• Posted: 20th January 2019
  • Author: Alison Sadler

Exploring Vietnam 

Vietnam: a country with a strong sense of national identity, possessing a unique cultural heritage. Fascinating history, gorgeous landscapes, tasty food and vibrant energy. People who are characterised by their cool and calm manner, welcoming foreign travellers with open arms and always a warm smile.

I was recently lucky enough to be invited by Wendy Wu Tours to experience this incredible country.

Here’s a journal of my travels.


Day 1: Ho Chi Min, Saigon

After a 11hour 40-minute flight from London Heathrow we touched down in Ho Chi Min, the Southern Capital, formerly Saigon. Ho Chi Min is the most populated city with over 13 million inhabitants and 3 million motorbikes. The city has now recovered from the Vietnam Wars and today is a popular tourist destination due its fascinating culture, classic French architecture and sleek skyscrapers as well as ornate temples and pagodas.

After a quick change we headed out to visit the Ho Thi Ky Flower Market, which supplies fresh flowers from the Mekong Delta. We also experienced our first traditional Vietnamese coffee in the square where the locals bring their birds in ornate cages, so others can enjoy their coffee whilst watching and listening to the colourful songbirds. The bird cages are hung on the pagoda in the centre for prime viewing, while we were sampling sweet Vietnamese coffee.

Once we were refreshed and relaxed, we headed to the Museum of Traditional Medicine to see herbs that have been used curatively for centuries. We enjoyed lunch in town and then returned to our hotel for another change before heading to the famous Caravelle Hotel to enjoy a cocktail on the rooftop bar with views over the city.


Day 2: Saigon River and The Cu Chi Tunnels

An early start took us to the city pier where we boarded a speed boat and ventured out onto the Saigon River which flows from Cambodia through South Vietnam before merging into the South China Sea close to the Mekong Delta.  Our journey meandered up stream and we were fascinated by the everyday life that the waterfront offers and after 90 minutes we reached the district of Cu Chi, the site of the infamous and incredible Cu Chi Tunnels.

Fact: The 124 miles of cramped tunnels were central to several of the Vietnam War’s strategic operations, including the critical 1968 Tet Offensive. They did not escape damage – American B52 bombers dropped hundreds of bombs, leaving huge tell-tale craters behind.

The Cu Chi experience was incredible, to see how resourceful the Vietnamese were, and offering a fascinating insight into how the tunnels protected many Vietnamese from the horrors of war and maybe even saved lives. I was offered the chance to descend into one of the tunnels.

Traveller Tip: This is not for everyone but offered a real experience and is a must see!

We then headed to the Independence Palace (also known as the Reunification Palace) and Saigon Central Post Office and the Vietnam Military History Museum, which gives an account of the Vietnam War in pictures, taken by various photo-journalists at the time. This can be uncomfortable and upsetting viewing as the images were taken in the heat of war. This may make some people feel uneasy but there are also interesting facts and statistics and a real message about the futility of war. It has four floors of the most incredible pictures, and outside you can go into the prison and view old aircraft and tanks. It is definitely worth a visit.

Later in the evening we headed to one of the infamous beer-tasting tap rooms where you can taste up to six different varieties. Choose your favourite and then relax and savour your beer of choice


Day 3: Mekong Delta

Today we transferred to the picturesque coastal province of Ben Tre, situated on the mighty Mekong Delta, stopping on the way for a rickshaw ride around the lush rice paddies.

Fact: The Mekong is the 10th longest river in the world. The Mekong Delta rice fields produces enough rice to supply the whole of Vietnam with a little left for trading!!

We were welcomed with a traditional Vietnamese Sand Pan hats and then boarded the charming Mango Cruise to begin exploring the incredible Mekong waterways experiencing many local traditional industries, the brick factory and coconut processing factory – this area is known as coconut country and who knew there were so many elements to a coconut and not a shred is left.

We took bikes from the back of the river boat to enjoy cycling through the mango farms and enjoy a welcome drink of honey and lemon tea. This was a highlight for me – cycling alongside the mango trees, waving at locals and enjoying the stunning scenery.

After a light lunch we headed for our internal flight to Hue.

Traveller Tip: Anyone concerned with internal flights need not be – the check-in process was so quick and stress-free, and the airports are modern and comfortable.


Day 4: Hue

This morning we visited the Imperial City and the Purple Forbidden City, which is still being restored many years after the destruction caused by street fighting and bombings during the Vietnam War.

We then transferred to Thuy Bieu Village, a quiet retreat in the suburbs, and took a leisurely stroll around the village, visiting an old communal house, passing by several ancestral temples with the chance to interact with local people

Lunch was home-hosted at the ancient house of a local family a chance to get immersed with local life.

Afterwards we drove over Hai Van Pass to Hoi An and stopped in Cam Thanh to take a cruise on the Thu Bon River. As the sun set, we arrived in Hoi An and were taken straight to a riverside restaurant to enjoy dinner before continuing to our hotel.


Day 5: Hoi An (my favourite!)

This was my personal favourite – I loved everything about this coastal resort. You felt like you had stepped back in time but with a real resort and holiday feel, a slower pace of life and much less traffic compared to the cities.

It is truly beautiful and well-known for holding the Hoi An Lantern Full Moon Festival, which takes place every moon cycle. Lanterns hang everywhere and are a marvel to behold, especially at night when they are lit up to spectacular effect. We headed out by boat to a colourful central market to experience the amazing sights, sounds and aromas, and then took a tour around the market and haggled with local sellers.

We then enjoyed tea and coffee at the inspirational Reaching Out Teahouse, which is run by the deaf. You are given a menu and board with words so you can place your order and say please and thank you. It was a pleasure to relax in such amazing surroundings. I sampled a tasting board of 3 varieties so I could savour every second of this pure delight.

Later, we headed out to the MS VY”s Deli and Kitchen a cookery demonstration school and got to cook a traditional Vietnamese lunch. I even got to keep the menu so I can try and replicate this incredible experience on my return home!


Day 6: Honoi 

After breakfast we transferred to the airport to fly to Hanoi the capitol city of Vietnam since 1945 when independence was declared on 2nd of September.  Ho Ci Min became the first president and stood till his death in 1969 at the age of 74.

On arrival we visited the serene Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first national university. We next visited Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, followed by the One Pillar Pagoda, a historic Buddhist temple built atop a single stone column. Afterwards we got to experience an exhilarating cycle ride (a three-wheeled bicycle taxi) through Hanoi’s Old Quarter, an exhilarating experience, meandering through a crazy busy city where local sellers spill out onto every street.


Day 7: Halong Bay and 5* Bhaya Cruises Junk Boat

Halong Bay, the iconic natural wonder that adorns the front of almost every brochure selling Vietnam – this is one of my personal bucket list destinations.

As we boarded 5* Bhaya Cruises junk boat, we were welcomed with fresh cold towels and a welcome drink, then we were shown to our cabin where our luggage was already waiting outside our door. The cabin was quaint and beautifully decorated and even had a small balcony. There were numerous activities to enjoy such as kayaking on the bay, swimming, fishing and even a sunrise tai chi lesson on-board the top deck.

Nothing could have prepared me for the incredible sight before me, the sheer expanse and beauty of these amazing rock formations.

After a light lunch on board we took a small boat and went up close and personal to one of these incredible caves. It was simply a joy to walk through, with many jaw-dropping ‘wow’ moments.

We then headed back to our Bhaya cruise to enjoy happy hour and the sights of this incredible natural wonder, with a cocktail and taking as many photos as possible, not wanting to miss a moment. A perfect end to my journey through Vietnam.

So, if you have ever wanted to visit Vietnam, now is the time to go. I was surprised with the level of interest, how it is still not as touristy as other parts of Asia and how it’s kept its charm. I felt like one of the lucky few who have managed to view this amazing country.


In order to curate the best possible holiday experience that meets your exact personal requirements call us, email us or visit us in person.

Il Mondo Travel
2C 131 Chatsworth Road S40 2AP
01246 588653




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