SAI GON (HO CHI MINH CITY) (Pop: 8 Mil) The former capital of the Republic of Vietnam ("South Vietnam"),
Sai Gon, or Ho Chi Minh City as it is officially known, is the country’s commercial heart and largest city. Compared to Ha Noi, Sai Gon is a modern city thriving on Vietnam’s re-entry into global markets since the late 1980s ...but the charm of yesteryear is still very much in evidence. Only 2 hours from the mighty Mekong, and 2 hours to the Cambodian border, Sai Gon is a great place to begin any Vietnam tour - it is the pulse of Vietnamese daily life.
(My Tho, Chau Doc, Can Tho, Vinh Long)
"The Rice Basket of Vietnam" accurately describes the economic importance of the delta region as a source of food and as a foreign income earner. The Mekong Delta, home to over 20 million Vietnamese, is the world’s largest exporting region for rice and is the centre of a booming aquaculture industry. Ferries, barges, fishing boats, sampans and canoes come together to provide a view of the Mekong at it’s busiest point enroute to the sea - everything is go, go, go. Islands which dot the surface of the river have become fertile orchards and small farms, allowing tourists/visitors a sample of island life and a chance to taste some of the region’s fabulous bounty. Cruising the Mekong River from Siem Reap in Cambodia to My Tho on the delta is a great way to arrive in Saigon before a Rail Tour of Vietnam!
A small rural village some 2 hours drive south of Ho Chi Minh City is the site of a major battle between Australian and communist Vietnamese forces (North Vietnamese regulars and local Viet Cong [VC] elements) on 18 August 1966. The site of the "Battle of Long Tan" is in the middle of a rubber plantation just 5KM from the former Australian Task Force base at Nui Dat. Today, the site of that battle is dedicated with a white cross known as the "Long Tan Cross" and is recognised as one of only two foreign memorial sites on Vietnamese soil (the other is at Dien Bien Phu in the far NW - site of the final battle between French and Viet Minh forces in May 1954). Australian/New Zealand commemorative services are held at Long Tan on ANZAC Day (Dawn Service) and Battle of Long Tan Day - numbers of attendees at these services have grown steadily since 2005. Lest We Forget.
*In April 2014 the rubber trees were cut down, exposing the battle site and lay of the land like never before. New rubber trees were planted in mid 2015 ...in a couple of years these `open views' will close again and the site will look exactly as it has for many years past. Click ANZAC Day 2014 to see the site of the Long Tan Cross minus the rubber trees.
DA LAT(Pop: 130,000)
Built by the French as a hill station retreat to escape the heat of Saigon and the Mekong Delta. This small central highlands region is home to many hill-tribe minority groups and is a favourite honeymoon/romantic destination for urban Vietnamese. Surrounded by lakes, streams, ethnic villages and fertile valleys, this former French colonial town has a real alpine atmosphere.
NHA TRANG (Pop 316,000)
Nha Trang is home port to a colourful and large fishing community, and is fast becoming the most popular beach resort town in Vietnam. The clear, sheltered, emerald waters and offshore islands of Nha Trang Bay make it an ideal location for boating, swimming, snorkelling and lazy seafood lunches. Early morning beachside activities, chanting monks, mud baths, massages, giant buddhas, and historic Po Na Gar Tower add to the tourism attraction of this laid back holiday destination.
HOI AN (Pop: 78,000)
This old town located just south of Vietnam’s 4th largest city (Da Nang) reflects a bygone era when it was once known as "Faifo" and regarded as one of SE Asia’s most important international ports for Dutch, Chinese, Japanese and Portugese traders during the late 16th to early 19th centuries ( a contemporary of Macau and Melaka). When port access became restricted due to silt build up, Da Nang became the new port and Hoi An seemed destined to wither & die - instead, the township survived to become "a Living Museum" - a UNESCO listed World Heritage site. Hoi An is today best known by tourists as a great source of tailor-made clothing, art shops and relaxation from the hectic pace of Vietnamese life. The old town is today rated as a MUST SEE destination for all tours of Vietnam.
This ancient city of central Vietnam was the Vietnamese imperial capital between 1802 and 1945, nine years prior to the partition of Vietnam into two separate sovereign states in 1954. Situated astride the serene Perfume River, Hue is home to many historical sites of UNESCO World Heritage status: The tomb complexes of former emperors of the Nguyen dynasty and the famed Citadel of Hue are the principal tourism attractions of this intiguing little city. To the Vietnamese, Hue is also famous for it’s beautiful ladies, education institutions and it’s reputation as a festival city.
HA NOI (Pop 4.5 Mil)
Ha Noi is the national capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) and has been described as the "last asian city in Asia" because it has not followed the high-rise concrete and glass development of most other large cities in Asia.
It is also often referred to as the ‘Paris of the Orient’; a city of lakes, French villas and tree lined streets. Besides the French influences, Hanoi’s bustling Old Quarter has been a centre of commerce for over 800 years and the city itself has just celebrated it’s 1000th anniversary (in October 2010).
Today, Hanoi is fast becoming a magnet for tourism as it casts off it’s earlier reputation as a no-nonsence political capital and transforms itself back into a vibrant, romantic destination after almost 5 decades of isolation from the west and mainstream tourism - it truly is one of the last great Asian cities where tourists get a feel for the Asia of yesteryear. Frank’s favourite destination - just wish the air was clearer!
SA PA (Pop 40,000)
The old French hill station of Sa Pa to the NW of Ha Noi is located in the picturesque Hoang Lien Son mountain range - the highest in Vietnam. The region is home to many colourful hill-tribe minorities and Sa Pa is a great location to appreciate the lifestyle and charm of these friendly highland inhabitants. Spectacular terraced rice fields, rivers and mountains surround this most beautiful French colonial town - a highlight of all tours to Vietnam.
HA LONG BAY
The World Heritage listed Ha Long Bay is located some 3 hours drive east of Ha Noi and is perhaps one of the "Seven Wonders of The Natural World". Over 3000 limestone islands rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin create a scene of immense beauty and grandeur - with sunsets to die for. Literally, Ha Long means "descending dragon" - legend has it that the many islands and their distinct shapes represent the scales on the back of a once mighty dragon. Every tour of Vietnam should include a 24 hour day/night cruise by chinese junk around the islands and grottoes of this beautiful bay.
VIENTIANE (Pop: 300,000)
The capital of Lao Peoples Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Vientiane is a small, French built city situated on the banks of the Mekong River, which serves as the border between Laos and Thailand. History shows fate has been unkind to this small city ...since it’s "Golden Age" in the mid 17th century it has received a hard time from it’s neighbours (Burmese, Kmers, Siamese & Annamese [central Vietnam]) and roving mercenary forces ...it even had to be rebuilt after the Siamese razed it to the ground in the early 19th century.
With a name (Wieng Chang) that means "Sandalwood City", Vientiane’s wide, tree-lined streets, buddhist temples and unhurried lifestyle add to an atmosphere of timelessness and peaceful acceptance that life should not be so rushed.
LUANG PRABANG (Pop:26,000)
Located in north-central Laos, the former royal capital of Luang Prabang is now a peaceful, romantic destination working it’s charms on all who are fortunate to visit. French era royal residences, giant shade trees, fragrant frangipanis, hundreds of barefooted monks and local ethnic peoples combine to provide a tonic for even the most jaded of travellers. While Luang Prabang has a reputation for peaceful tranquility, it sits on the banks of the mighty Mekong where the river showcases it’s enormous might ...a ride up river to the Pak Ou caves is a boating adventure not to be missed ...even at the end of a very long dry season!.
PLAIN OF JARS (Phonsavan) (Pop: 60,000 ...and growing fast)
FRANKO’S Tours now include tours from Luang Prabang eastwards to the magnificent Plain of Jars region located in the rolling grasslands (Plains) of north eastern Laos - home to many sites containing hundreds of mysterious stone megaliths/jars dating from the Iron Age (around 2500 years ago). Our description of this intriguing region is still a "work in progress" ...the best description can be found online at Wikipedia under "Plain of Jars" - very informative. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plain_of_Jars
Following the Vietnam War (60s-70s), the Plain of Jars area can be described as the most heavily bombed region on the planet but it can also be said to lie amid the most beautiful natural scenery of SE Asia ...especially so if you travel there by road from Luang Prabang!
*We rate this tour destination as a definite "MUST SEE"!
SIEM REAP (Pop: 860,000)
Gateway to the ruins of ancient Angkor, Siem Reap is Cambodia’s most modern city and home to an impressive array of 5 & 4 star hotels, resorts, bars and restaurants catering for the vast number of international tourists visiting the wonders of the former Kmer capital of Angkor. Situated near the shore of Ton Le Sap Lake, travelers have the opportunity to travel by boat, road or air from Siem Reap direct to the capital Phnom Penh. The road trip is awesome!
When the western world was in the middle of the "dark ages", the Kmer Empire centred on the site of Angkor (8th - 13th century AD) in SE Asia, was in it’s glory years. The temples of ancient Angkor were lost to the world for 500 years until re-discovered in the jungles of NE Cambodia in the mid 19th century - now they provide proof of just how advanced this ancient culture had once been, compared to our general notion of "medievil times". Angkor Wat is wonderful, yet it is only one amid many marvellous temples (Angkor Thom, Bayon, Ta Phrom, Banteay Srei, etc. etc.) scattered around this truly historical site of World Heritage importance. FRANKO’S rate the fantastic ruins of ancient Angkor second only to the archeological treasures of ancient Egypt.
*We rate this tour destination as a definite "MUST SEE"!
PHNOM PENH (Pop: 1.8 Mil)
The capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia is located on the banks of the Mekong River, 220km west of Sai Gon. Once a glamorous city under French Indochinois rule, Phnom Penh descended into despair and emptiness during it’s rule by the tyrannical, murderous Kmer Rouge regime. The city’s reawakening is complete and today it has resumed it’s reputation as an asian city with a multicultural buzz. Known for it’s vibrant cafes, National Museum, buddhist temples (wats), royal palace and genocide museum; Phnom Penh is an old fashioned colonial city with wide boulevards, shaded riverbanks and friendly, optimistic people.
Images of Indochina
Canoes on The Mekong
Nha Trang Bay
Perfume River - Hue
Average group size
Red Dao ladies - SaPa
Terraced Rice - Sa Pa
Ha Long Bay sunset
National Museum CAMBODIA
Sightseeing on Ton Le Sap Lake
Life on The Mekong
Love this place!
Luang Prabang ...time seems as it was when you were a kid!