Vietnam is a country that I have been wanting to visit for a long time, especially as I adore Vietnamese food and I’d heard so many great things about it.  The first proper stop on our trip was to the ancient riverside town of Hoi An.  We had caught a flight from Ho Chi Minh airport to Da Nang (Vietnam’s third-largest city) which is in close proximity to Hoi An.  I would recommend spending a day exploring Hoi An, as there’s plenty to see. 

Hoi An

Once darkness descends, Hoi An really comes to life.  Its bustling night market comes into full swing and the spectrum of silk lanterns light up.  The atmosphere is electric – it really is an incredible travel experience that is not to be missed.

It just so happened that our visit coincided with the full moon, which is considered to be one of the most sacred times of the month.  As a result, the place was looking even more magical than usual.  We noticed that many people were donning áo dài, the traditional Vietnamese dress, with a conical hat to boot.  The outfits are made from silk and embellished with beads and look incredibly elegant.  The streets are lined with vendors selling trinkets and souvenirs that you can bring back from loved ones.  It’s also a fantastic place to take some snaps.

Scores of people were taking to the Thu Bon River on narrow wooden boats and were placing paper lanterns on the water, which is said to bring good luck.

Japanese Bridge

The Japanese Bridge is one of Hoi An’s main focal points.  It was built in the 16th century and was a symbol of camaraderie between the Chinese and Japanese.  Inside there is a Buddhist temple and lots of fascinating information about its history.

Located nearby, the Phung Hung House is also well worth a visit.  It’s one of the town’s most historically significant buildings.  Stepping inside is like stepping back in time – it makes for a fascinating insight into what life was like back then.

Hue

One of the main highlights of our trip to Vietnam was visiting Hue.  It’s a popular destination in Vietnam because of all of its cultural and historical sights, which kept us busy during our time there. 

Hue Citadel

The impressive structure was once home to the emperor and his entourage of concubines.  Much of the Citadel was destroyed during the Vietnam war, however, it has now been largely restored.  I would highly recommend exploring the Citadel if you visit Hue as it’s an incredibly fascinating place.

Dong Ba market

We rounded up our tour with a quick visit to Dong Ba market.  Although they can often be a bit of an assault on the senses, I always enjoy exploring local markets because of all of the weird and wonderful things that there are to see.

Emperor Tombs

Another thing that has really put Hue on the map are the Emperor Tombs.  We visited the Minh Mang, Khai Dinh, Tu Duc and Dong Khanh tombs, which were all incredibly impressive.  

Vinpearl Hotel Hue

We stayed at the Vinpearl Hotel – as the tallest building in Hue, the Vinpearl is a bit of a landmark.  From your room you can enjoy the best views of Hue and beyond.  We were lucky to have a room on the 32nd floor, right at the very top, with wraparound full-length windows.  Admiring the city on-high during different times of the day was something we really enjoyed.

Did I mention there’s also an open-air sky bar at the Vinpearl?  We went on our final night in Hue and it was a real highlight.  We also had a special dinner at the Prime restaurant, which also features panoramic views.  The food was stunning, so it’s worth checking out even if you are not staying at the hotel.

Hanoi

The northernmost stop on our tour of Vietnam was Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city.  I had heard great things about it – from its fascinating history to the fact that it has a diverse array of influences, including Chinese and French.

If I’m honest, the first thing that struck me about Hanoi was the traffic – I found the roads utterly petrifying.  We first ventured out during what we soon learned was rush hour, so we were thrown headlong into the chaos.  It made walking around the city somewhat of an ordeal, at least it was for me.  As someone who hails from a rural Cornish village and even in the UK refuses to cross the road until the green man illuminates, I did feel a little out of my depth.  However, there were scores of foreign tourists (many of whom looked over 50) who seemed to take it in their stride.  So perhaps I’m just a country bumpkin who struggles to navigate such situations.

When it comes to crossing the road, you just have to hope for the best as rules of the road don’t really seem to apply.  Pedestrian crossings are not observed in any meaningful way.  A pamphlet at the hotel we were staying at advised that the secret is to crossing the road is to look confident as you do so and that motorists should stop, although it’s not guaranteed.  Thankfully we did make it out in one piece and lived to tell the tale!

Funnily enough, we initially considered the roads at some of our previous stops to be crazy, such as the non-pedestrianised parts of Hoi An.  I’ve been to a few busy Asian cities but Hanoi was like nothing I’d seen before (I’ve yet to properly explore Saigon so I’m interested to see how that compares).  With 5 million motorbikes on Hanoi’s roads, you see all manner of things being transported, livestock, gas canisters, whole families, the kitchen sink, you name it. 

I know I have wittered on about the city’s traffic and not yet touched on other aspects of intrigue but it is a real feature and in some ways one of the most interesting.  Vietnamese drivers are some of the most skilled that I’ve seen – they make navigating the roads look easy. There are plans to completely phase out the use of motorcycles in the city by 2030 – it’s hard to imagine what Hanoi would be like without the constant sound of revving.  We found that you quickly get used to the omnipresent chaos and get more streetwise to the surroundings.  Following this, I got a better idea about what it is that attracts people from far and wide to this city.  It has a real buzz to it, even late into the night.

Lotte Tower Observation Deck

One of the real highlights of our time in Hanoi was visiting the Observation Deck on the 65th floor of the Lotte Tower.  Throughout my travels, I’ve been to a lot of these sorts of things as I like to get an aerial view of a place and get to know the lay of the land.  However, the Lotte Skydeck was definitely one of the most impressive that I have seen.  It was incredible to see how far Hanoi sprawls out.

Ho Chi Minh

If you are a history lover then there are plenty of attractions that will be of interest to you in Hanoi, including the Hoa Lo Prison Memorial, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Ho Chi Minh museum.  It was utterly fascinating to learn more about Vietnam’s past.  It’s worth noting that many of the museums close for an hour or two during the middle of the day. 

R&J at The Reverie

On our final night in Vietnam, we decided to do something fitting to round-up what had been a truly memorable holiday.  We were back in Saigon, ready to catch out flights home to the UK the next day so we decided to go for dinner at the Romeo and Juliet restaurant at The Reverie.

The Reverie Hotel, known for its stunning interior designs, has several restaurants.  We were in the mood for Italian so we opted for R&J (as it’s also known).  The elaborate dining room sets the mood for a decadent dining experience.  There’s also live jazz which creates a wonderful atmosphere.

One year in Dubai

One year in Dubai

I can hardly believe that it was around a year ago that I took a one way ticket to Dubai to start a new life. In some ways it feels like just yesterday but in others, life before Dubai seems like an eternity ago. When I look back on the year, I almost need to pinch...

Northern Thailand

Northern Thailand

I've seen a fair bit of Thailand – the last time that I visited the country I spent three months exploring the south islands, Bangkok and the provinces surrounding it.  However, I didn’t get a chance to explore the north of the country until my most recent visit. ...

The Visayas – Philippines

The Visayas – Philippines

Although ever-popular, if you are looking for an off-the-beaten-track destination for your travel bucket list then the Philippines is a great option to consider.  I have visited the Philippines around five times - mostly in the form of family holidays as I have some...

SAME Forum – House Of Commons

SAME Forum – House Of Commons

I had the pleasure attending another SAME Forum session, hosted at the House of Commons by friend and chairman Khalid Nadeem, who kindly invited me.  As you enter the House of Commons, you come through St Stephen’s Hall, which is incredibly impressive, with some...

South Island – New Zealand

South Island – New Zealand

New Zealand has been on my ‘travel list’ for as long as I can remember and the incredible natural scenery that I’ve heard so many people waxing lyrical about was the main pull factor for me.  I can definitely say now that the scenery really is as amazing as...

Harrogate – UK

Harrogate – UK

Situated in the heart of Yorkshire, Harrogate is a little gem that offers all of the makings of a wonderful day out.  Because of its modest size, you can make your way around most of what it has to offer in a day, without having to rush.Royal Pump Museum No trip to...

Beer in Belgium

Beer in Belgium

Antwerp If you love beautiful architecture, Antwerp is a place that you should consider putting on your travel list.  Located not too far from Brussels, Antwerp has a sumptuous Baroque style, meaning there are gorgeous sights to admire (and photograph) at every...

York – UK

York – UK

The Medieval city of York has been on my travel list for too long, however, I was recently lucky enough to visit it.  York was just as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be.  Read on to discover it for yourself!York Minster York is a picturesque place and what better way...

Across Poland

Across Poland

Wieliczka Salt Mine During my travels in Poland, what was undoubtedly the standout highlight of the trip was visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine.  Its thee-kilometres of winding corridors take you 135-meters down below ground level.  There are 20 chambers to explore, the...

Lausanne – Switzerland

Lausanne – Switzerland

Located just a stone's throw from the Swiss capital of Geneva, the city of Lausanne is well worth a visit to.  Lausanne has all the makings of an incredible city, with breathtaking scenery, including a stunning backdrop of towering Alps dusted with snow and sprawling...

KLM Headquarters – Netherlands

KLM Headquarters – Netherlands

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to Amsterdam by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.  Myself and some Tech journalists were given unprecedented access to KLM's headquarters at Schiphol Airport to get a behind the scenes insight.  As a bit of a closeted aviation geek,...

Frankfurt – Germany

Frankfurt – Germany

Luxury hospitality brand, Lebua, has made its European debut with its new restaurant, Breeze, located in Frankfurt at the Steigenberger Hotel. Lebua’s portfolio of venues comprises of hotels and restaurants across the globe, including the world-famous Sirocco Sky...

Across Luxembourg

Across Luxembourg

Luxembourg is a country that is nestled between Belgium, France and Germany.  The picturesque capital, Luxembourg City, is a wonderful place to explore.  It is rich with historical intrigue and has gorgeous architecture which draws on a diverse range of...

Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia

Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, is an up-and-coming Asian city that is not to be missed when exploring South East Asia. The city is a melting pot of predominantly Malaysian, Chinese and Indian people, making for a rich and diverse array of culture, heritage and of...

Across Singapore

Across Singapore

Singapore has all the makings of a great cosmopolitan destination - it's exceedingly modern, slick and immaculately clean.  Moreover, there is no shortage of great places to drink, dine and shop.  On a personal level, Singapore is one of my favourite places - here are...

Bangkok – Thailand

Bangkok – Thailand

The dazzlingly opulent Grand Palace is one of Thailand’s top attractions and a must-see if you visit Bangkok.  It's where the former king used to reside and is home to the Emerald Buddha, meaning it's considered to be the most sacred place in the whole country.  The...

Stockholm – Sweden

Stockholm – Sweden

Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is a beautiful Scandinavian city that is sprawled across 14 islands.  There is no shortage of things to see and do in this wonderful city – here are my top 7 recommendations to help inspire your next trip. Stockholm City Hall...

Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona is a vibrant city filled with fantastic places discover and dine. It maintains its Catalonian roots whilst embracing international influence and this is reflected by its food. Pairing socialising with eating is something that is strongly entwined within the...