Monthly Archives: March 2017
Vietnam’s two major cities of Hanoi in the north – the country’s capital – and Ho Chi Minh City in the south – the bustling commercial centre – offer fascinating blends of East and West, each with its own character and charm and plenty of attractions to see and things to do. Thai Airways International flies direct to both cities from Bangkok.
‘Fly Smart with THAI’ promotional air fares are currently available from Thai Airways International to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, which are valid for ticketing until 15 March 2017 and on which travel departure must be made by 31 March 2017. For travel from Bangkok, the roundtrip fare to either city is priced from THB 6,045 Economy/THB 17,545 Business class per person.
The two Vietnamese destinations are among nearly 60 destinations worldwide in Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East on offer in the Thai national flag carrier’s ‘Fly Smart with THAI’ fare promotion.
The airline’s Bangkok to Hanoi and Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City flights can be booked online at thaiairways.com, the same as can be flights throughout the global route network of THAI that comprises more than 60 points in Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. This includes, for example, flights from Bangkok to London, direct flights from Thailand to Australia and flights from Frankfurt to Bangkok. Domestic flights within Thailand can also be booked.
Visitors to the thaiairways.com website can also search for great deals on flights to Thailand, book hotel and resort accommodation worldwide, purchase travel insurance and if they aren’t yet a member they can join THAI’s customer loyalty program Royal Orchid Plus. Holiday product from Royal Orchid Holidays is also on show.
Located in the Red River Delta in the center of North Vietnam, Hanoi is an enchanting city of centuries-old architecture, fascinating museums, monuments, cafes, restaurants and discos and one that boasts a rich culture of Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences. It is also a rather scenic city, resplendent in its broad boulevards, French-inspired buildings, lakes and parks.
The city’s busy Old Quarter packed with colonial architecture, Buddhist temples and pagodas is particularly fascinating, with its many small, old-style meandering streets each named for the goods that were traded on it such as medicines, jewelry fans and copper. Some of the 36 streets here still offer the one single commodity. Exploring this area on foot is highly recommended.
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is a must-see in Hanoi. Situated on Ba Dinh Square, this large Soviet-style memorial building houses the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh the nation’s revered leader. The body lies in a glass case and the mausoleum is normally open daily to the public, although it does occasionally close for preservation work to be carried out on the body.
The Temple of Literature is a short walk from Ba Dinh Square, a charming temple complex that was originally built in 1070 as a center of learning dedicated to Confucius. Today featuring ornate pavilions, shrines and a garden, this is a place of study rather than a religious landmark and is steeped in Vietnamese history.
In the heart of the French Quarter is Hanoi Opera House, arguably one of the city’s most elegant buildings. Built in 1911 and modelled after the Paris Opera House, this landmark hosts various events from Vietnamese opera and dance to ballet to international concerts.
Popular during the day as a hangout spot for locals and tourists is HoanKiem Lake, with Ngoc Son Temple sitting on a small island at its center. A picturesque scene this is for taking photos, while at sunrise and sunset the area attracts joggers, couples and the elderly to practice tai chi.
The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long next to Ba Dinh Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, reflecting its historical and cultural significance. This site was the political center of Vietnam for many centuries, and many artefacts and items from the ages have been excavated here which can be seen on display.
Other attractions in Hanoi include the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology which is widely considered to be the finest modern museum in the country and houses artefacts found throughout Vietnam some of which date back thousands of years; St. Joseph’s Cathedral the oldest church in Hanoi and one of the first structures built by the French colonial government in Indochina when it opened in the late 19th Century; and what remains today of Hoa Lo prison – also known as the Hanoi Hilton – offering a somewhat somber look into the days when the prison was used by the French and later by the North Vietnamese.
The beautiful Ha Long Bay, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is around 160 km from Hanoi and a three to four hour drive. Located in QuangNinh Province, the bay is famous for its stunning limestone karsts, caves and grottoes.
Ho Chi Minh City, 1,760 km to the south of Hanoi, is the larger of the two cities and is the country’s business and financial hub. Also commonly known as Saigon or by the abbreviation HCMC, it offers culture, architecture of Vietnamese, Chinese and European influences and skyscrapers alongside intricate temples and pagodas and shopping malls. It is also a city of rivers and canals and historical landmarks.
One of the most revered of Ho Chi Minh City’s temples is the Jade Emperor Pagoda. Originally built in 1909 by Chinese immigrants, this features intricate architecture and statues of gods and goddesses while incense smoke in the air adds to the scene.
In the center of what is Vietnam’s largest Chinatown district is BinhTayMarket, which was built by the French in the 1880s. Also known as Cholon Chinatown Market, this market is great for experiencing the local lifestyle and for trying some Vietnamese-Chinese delicacies.
A remaining center of Catholicism in largely Buddhist Vietnam is Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral. Built in the late 1880s by French colonists, the cathedral’s distinctive neo-Romanesque features include its red brick façade, stained glass windows and two bell towers.
Another wonderful example of French colonial architecture is the Central Post Office. Opened in 1891 and impressively preserved today, the building remains the city’s main post office. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel, who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and features looping arches, marble floors and antiquated telephone boxes.
The iconic Reunification Palace was the center of the allied command and where the North Vietnamese claimed victory as a tank belonging to its army crashed through the gates in 1975, signifying the end of the Vietnam War. This major landmark offers the visitor secret rooms, grand reception halls, a command bunker and tanks from the capture of the palace parked on the grounds.
The War Remnants Museum is a sobering museum that focuses on the conflict between Vietnam and America, serving to deliver a shocking reminder of this war. Outside there are well preserved tanks, planes and other war machines and inside, photographs, exhibits and other written documentation are on display. It should be noted that while children are allowed to enter the museum, it is not really suitable for them.
Seventy km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City are the Cu Chi Tunnels, where visitors can get a glimpse into the underground life of Vietnamese soldiers. There is a guided tour of mock recreations of the daily life of Viet Cong hiding in the jungle, burnt out tanks to take photos with and the chance to crawl through a small section of the tunnels which have been reinforced.
For fantastic views of Ho Chi Minh City, BitexcoFinancial Tower & Sky Deck is the place to head to. Rising 262 m above the business district, this 68-storey building is the highest in Vietnam and boasts panoramic 360 degree views of the city and surrounding area, while the sky bar is a great spot to enjoy a drink.
If there is a place in Indonesia that you must come to visit, it would be komodo island. The land houses the rare reptile komodo, which lends the island its namesake. The island itself is part of the East Nusa Tenggara Province and it is in this island that you can find the Komodo National Park. The Park was made UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in 1986 for its function to preserve the unique living relic that is the komodo. The part is so large it comprises three islands in its area: Padar, Rinca, and the Komodo Island. Plus other innumerable islands of tinier sizes, the Park occupies 603 square km of land in total and is home to around 2,500 komodos.
Komodo can grow averagely up to 3 meters in length and 90 kg in weight. In normal days, they would roam the vastness of savannas and rain forests but at times they can be seen to live at beaches and corals next to blue seas. Especially on Rinca Island, it is common to see a herd of komodos resting just outside national park rangers’ houses. Even when you cannot see a komodo around, you will find it fascinating to encounter sceneries of blue seawater, savannas, mangroves, and beaches.
Diving and snorkeling can also serve as a fun pastime, which are available by taking part in cruise ship or a boat of a fisherman. Recommended diving points include Tatawa, Batu Bolong, and Merah Beach. Many divers state that Komodo Island is arguably one of the most recommended spots in the world to enjoy such activity. The Island’s oceanic zone is home to many species. As much as 385 types of corals live underwater, as do 70 sponge species, 10 dolphin species, 6 whale species, green turtles, varieties of sharks, as well as some stingrays. Komodo Island itself was at a point included as one of the contenders for Seven Natural Wonders of the World, mainly due to its ability to preserve the life of Komodo Dragons and its unique combination of different biotic communities. In order for you to be able to see this rare species of reptile, you need to go by feet. Their natural habitat makes it necessary to climb up a mountain or go trekking for hours. While that may sound like exhausting, that is the price you need to pay for before witnessing the dragons at large doing their things.