Why you need to add Vietnam to your bucket list

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    ‘Just close your eyes and go – that’s the rule,’ says my impeccably-spoken guide, Heuw.

    Easy for him to say – he’s used to the onslaught of scooters, the boy racers, the whole families sat, toddler, dad and mum on one, the flip flops and face masks, the glamorous girlfriends in minis and Minnie Mouse shoes sitting sidesaddle behind their beaus, the bffs in matching skinny jeans, their vehicles of every colour dazzling in the afternoon sun, clutching onto their friends, hair streaming back in the wind, giving precisely zero f***s about a nervous-looking English girl who’s been trying to cross the road for the best part of half an hour.

    That’s me by the way.

    We are standing at the Hai Van Pass but it’s the same story everywhere in Vietnam – crossing the road is an act of faith.

    If you can get past the scooters (and you will, if you walk at a steady pace, don’t stop, don’t run, they just drive round you), you should visit Vietnam, the beautiful, fascinating, slightly forgotten continent mate of brazenly popular Thailand.

    Here’s why you need to add Vietnam to your bucket list.

    The sunrise

    Setting an early alarm may not sound like everyone’s idea of a holiday but, believe me, this is one not to miss.

    That solid red ball slowly rising from the sea over the beach at Angsana Lang Co, near Hue, was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

    Lady Buddha, Da Nang

    Linh Ung Pagoda, opened in 2010, is unmissable for its views across Da Nang, its temples and statues.

    As well as the tallest Lady Buddha in Vietnam you’ll see 18 large white stone statues representing the arhats.

    You can go inside the temple at the base of the Lady Buddha, and in the main pagoda, but you’ll need to take your shoes off and have covered legs.

    While you’re in Da Nang you should check out the beach – it’s a classic seaside with palm trees and huge, new hotels.

    Don’t miss the night time illuminations from 6pm either – the Dragon Bridge was a favourite of mine. If you have time and a thing for kitsch rides visit Asia Park too.

    Old Town, Hoi An

    Vietnam is stunning - here's what to do when you visit
    Boat rides are a popular way to admire the city (Picture: Getty)

    This UNESCO World Heritage Site, cut through with canals, has a fascinating mishmash of architecture from the 15th to the 19th century.

    The former port city feels a little like a historic Disneyland – the most touristy of traps in Vietnam, but don’t let that put you off.

    Vietnam is stunning - here's what to do when you visit
    The Japanese Covered Bridge (Picture: Getty)

    You can wander round Chinese temples, admire French colonial homes, visit Vietnamese tube houses and walk over the Japanese Covered Bridge.

    The Imperial City, Hue

    There were hundreds of buildings in the imperial city, built in 1804, the outer for celebrations, the second for work and worship, the third the Forbidden Purple City, once for the royal family, eunuchs and hundreds of concubines.

    The last king of Vietnam, Bao Dai, of the Nguyen Dynasty, abdicated outside in 1945.

    You’ll see cannons, frangipani trees, buildings of ironwood and red, the colour of royalty, in the throne room.

    But you’ll also see large patches of grass – reminders of the devastation of the Vietnam war.

    In 1968 The Battle Of Hue ended here, with bombs and napalm dropped on the citadel.

    The tomb of Khai Dinh

    This ornate tomb of the 12th emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty has to be seen to be believed.

    Stone soldiers, horses and elephants guard him in the afterlife, while dragons feature heavily too.

    Hai Van Pass ruins

    Vietnam is stunning - here's what to do when you visit
    (Picture: Getty)

    This mountain pass is both beautiful and historic – it was an important defence point dividing north and central Vietnam.

    It also forms a boundary between the climates of the north and south.

    The seafood

    Vietnam is stunning - here's what to do when you visit
    (Picture: Angsana Lang Co)

    I spent a pleasant morning messing about in basket boats in the Lang Co fishing village, trying to paddle and cut fresh oysters from the mangroves.

    Whether you choose to do something like this or not, a highlight is the spectacular seafood you’ll find here.

    Truc Lam Bach Ma Zen Monastery, Hue

    Getting here is a mini expedition in itself, but it’s worth it to see the 24m Buddha looking out over Truoi Lake, the gardens, the views and the temples, built in 2006.

    It’s worth noting here, though, that while some Vietnamese people are Buddhist or Catholic, the majority pray to other gods and ancestors.

    It’s common to see shrines behind homes or by the road and, on the anniversary of a relative’s death, people burn things for them in the afterlife – everything from books and mobile phones to TVs and cars.

    Where to stay

    Our trip was organised by The Holiday Place and we stayed at Angsana Lang Co and Banyan Tree Lang Co.

    Angsana Lang Co is both luxurious (killer views, high-spec bathrooms) and family-friendly (kids club and games).

    For my part I fell in love with the 300m pool which winds, snake-like, through the whole resort.

    The food at Rice Bowl, one of the resort’s restaurants, was also a highlight.

    The Holiday Place’s package of six nights in a garden balcony twin room including breakfast at Angsana Lang Co plus flights with Vietnam Airlines costs from £949 per adult and £599 per child.

    Banyan Tree Lang Co feels more aimed at couples – honeymooners, friends or just those looking for an opulent retreat away from it all.

    I stayed in a stunning villa with its own pool and resented leaving.

    Six nights in a lagoon pool villa room with breakfast at Banyan Tree Lang Co, including flights with Singapore Airlines, costs from £1,479 per adult.

    Both deals run from May to October, for details call 02076 441770 or visit the Holiday Place website.

    How to get there

    Vietnam is stunning - here's what to do when you visit
    (Picture: Getty)

    We flew from Heathrow to Hanoi then on to Da Nang. The first flight took about 12 hours, then we waited for four hours before our next flight, which took about 1 1/2 hours.

    We flew with Vietnam Airlines then took a cab from Da Nang airport to Angsana Lang Co, which took about an hour.

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