926, and 1942. Built entirely of hardwood, it comprised five partitions and four roofs, whose curling tops are decorated with tu linh - dragons, unicorns, tortises, and the phoenix, the four animals that according to folklore bring happiness. Many valuable woodcarvings grace the interior.

Ho Chi Minh

Saigon or Ho Chi Minh as it is now called is the main cultural and business centre of Vietnam. It is also the biggest city in Vietnam with its 6 million inhabitants and sprawling centre, it covers an area of approximately 2,000 sq km. The city is always buzzing, and seems to be bordering on chaos to the untrained eye.

saigontepmleConstruction and commerce seems to be everywhere with hotels and businesses rising all over the place. You will see people making deals on mobiles, selling their wares, cyclos looking for customers, Ho Chi Minh is a booming city, The Chinese seem to be enjoying the atmosphere of free enterprise here in Ho Chi Minh. Here in Ho Chi Minh they socialise in Karaoke bars till deep in the night, while their Hanoi counterparts are the early-to-bed types. Hookers and massage parlours have also arisen from the shadows to take their place in the shady side of Ho Chi life here.
Nha Tho Duc Ba which is Vietnamese for the Notre Dame Cathedral, it stands close to the Buu Dien ( post office), Dong Khoi is a glittery type of shopping street with art galleries and antique shops as well as many designer stores.A new American Consulate has been built on the site of the old american Embassy,scene of the Tet offensive in 1968 and the downfall of Saigon during with troops on the roof escaping by helicopter The War Remnants Museum is probably tough to take on holiday but it gives you an idea about the attrocities suffered here during the war. Many photos showing the effects of Agent Orange on the population (deformed children) and of course, American tanks and weaponry.

The Rex Hotel, used by U.S. servicemen during the war, there is a plaza here that is buzzing in the evenings. Many young people come here, watch out for motor bikes travelling behind you and grabbing your camera or whatever type of bag you're carrying. Close to Le Loi, the Dai Lo Nguyen Hue is being developed especially buzzes in the evenings with couples out walking and people cruising by on motorbikes. The Nha Hat Thanh Pho theatre was built in 1899, this pink colonial building presents a varety of programmes ranging from acrobats to classical music. Check out our page on excellent restaurants in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi

Cho Benh Thanh is a market with approximately 12,000 sq. metres of meat, food, electronics, hustlers, televisions, cameras and just about everything you could think of. The fine smell of spices and aromas fills the air, and you can find small places to sit and eat at the back of the market.

The Mariamman Hindu Temple is also close to the market and was built for the handful of Hindus living in Ho Chi Minh. You can smell the Joss sticks burning at the temple as you enter. Interesting! Museums which are worth a visit are the following: Bao Tang My Thuat (Fine Arts Museum) another place worth visiting if you are interested in Ho Chi Minh's life is Nha Rong or the Dragon House which has documents as well as photographs relating to Ho's life. The Bao Tang Lich Su (National History Museum) the building wis French built, and follows the evolution of Vietnamese culture. One of the most colourful pagodas on Ho Chi Minh City is the Phuoc Hai Tu (Emperor of Jade Pagoda), this was built by Cantonese Buddhists at the start of the 20th century and is worth visiting. Check out all the wonderful statues in here. Chua Vinh Nghiem is also a Pagoda worth visiting witha great statue of Buddha and his disciples. The Japanese donated the bell which they hoped would bring an early end to the war.

Ben Thanh market
"We can still celebrate Tet"
BenThanhMarketWith this succinct, direct an intriguing proclamation that would have been worth millions of marketing dollars today, a banner stretched across a makeshift bamboo pavilion sought to give the people of Saigon, suffering from a severe economic downturn, a psychological lift out of their depression.
The proclamation was backed by people shouting out the attractions of various products through an improvised megaphone - a piece of cardboard rolled into a cone. It was 1934 and the banner and the announcements were a ploy thought out by scholar and patriot Nguyen An Ninh and his friends.
It had its desired effect, and vendors at the Ben Thanh Market in HCM City have not looked back since.
A quiz show on the 300 year history of Saigon releaved that this was how the currently common practice of hawking various products through loudspeakers was born.market
These days, the centrally-located Ben Thanh Market is as busy as usual, especially as yet another Tet approaches, The fresher-than-ever flowers outside the North Gate are blooming in greater variety, and the path from the North Gate is bearing more fruits than ever before. Inside people are thronging to stalls selling mut Tet (dry sweetened fruits, jams and candy). These are a must to welcome visitors home during the Lunar New Year festival.
The 60 year-old woman selling cosmetic brought back by Viet kieu (overseas Vietnamese) or their families or those who have returned from a trip abroad, says the Ben Thanh Market is always cheerful and bustling, tet or no Tet.
The market is indeed a must-visit destination for the thousands of Vietnamese and foreign visitors who crowd the city everyday. The foreigners are drawn by the sights and sounds of an oriental market, while the Vietnamese are looking for bargains and products they've nit been able to find elsewhere.
For residents, the market is a place for doing some actual purchasing or window-shopping, as prices are often higher than other market. For those experienced in shopping at the Ben Thanh Market, the prices have to be bargained down to half or even two-thirds of the stated price.
The shopkeepers have finely tuned antennae that can spot a visitor from a regular very easily.
The tale of two markets
When northerners and people from the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta drifted into Saigon at the beginning of the 17th century, vendors grouped together at streets along and near the Saigon River. The market was know as the Ben Nghe or Ben Thanh Market, because of its location near the wharf (Ben) and the Turtle Citadel or (Quy Thanh).
After taking over the Gia Dinh Citadel in 1859, the French colonialists built a large covered market on the site where the Banking Institute now stands. The thatch-roofed and mud-floored Ben Thanh Market stood in the vicinity of large canals which are now the streets of Le Loi (then Bonard), Nguyen Hue (Charner), Ham Nghi (De la Somme) and Pasteur (Pellerin).
Historical documents reveal that trading at the market was brisk as it was convenient for the traders to travel back and forth from the wharf and the commercial port. In 1870, however, a big fire razed the market to the ground and the French decided to built a new one with metal frames. the new one became the largest market in Saigon.
In 1912, the mayor of Saigon then ordered the construction of a new market for the city in a marshy land called Le Maraise Boresse. After the construction of the new market completed two years later, the old roofed- Ben Thanh Market later was replaced by the National Treasury (Le Tresor Public) and which is presently the Banking Institute.
The newly-built market was then called the New Ben Thanh Market or the New Saigon Market to differentiate it from the old one. The new market was located opposite Quach Thi Trang Square at the end of le Loi Street and surrounded by Le Thanh Ton, Phan Chu Trinh, Phan Boi Chau streets.
The only reminder that the market is situated on what used to be a pond is that, along with Le Thanh Ton street on the north side, it is at a lower level than Ly Tu Trong Street, which runs parallel to Le Thanh Ton Street.
The New Ben Thanh Market was officially opened in March 1914 with a grand ceremony that "broke all records for festivities". Old-timers who witnessed the event still remember it well and take pride in having witnessed the ceremony that the press described as being equivalent to a "New King Festival." In his "Saigon in the Old Days," first published in the 1960s, the late Vuong Hong Sen, famed archaeologist and antique collector, recalls that the market opening ceremony drew large numbers of people from nearby provinces. People then often joked: "I have witnessed the New Market opened ceremony, I can die now."
History records also show that until the 1950s, a railway station stood in front of the Ben Thanh Market. Two main routes passed it: one east-bound, running between Saigon and Lai Thieu; and the other heading west from Saigon to Cho Lon.
In the early decades of the last century, the surrounding area so deserted and quite that traders and merchants in the market could hear the inter-provincial trains' whistles as they approached the Hoa Hung Station.

The trains invariably carried goods from many provinces on the central coast, among them Phan Thiet and Phan Rang.
Over nearly a century of development, the market has been the most prosperous commercial centre of Saigon and all southern provinces. Even now, it is a place where one can find the best f items that the country produces or imports. It is place where one is advised to go for whatever item is needed, especially those that are not to be found elsewhere.
In 1985, the market underwent a major renovation, which expanded it and gave it a fresher look. There have been two features that planners will be loath to change: the market gates on the four sides; and the famous clock on the southern gate, the main entrance of the market, that is a landmark symbol of HCM City.
After yielding most of its area to the treasury office first and the Banking Institute later, the Old Ben Thanh Market is now popular as old Market in Ton That Dam, mainly selling canned goods, drinks, toiletries and fresh foodstuff.


vietnam restaurantHo Chi Minh 
Vietnam is famous especially within Asia for its excellent cuisine. With both Asian influences, and also French, they have melanged together to create some excellent dishes and some wonderful restaurants in the process. This guide of restaurants will help you choose where to wine and dine whilst in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. There definitely is no need to limit your experience to the hotel restaurant, and you would be missing out on all the fun if you did.

Fourchette can be found 9 Ngo Duc Ke, right in the heart of the city. It is a small French restaurant, with a very French feel to it. The lunch time is extremely busy so it is best to arrive there early especially as they only have about 10 tables. Their food is typically French with specials of the day also on offer. Being so small it can be rather intimate but if you need to feel as if you are almost in a French Bistrot somewhere then this is the place.

Madame Tinh
Madame Tinh recommended by H.L., Madame Tinh is a superb Vietnamese chef. She ran the Vietnamese restaurant at the New World until it closed. She now runs a small little restaurant in the backpacker area with her sisters which has great food. It is simple, but clean and cheap. Her mother was also a chef from the Hue area. You will love it. It is always full of travellers and so quite fun. It is actually in one of those funny little lanes that runs off Pham Ngu Lau Street. As you enter Pham Ngu Lau Street it is the second little left lane about 20 metres down on your right side. She also has an email address and runs cooking classes - ngoctinh@yahoo.com The address is 40/29 Bui Vien Street, District 1, Tel: 836 7225

Vasco's under Camargue Restaurant: 16 Cao Ba Quat St, D1, HCMC - Hosts Alexander and Thy. Groovy bar with cool music, board games, pool tables, garden area and live music on selected nights from about 11pm until late. Good light meals menu too. Complimentary BBQ in the garden on nights that the band plays.

Still a good spot for tourists as the French colonial style open air villa is such a lovely spot in the heart of the city. International menu with French feel, reasonable wine list.

La Bocca
Newish small restaurant in Nguyen Thiep St, D1 which runs between Nguyen Hue & Dong Khoi Streets. Modern interior, soft lighting. Supposedly Italian cuisine but the chef is French so it is a bit of a mix.

Globo also in Nguyen Thiep across the road from La Bocca. Used to be a funky French wine bar, but has been taken over by new management and changed into a restaurant. Their big plus is a great pizza oven. The chef is Italian (used to work for the well known Italian restaurant called Sandro's which is now called Pendalasco's).

Sheridan's corner of Le Thanh Ton St & Thi Sach St, D1. Great little Irish pub run by Michael Forsyth, the GM of Riverside Apartments. Great Irish food, home baked breads, home made sausages, etc - good hearty feel good food.

Sakura Japanese Restaurant 
Mac Thi Bui St, D1 - Pricey by Vietnam standards but good food. Upstairs has private tatami rooms.

Hai Ba Trung St, D1 near corner of Le Loi St. Japanese tavern style restaurant. A good little spot for inexpensive Japanese meals served at a little bar counter.

Le Bordeaux
Fabulous upmarket French restaurant near the big round about (circle of death !) as you head out of the city towards An Phu District. Cannot remember the address and in any case it is hidden away so someone would need to explain to a cab driver the directions. Hotel staff could do this. It is usually listed in the weekly Time Out magazine restaurant guide. Hosts Bruno and Jean Yves are great. They have fresh foi gras flown in from Paris, superb wines, bucket loads of fresh roses and a very romantic atmosphere. Very few tourists would know about this place. Bookings recommended.

Bi Bi's
Thi Sach St, D1 - run by the flamboyant Bi Bi who is known for his wonderful assortment of colourful espadrilles. Serves great French Mediterranean Cuisine. Complimentary couscous salad is served when you arrive with crusty bread. he also has mussels and oysters flown in from France occasionally, makes great fillet for a group of people.

Dong Du St, D1 - fabulous French deli that sells cheese and cold cuts with a small restaurant attached. Open for lunch and dinner. Great baguettes for take out or eat in if you can find a seat amongst the French expat lunchtime crowd. Great creme caramel.

Restaurant 13
13 Ngo Duc Ke St, D1 - a bit touristy but one of my favourites. Serves classic Vietnamese food that is a step up from street food, but still cheap and tasty. They cater to foreigners by serving chicken with no skin, no bones, etc. Extensive menu with some strange translations like Fried Fallopian tubes. Head waiter is a charming older man who speaks French to all foreigners. Even serve house Bordeaux by the glass! Best dishes are Lemongrass Chicken, Deep Fried Squid with Plum Sauce (read Crusty Squid), Caramel Claypot Pork, Thai Style Soup and Water Spinach with Garlic.

Coffee Shop at Caravelle Hotel 
Coffee Shop at Caravelle Hotel great buffet especially the Sunday Brunch and Friday Seafood Lunch.

Asian Reflections, 3rd Floor, Caravelle Hotel - fab restaurant where Exec Chef from Australia, ex-Macau Bella Vista (which was one of the leading boutique hotels in Asia famous for its food until it turned itself into the Portuguese Ambassadors home-previously Mandarin Hotel Group) shows his flair with East meets West cuisine. Menu features exciting dishes from all over Asia served with flair and style. Expect unusual platters and artistic presentation, plus yummy tastes.

Dynasty Restaurant
New World Hotel Saigon - Le Lai St, D1 - still one of the best Chinese restaurants in town. Serves great dim sum for lunch and Sunday brunch.

Sapa Restaurant 
Thai Van Lung St, D1 - unsophisticated cafe style place which is great for Sunday cooked breakfast - cheap and cheerful - try for the table on the upstairs balcony.

Chao Thai
Thai Van Lung St, D1- beautiful decor and fabulous food from your hosts Simon and Cherry Millard. Cherry is Thai and personally supervises the cooking. Nice little pre-dinner drinks bar at entrance.

Why Not?
Thai Van Lung St, D1 - lovely small French restaurant upstairs. Pleasant decor and good priced set menus. Yummy desserts - try the sinful chocolate terrine. Your host Ms Thu Anh is delightful.

Indian Heritage
Corner of Le Thanh Ton & Thai Van Lung St, D1 - Yummy Indian food. Also serve a lunch buffet which is good value.

O'Brien's Bar
Hai Ba Trung St, D1 - a pub style spot with courtyard at the rear run by a Frenchman. TV's for sports and great pizza from the oven in the coutryard. Also serve up yummy filled jacket potatoes and hot dogs in baguettes.

The Bodhi Tree
Cheap prices and fresh food, good serving size. 
Also try their local fruit shakes. I liked the Avocado shake and the mango shake.
Many good dishes and all tasting good. Recommended! Vegetarian Spring rolls and the tau foo dishes should not be missed.
Directions: It's just off Pham Ngu Lao street in one of those small arcade types of off streets, near the bank-cum-money changer at the corner. It's past the entrance of Pham Ngu Lao heading towards town


Mocha Cafe
Mocha Cafe is located close to the Notre Dame Cathedral, in central Hanoi. They serve some excellent coffee and have a very wide selection of food. The atmosphere is very relaxed and although without the views of the Champs Elysees this does have a feel of a French cafe, where you go to meet and mingle with friends.

Press Club
A favourite in Hanoi. This club is verry close to the Opera and Metropole hotel. The food is excellent with a choice of three restaurants. They offer good value for money and a very relaxing atmosphere. Our favourite is the library/cigar bar in the evenings, where you can eat and talk whilst sitting on sofas etc. Very nice night out.


Climatic Table - Hanoi & the North
Average Daytime Temperature (oC)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
15 16 19 23 28 30 30 29 27 25 22 17
Average Rainfall (cm)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 2 3 9 20 22 31 32 25 10 4 2

Climatic Table - Ho Chi Minh City & the South
Average Daytime Temperature (oC)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
25 26 28 29 30 28 28 27 27 27 26 26
Average Rainfall (cm)
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1 0 1 4 20 30 29 28 33 27 11 4


What You Should Know

The Vietnamese currency is the Dong (VND) with bank notes ranging from denominations of VND 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, 1,000, 500, 200 and 100. Coins are no longer used. Exchange rate approximately 14050 VND to 1 US$ (Jan 2000).

You can exchange travellers' cheques in Saigon, Hanoi and larger provincial cities at the branch offices of the Vietcom bank and the Vietnamese overseas export company Cosevina. Traveller Cheques issued in US restaurants and shops.
There are money changers in airports and high-end hotels. Credit card acceptance-especially for VISA-is spreading. For cash advances go to ANZ, 11 Me Linh Square, D.1, HCMC, Tel: 829 9319 or ANZ, 14 Le Thai To, Hanoi, Tel: 825 8190.

BusinessHours I
Banks Monday - Friday, 08.00 - 11.30 and 13.00 - 16.00 (Closed on public holidays)
Saturday 08.00 - 11.30 and 13.00 - 15.00 (Closed on public holidays) 
Business Hours II
Government offices and museums open early, around 8am, and close between 4pm and 5pm. Avoid doing business from 11:30am to 2pm, when people are either at lunch or half asleep

220V, 50 Hz using two plugs with variations of flat or round pin 


North of the country: 

Winter from November to April
Summer from May to October

South of the country:

Cold from November to January
Hot from February to April or May
Rainy from May or June to October

Vietnam covers two different climatic zones, in the north it's hard to say what you should have with you, but you should always have a light rain jacket with you especially if you visit in the summer. The hills can become cool in the Highlands and the north if you are up higher than a few hundred metres above ground level.
Cotton clothing or light linen is advised during the summer months and sweater / light coat is advised in winter months. If you are in the north in the winter you will need something warm such as a sweater or warm jacket. It always seems to be raining somewhere in Vietnam, so light rain gear is advisable.

Vaccinations are advised due to hepatitis, malaria, rabies, typhoid, tuberculosis, dengue fever and a minor risk (especially to pregnant women) of dioxins found in the defoliant Agent Orange

Hotels and private hosts must register your presence with the police. You'll be expected to hand over your passport, along with your visa number.

There is a wide range of accommodation available, at least in Vietnam's major cities. Some cheaper guesthouses are not licensed to accept foreigners, but budget travelers should be able to find rooms for under US$10. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offer a choice of five-star hotels.

Heavy taxation makes the export of antiques less attractive than a few years ago, if you are interested in antiques make sure you have a talk with the owner of the antique shop, because quite often not everything that they have is on display. Prices are in U.S. Dollars and make sure you bargain. Clothing is cheap and tailors are great at reproducing any article of clothing you require.

Public Holidays 
· 1 January - Solar New Year's Day 
· Vietnamese Traditional Lunar New Year's Festival or Tet Holidays. This is a 4-day holiday and is the last day of the Lunar year and,of course, the first three days of the next. Tet is normally sometime at the end of January or the beginning of February of the Solar Calendar. 
· 30 April - Anniversary of Saigon's Liberation Day 
· 1 May - International Labor Day 
· 2 September - National Day of Vietnam. 

International phone charges are steep in Vietnam and many hotels, especially up-market ones, add extra fees. Check the rates. Faxes can be sent from hotels, business centers and post offices. Again, rates vary. To rent a mobile phone call 821-8465 in Hanoi and 824-2382 in Ho Chi Minh City.

All Rights Reserved by Orient Tours | Copyright © 2003-2013 Orient Tours