Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon)
Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, and considered a thriving metropolis. As a result, the bustling city is also a coffee lover's paradise, with different varieties of the brew sold throughout the city. While the city is known throughout the world as Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), it may also still be called by its former name, Saigon, in some areas.
Best Time To Visit Visit HCMC from December through March, when the temperature is around 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
You Should Know Coffee is so well-loved in the city that it comes in different thicknesses and may be served with condensed milk or consumed cold. Sometimes, the ca phe de (or coffee) is so thick that it can be scooped with a spoon instead of sipped. The main religions in the HCMC include Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Mahayana. As a result, Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism may be practiced in the same temple. About 10% of the population are Catholics. Famous Buddhist temples in the city include the Jade Emperor Pagoda Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, and the Tam Son Hoi Quan Pagoda.
Cu Chi Tunnels
The Cu Chi Tunnels sit outside of HCMC. The tunnel site, which 200K long, was designed for use during times of war, and is a must-see attraction. Currently, the site is part of a war remnants museum, and provides an up-close insight into the use of the tunneling during times of conflict.
Best Time To Visit This attraction is open during the rainy season in Vietnam, or from May through November. Don't worry about flooding inside the tunnels. However, you will get a little muddy. Enter during the early morning hours when you have more time to explore.
You Should Know The tunnels are open during the Vietnamese Lunar New Year of Tet, which takes place in late January or early February. Don't enter the tunnels if you suffer from claustrophobia or have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
As soon, as you enter My Tho (pronounced mee-toh), you will notice the air becomes cooler, and your cruise settles into a more peaceful pace. My Tho, which is the capital city of the province of Tien Giang, provides an introduction to the Mekong Delta and Vietnam's "rice basket." The city was founded by the Chinese and therefore is home to a diverse population of Chinese, Khmer, and Vietnamese people.
Best Time To Visit The best time to see the Mekong Delta and My Tho is during the dry season, which runs from November through April or May. Avoid June and July, which are especially soggy.
You Should Know The My Tho waterfront, on the Tien River (the upper tributary of the Mekong Delta), features a promenade in the city's center – a great place to view the sunset and catch the cool evening breeze. Drop in at one of the drink stalls or cafes in My Tho, or drop in at the rooftop bar in the Minh Quan Hotel. The Dong Tam Snake Farm is close to the city center. One of the largest suppliers of anti-venom snakes in Vietnam, the farm is run by the country's military for medicinal research. Visit the farm and get a close look at pythons and green tree snakes as well as ostriches, bears, and a large albino turtle.
Cai Bei Village
You will feel warmly welcomed at this point in your journey, as you see life along the Delta as the locals live it. Passing rice paddies, farms, and stilted houses, you will also witness floating markets where vendors feature items and foods unique to the area. The next stop takes you to local workshops where you can see how area products are crafted or made.
Best Time To Visit Plan to visit Cai Bei Village during the drier time of year, or from November or April.
You Should Know Choose a river cruise company, such as Viking, which offers this stop on its itinerary, as you should have a guided tour to get the most out of the experience. When you visit a cottage industry or workshop, you can sample, what is being made, such as rice popcorn or a coconut confection. You can also observe the process of making products, such as snake wine or rice paper.
Sa Dec provides a quiet reprieve with its tree-lined streets and historic colonial villas. The city is a popular place to admire flowers or to see the fruit trees in bloom. Make sure you see this town in the drier season (November through April), so you can view the sites with less threat of rain.
Best Time To Visit As noted, it is best to visit Sa Dec when you can enjoy the tree-lined streets, from November through April. At this time, the hot temperatures are not so hot, and average around 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
You Should Know Some cruise lines feature bicycles you can use to navigate winding trails and shaded streets in Sa Dec and other towns. Take advantage of cycling, if you are able when visiting this peaceful town. Flower nurseries are popular in Sa Dec. See a large array of flowers being loaded into boats just before Tet (the Lunar New Year) if you happen to visit during this time. The main attraction is Sa Dec is the Huynh Thuy Le Old House, an 1895 riverfront home, and the setting for director Jean-Jacques Annaud's film, The Lover. Nearby Tram Chim National Park is home to red-necked cranes.
If you want to know more about silk-making in Vietnam, you want to add Tan Chau village to your river cruise itinerary. Doing so will enrich your knowledge about the stages involved in making silk by hand.
Best Time To Visit Take a river cruise during the dry season of November to April to fully appreciate the landscape and the various sites.
You Should Know It can be difficult to find a silk-making manufacturer on your own. That is why it is better to sign up for a river cruise that features Tan Chau and a visit to a silk maker on its travel itinerary. To see the sights of Tan Chau, you might want to take a Xe Loi (Rickshaw) – one of the popular ways to get around town.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Many Vietnam river cruises also include Phnom Penh, Cambodia on their river cruise schedules. You will also want to see this one-of-a-kind city. The capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh sits at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. The city served as a hub for both French colonists and the Khmer Empire.
Best Time To Visit The best time to travel to Phnom Penh is between November and April when the skies are blue and there is less chance of rain. Temperatures along the country's southern coast average about 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the year.
You Should Know The walk-friendly riverfront of the city features bars, restaurants, and parks. See the Royal Palace, the National Museum, and Silver Pagoda – all of which present displays unique to Cambodia. Art Deco lovers will cherish the Central Market, which shows off the prevailing 1920's and 1930's art style with flair and creativity.
No trip to Vietnam is not complete without a visit to Hanoi, or the capital of Vietnam. This traditional Vietnamese city is known for its rich culture and history, which is comprised of French, Chinese, and Southeast Asian influences.
Best Time To Visit The best time to Hanoi is around September to November or from March to April. During this time, the temperature and weather is milder.
You Should Know The Hanoi Old Town quarter gives you a good introduction to vendor shopping in Hanoi. You can buy Buddhist religious trappings and traditional medicines. St. Joseph's Cathedral on Nha Tho Street is an example of a structure built during the time of French Colonial rule. Because the main entrance is only opened for mass, you must enter the church through the back by going through the Diocese of Hanoi offices.The Ngoc Son Temple is located on an island on the lake, and can be reached by a red bridge. It commemorates three major figures of Vietnamese history – La To (the revered patron saint of doctors); Van Xuong (a renowned scholar); and Tran Hung Dao (a 13th-century general who battled invading Mongols
To kick off your Vietnamese river adventure, you'll likely fly into one of the country's main hubs, like Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. These bustling metropolises are not just gateways to Vietnam's river networks; they're also where your cruise might start. From the airport, you can take a short ride to the city's port, where the cruise ships dock. These ports are well-equipped, making it easy for international and local cruise lines to whisk you away. If you're starting from a smaller town, a transfer will get you from the airport to your boat. Either way, the journey to the ship is part of the adventure, offering glimpses of city life or the countryside before you even step on board. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to sail into the heart of Vietnam.
Immerse Yourself in the Culture of Vietnam
Vietnam's culture is a vibrant mix of traditions, customs, and festivals. Respect is a cornerstone here, with greetings typically done with a bow or a nod. Take off your shoes when entering someone's home or a temple as a sign of respect. You'll find the country is a calendar full of festivals – from the colorful Tet Nguyen Dan (Lunar New Year), where streets burst with decorations and joy, to the Mid-Autumn Festival with its lanterns and mooncakes. These celebrations are the pulse of Vietnam's culture, offering a glimpse into the soul of the country. Joining in, even as a spectator, is a memorable way to connect with the local way of life. Watch as stories and traditions are told through music, dance, and theatrical performances, giving you a deeper understanding of this rich and enduring culture.
Experience the Flavors of Vietnam on a River Cruise
Vietnam's food is a highlight reel of flavors, and a river cruise brings these to your plate with ease. The cuisine here is all about fresh ingredients, with dishes like pho, a noodle soup that's both breakfast and comfort food, and banh mi, a crunchy baguette stuffed with a variety of fillings, showing off local tastes. Don't miss the chance to try spring rolls, both fresh and fried, packed with shrimp, pork, and herbs.
For a truly local experience, eat where the locals eat. Street vendors and floating market stalls offer some of the most authentic tastes. Imagine sipping a strong Vietnamese coffee as the river life bustles by or sampling tropical fruits straight from the boat that harvested them.
And it's not just about what you eat, but how you eat. Many cruises offer cooking classes where you can learn to balance the sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors that make Vietnamese cuisine so distinctive. A river cruise isn't just a journey through Vietnam; it's a journey through its kitchens and cafes, its recipes and rituals, all of which are as integral to the adventure as the scenery you sail through.
Why Book a River Cruise in Vietnam?
Booking a river cruise in Vietnam is like getting a backstage pass to some of the most authentic parts of the country. You're not just buying a journey; you're securing an all-in-one ticket to explore, eat, and experience Vietnam from a perspective that land travelers don't get. It's value for money because your transport, accommodation, and entertainment come bundled together, often with meals and tours included. There's no need to puzzle over maps or haggle with local transport; your floating hotel takes you from one highlight to the next, hassle-free.
On a river cruise, you glide past scenes of everyday life and landscapes that are typically out of reach, offering unique coastal views that you can't get from a bus or a train window. Some spots along the rivers are almost exclusive to those traveling by water, giving you a peek into the quieter, more untouched parts of Vietnam. Plus, many cruises offer exclusive activities like early morning market tours, cooking classes with local chefs, and visits to remote temples, all of which would be challenging to arrange on your own. In short, a river cruise in Vietnam isn't just a trip—it's a comprehensive cultural immersion wrapped up in an experience that's as convenient as it is captivating.
Ready to Book Your Vietnam River Cruise?
You're not just passing through; you're part of the vibrant life along the banks. From the hustle of the floating markets to the serenity of ancient temples, each day presents a new chapter in your Vietnamese story. So, if you're looking for a holiday that combines relaxation with cultural exploration, a river cruise in Vietnam should be at the top of your list. Booking your trip is the first step on an unforgettable journey where every turn of the river reveals something wonderful.
Don't just hear about Vietnam's magic from stories; sail its rivers and become part of the story yourself.