Vietnam: The Time is Coming

By | Category: Travel destinations

Kites on Phan Thiet Beach

On December 8th, the first Vietnam Airlines direct flight from Hanoi will land at Gatwick airport. The UK will be the 14th country served by Vietnam Airlines, and Gatwick will be its 27th destination abroad. This will be the first ever direct flight linking the UK and Vietnam.
Flying four times a week, two to Hanoi and two to Ho Chi Minh City, the plan is that this will rise to seven flights a week by 2014. The non-stop flights in Boeing 777’s will be timed to offer convenient onward connections within Vietnam, Indo-China and the sub-Mekong region. Vietnam Airlines’ route network covers 20 cities in Vietnam and offers easy connections to the main tourist places such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and many others, including Siem Reap in Cambodia which is the main airport for the fabulous Angkor Temples, the UNESCO listed heritage site.
Last year about 90,000 passengers flew between the U.K. and Vietnam an increase of 28 per cent over the previous year and with direct flights this can only grow. Not only will Britons have an easier way of exploring this increasingly important tourist destination, it is estimated that many of the estimated 40,000 Vietnamese people living in the UK will take avantage of this direct flight to visit their native country or to invite relatives and friends to visit us. On top of that about 7,000 students study here. And due to the increasing number of British investors looking to do business in Viet Nam, both governments see opportunity for growth.
But for us holidaymakers looking for an amazing holiday destination, Viet Nam is now really closer and offers wide range of possibilities as you might remember from previous stories in CD-Traveller about Vietnam. In the north, the quiet city of Hanoi with its lakes and temples, is quite close to the wonders of Along Bay. A cruise on an old wooden boat is something so romantic, and should be done at least once in everyone’s lifetime. For those looking to something more adventurous, a three day visit to the tribes north of Hanoi would give them more souvenirs than they can imagine.

cruise boats in Along Bay

In Central Viet Nam, two places not to be missed are Hue and Hoi Nan. Hue, the former royal capital with its forbidden city along the Perfumes River, is a mixture of ancient times and the French colonial period. Hoi An, on the sea, is a very old small town which has kept alive the spirit of peaceful, Vietnamese life. It makes you wonder whether it has changed at all since the first European visitors arrived two centuries ago. The crowded market, the scenery of small boats loading and unloading goods on the riverside, the smell of burning incense in temples are unforgettable.
Then the southern part of Vietnam should begin with a visit of Ho Chi Minh City, still called Saigon, which is a huge lively city. Trying to cross any street when being faced with, seemingly, thousands of bicycles and motorbikes heading straight for you is something you will never forget! Many monuments dating back up to one hundred years and belonging to the French period can be found around the former Catinat Street. This was the location for” The Quiet American” the famous novel written by Graham Greene when he was staying in Saigon in the early years 1950’s and subsequently filmed. From Ho Chi Minh City, a one or two day excursion lets you visit the famous Mekong Delta with its maze of thousands of islands and canals all bordered by luxuriant, green, tropical jungles. And to wrap up your holiday why not finish with a lazy stay at the best beaches in Vietnam, Na Trang or Phan Thiet.

a street in Hoi Han

Tour operators will be looking at the flights very seriously as they consider expanding their packages to include this area for the first time. French, Australians, New Zealanders and those from South East Asia have been visiting Vietnam in ever-increasing numbers over the last decade. Now we have an easier way of visiting there. And now we can taste authentic Vietnamese food in Vietnam as well.

words and images © Frederic Mouren de Poligny

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