As your children grow, they will seek independence. In their teens, they may want to go on holiday with friends rather than take a vacation with you. However, there is not a child that would prefer a holiday with friends as opposed to a family vacation to Vietnam. There is a wide range of things to do throughout the Country. It will be an education for everyone from the sights and sounds to history and culture as well as the chance to experience the wonderful natural environment and the people who live there much the same as previous generations have done over the generations.
Tourism numbers in Vietnam are growing year by year and the positive experience that the Country is regularly providing seems certain to ensure that this growth will be sustained. Vietnam is a country with something for everyone, whether single travellers, couples, groups or families. When a family travels together, it is importance to achieve the right balance so that there is something for everyone each day. It is a challenge that Vietnam tour operators can meet because the Country has so much to offer from landing in Hanoi typically to departure.
The natural starting point for a Vietnam family vacation is Hanoi, the capital of the unified country of Vietnam, having previously just been the administrative centre for the North. Before you leave the north to explore the rest of the country, you will be treated to the bustle of Hanoi and its many attractions, the hills towards the border where indigenous tribes live, the stunning SaPa Terraces with their rice and Halong Bay, quite rightly designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site and Mai Chau where you can enjoy a homestay, surely one of the highlights of any Vietnam family tour?
• Hanoi is a mixture of old and new. It is a hectic city with a huge amount of traffic but that is not something that will spoil your time there though you may need to have a little patience. There are many highlights, temples and pagodas, green areas and lakes, traditional wooden houses side by side with modern buildings. There is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Museums that chronicle history, culture and art through the Ages, the One Pillar Pagoda, the Temple of Literature and much more. One experience the family may never have experienced before is the street food. Many locals have breakfast on their way to work, sitting on plastic seats in narrow streets eating the freshest of food. Street vendors cook all day and you can all enjoy lunch and dinner without going to a restaurant each day.
• Halong Bay is stunning. There are many hundreds of limestone islands in this Bay with an extensive coastline. Fishermen live on houses on stilts with villages dotted throughout the Bay. It is great fun cruising between these islands with plenty of opportunity to swim, dive, kayak and explore the caves. There are ancient junks that are very comfortable and offer the chance to sleep onboard as well. It is a very popular tourist destination but although the Bay will have plenty of boats, that should not reduce your enjoyment of a fanatistic location.
• Sapa Terraces on the hillsides of the Northern Highlands up towards the Chinese border are where the villagers plant their rice. The Terraces shimmer at planting time, the water-filled terraces glistening in the sun. As the shoots come through the Terraces start to turn green, richer colour as the weeks go by. By the time the crop is ready for harvest, they are golden. The family will enjoy the environment, the Market and there are few better places to go trekking and simply breathe in the atmosphere than SaPa.
• Mai Chau in the north - west is equally stunning. It is certainly a place to escape from modern life and with the chance of staying in a village, your Vietnam family vacation offers yet another new experience. There are a few different ethnic groups living in the region with the Thai the largest. The houses in Mai Chau are also on stilts at least 3 metres off the ground. It is one way to avoid any damage from water when the heavy rains fall but also the space created provides a place for the animals to shelter.
The internal transport network of Vietnam is excellent. The roads are good between north and south, there is a good rail system and domestic air travel is regular and inexpensive. It means that after you finish the northern leg of your family vacation to Vietnam, you can head south in comfort to see what else Vietnam has to off.
• Danang is the largest city in the central part of Vietnam and it has regular connections by air with both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Danang was one of the theatres of war during the struggle against the Americans. There are some places of interest in Danang but most Vietnam travel packages concentrate on other places near by.
• Hue is the first place to mention. It was the capital of the country under the Nguyen Dynasty, the last before independence from the French. The last Emperor Boa Dai abdicated in favour of Ho Chi Minh’s revolutionary government and the capital became Hanoi. There is a great deal of historical and cultural information to absorb in Hue. There are the Tombs of the Emperors on the Perfume River, the Imperial Citadel and the symbol of the City, Thien Mu Pagoda overlooking the Perfume River.
• Hoi An is an even older settlement. It was a major trading port in the Champa Kingdom from the 7th Century and the old city is another UNESCO World Heritage site. The Chinese have had a huge influence over Hoi An over the centuries before they headed even further south. The centre is very small and you may all decide the best way to see it is to simply walk around. There is a chance to explore independently in Hoi An and the immediate surrounding area. It is not busy and if you all want to hire a bicycle to wander down the country lanes through rice fields, then you are certain to enjoy just observing the rural life around you.
• Nha Trang has developed into a seaside resort that offers everything from relaxation to the opportunity to dive. It is arguably the best place for scuba diving in Vietnam. Vietnam has an extensive coastline and great beaches. Nha Trang is south from Hoi An but its relative proximity both to Danang on the central coast and even Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in the south means that it is establishing itself as a resort for Vietnamese, often as a weekend retreat, as well as overseas tourists.
• Dalat developed as resort for the French who wanted to escape the heat of the lowlands. It is at altitude, up to 2,000 metres, with almost a feel of Europe’s Alps. The environment is stunning and again it is a location where the more active members of the family may like to go trekking. It is a fertile region producing fruit, vegetables, tea, coffee and flowers; the latter are an important export for the town. The pace of life is fairly slow, something you might well enjoy after all the things you have done to date on your Vietnam family tour. The architecture includes things from French times, villas that were the holiday homes of many colonialists.
The South of Vietnam, as opposed to the territory that was once called South Vietnam, is dominated by two things; Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and the Mekong Delta. Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam as well as being the commercial hub of the Country. There is plenty evidence of its being a modern 21st Century City yet there is plenty that remains of history and tradition.
• Ho Chi Minh City is an excellent base for a Vietnam family vacation. You will enjoy exploring the city that has certainly been influenced by the presence of overseas powers in the past, most recently the USA. However, if any of the family is interested in the Vietnam War, there is an excellent day trip heading north out of the City to see the Cu Chi Tunnels. They were used by the Viet Cong for shelter as well as getting around away from the eyes of the Americans. They are narrow and it is possible to go inside to see what it might have been like to live there. If your waistline is spreading, perhaps it is only the children who will be able to manage it?
• The Mekong Delta is the final piece of the journey the river takes from the Tibetan Plateau right down to the South China Sea. The Delta is vast; there are towns and cities as well as rural villages. There are wide as well as tiny back channels and this region is the most fertile area in Vietnam. The floating markets are much more than a tourist attraction. Large boats come to but the produce on behalf of food processing companies as well as wholesalers who will then be selling on in cities. Business starts at first light so you must be prepared for a very early call if you want to see these markets at their liveliest. Fishing and farming are the main occupation of the villagers of course. Depending upon how much time you have to spend in the Delta, you can stay overnight and really get an appreciation of local life; it is fairly hard yet the naturally smiling Vietnamese people take it in their stride and welcome overseas tourists.
• Phu Quoc Island sits in the East Sea of the Cambodian Coast but is very much Vietnam. It has its own airport that has domestic and international routes. It is likely you will get there on a short domestic flight from Ho Chi Minh City. There is a positive move by the Vietnam Government to promote tourism and one of the ways that this is happening is with the development of airports such as the one on Phu Quoc Island. It is a great place to relax at the end of a family vacation to Vietnam. Somehow a sandy beach has that effect on everyone. At present, you are probably likely to fly back to Ho Chi Minh City for your international departure, or even back up to Hanoi.
Family members are certain to have their own memories and highlights of the holiday and no doubt cameras full of photographs. Most people research into different destinations when they think about their holidays, and that is certainly the case for a Vietnam family tour. No matter how much you read about a magical location like Vietnam, you will never be fully prepared when you actually arrive. Every day you will see something new. At the end of the day your mind will be full of what you have seen before it turns to expectation of what you will be seeing the next day. You may well have an idea of the things you particularly want to see and that can vary from family to family depending on individual interests.
What is certain is that Vietnam travel agents will be happy to provide help and advice then put together a Vietnam tour package to fit in with your interests, budget and the time you have available. Vietnam is a large country, covering many degrees of latitude. You can expect variations of climate as you travel around, whatever time of the year you decide to travel. If you book, you will have a treat in store and perhaps your teenagers will conclude it is far more fun to take a family vacation and hang out with friends at other times.
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