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Vietnam - The Internet Travel Guide (FAQ) (part 1/5)

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VIETNAM - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide

Located in South East Asia, Vietnam starts to emerge as a major
tourist attraction. Vietnam has two main cities, the political
capital Hanoi and the economic capital Ho Chi Minh City (also
known as Saigon). Apart from these cities, Vietnam's countryside
also offers many beautiful attractions.

 An Khe
 Buon Ma Thuot
 Cat Ba Island
 Central Highland
 Chau Doc
 Chua Huong
 Con Dao
 Cu Chi
 Cuc Phuong National Parc
 Dakto / Tanh Canh
 Do Son
 Dong Ha
 Halong Bay
 Ho Chi Minh City
 Hoa Lu
 Hoi An
 Lao Bao
 Long Xuyen
 Mekong Delta
 Nha Trang
 Ninh Binh
 Phan Rang
 Phan Thiet
 Phong Nha Caves
 Phu Quoc
 Quang Ngai
 Rach Gia
 Tay Ninh
 Vat Sat Tourist Parc
 Vinh Long
 Vinh Moc
 Vung Tau

General Information
 Map of Vietnam
 Border Crossing
 Internet Access

 Travel Guides


VIETNAM - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide

Copyright (c) 1995 - 2005, Peter M. Geiser



New series by Peter M. Geiser and Sibylle Dussy, with many photos:

"Classics", FAQ of

Hotel guides



An Khe is a small town about half way from Qui Nhon to Pleiku on
highway 19. There is not much to see here. There is a thriving brick
manufacturing industry in the area. In 1965, An Khe was chosen as the
site of the base camp for the US Army 1st Cavalry Division. The base
was huge, and home to the 1st Cav's fleet of 450 helicopters. Today,
there is not much evidence that the base ever existed.


An Khe Pass
One of the most spectacular mountain passes in Vietnam is on this
stretch of highway 19. It is five km east of An Khe. There is an
incredible view from the top of the An Khe pass that is best seen at

On a lonely stretch of Hwy 19, between 15 and 22 km west of An Khe, a
French Army unit, Groupe Mobile 100 (GM-100) was wiped out in a Viet Minh
ambush in 1954. Historian Bernard Fall describes the fatal battle
in his book "Street Without Joy". There is a small stone memorial
marking the site on the south side of the highway.

Mang Yang Pass
The other pass on the Qui Nhon to Pleiku stretch of highway 19 is
Mang Yang, about 35 km west of An Khe. It does not present as
spectacular a view as An Khe pass.


There are a couple of small, family-run hotels in An Khe where you can
get a room for less than USD 10.



There is not much to see in the town itself, but the surrounding area
is beautiful, with many waterfalls and beautiful Lake Lak. Nearby,
there are many ethnic minority villages. The "Elephant Village" Ban
Don is also worth a visit.

At 1 Doc Lap Street, there is a Hill Tribe Museum.


Since new road has been opened, Buon Ma Thuot can now be reached in
8 hours driving from Ho Chi Minh City.


The Thang Loi Hotel at Phan Chu Tring Street is freshly
renovated and is now quite nice.



Cantho, the political, economic, and cultural center of the region and
capital of Hau Giang Province, is the only university city in the Delta.
Cantho University was founded in 1966 and conducts valuable agricultural
research that has contributed substantially to improving production and
pest control. This is probably the nicest city in the Delta.


Cantho Market
The rich variety and abundance of fruit, seafood and vegetables produced
in the region is evident along Hai Ba Trung street and in the market's
main building at the intersection of Hai Ba Trung and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia

Munirangsyaram Pagoda
This typical of Khmer Hinayana Buddhist pagodas found in the region. The
upstairs sanctuary contains a 5-foot (1 1/2-meter) representation of
Sakyamuni sitting under a Bodhi tree. Built in 1946, the pagoda serves the
Khmer community of Cantho which numbers about 2,000.

Cantho is an excellent place to go on a boat trip in the Mekong
Delta. There are 5 and 9 hour trips for USD 2 per hour for two persons
and USD 3 for four persons. Ask to go to a floating market. It is also
possible to go by bus for VND 4000.

Reserve your hotel online at


There is a new riverside mall where you can sit down and have
something to eat and a drink.



Cat Ba island is a national park. It is covered by tropical forests and
is home to a variety of animals.

The ferry from Haiphong takes 3 hours and costs USD 5. It leaves several
times a day, e.g. at 1 pm.

If you take a tour, you should wear good footwear, since it may mean
you'll have to hike for some time. Inquire when you book the tour.


Anh Tuan Hotel, just 200 m up the road opposite the ferry landing. It has
nice, clean double rooms for USD 6 to 8.

Don't go to Cat Ba Hotel. It is government run and not a very good choice.


A good place to get fresh sea food is the Huu Dung restaurant in the road
opposite the ferry landing.

There are many Karaoke bars.


The owner of the Huu Dung restaurant offers tours on the island and in the
bay. A 5 hour walking tour through the rainforest in the national park
costs USD 10 to 12. A boat trip in the bay costs the same. Make sure that
noone wants to get to Bay Chai; it is not worth the money.



The central highland covers the southern part of the Truong Som Mountain
Range. It's main features are the beautiful scenery and the many minority
groups (montagnards) living in this area. The region has a temperate
climate, where cold nights are not a rarity.

Highway 19 is an important route into the Central Highlands, running from
Qui Nhon on the coast up to Pleiku. Buses and vans run daily from Qui Nhon
to Pleiku, Kontum and Buon Ma Thout.



Chau Doc (population 80,000) is an important trading and marketing center
for the surrounding countryside. Until the mid-18th century this region
was part of Cambodia. There is still a large Khmer population and the
largest Cham settlement in the Delta. The Chau Doc district is also the
seat of the 1 - 1.5 million followers of the Hoa Hao religion, founded in
1939 at the village of Hoa Hao.


There are numerous interesting temples here, especially at Nui Sam and at
Ba Chuc there is a temple and ossuary containing the remains of 2,500
Khmer Krom massacred by the Khmer Rouge in September 1978.

A large market selling fresh produce and black market goods smuggled in
from Thailand spreads from the riverfront down and along Le Cong Thanh
Doc, Phu Thu, Bach Dang and Chi Lang streets.

Nui Sam (Sam Mountain)
Three miles (5 km) southwest of Chau Doc is a rocky hill is literally
honeycombed with sanctuaries, tombs, and temples. Most visitors come only
to see Tay An Pagoda, Lady Chua Xu Temple, and the Tomb of Thoai Ngoc Hau,
but walk right up to the top of the hill where you can get a good view of
the surrounding countryside. From here you can appreciate that this is
some of the most productive land in Vietnam.

Chau Phu Temple
This temple was built in 1926 for locals to worship Thoai Ngoc Hau, the
man responsible for building the nearby Chau Doc Canal which defines the
border with Cambodia.

Catholic Church
The small Catholic church in Chau Doc was constructed in 1920. It's
located on 459 Lien Tinh Lo 10, just near the FB Phu Hiep ferry
terminal. Masses are held each day on 5 am and 5 pm as well as Sunday
at 7 am and 4 pm.

Chau Giang Mosque
Take a ferry across the Hau River from the Chau Giang terminal in town to
visit the mosque which serves the district's Cham Muslim community.

Hoa Hao
It was here, 12 miles (20 km) east of Chau Doc, that Huynh Phu So founded
an influential indigenous religion that attempted to rid Buddhism of its
pagodas and clergy. After WW II, the Hoa Hao community created an anti
Marxist political party called Don Xa, which led to Huynh Phu So's
assassination by the Viet Minh. After 1975, the Communists clamped down on
the Hoa Hao and the sect lost much of its influence.

Reserve your hotel online at



Cholon (Chinatown) bustles with activity that is of interest in itself,
but the finest pagodas in Saigon are also found here.


Cha Tam Church
Built around the turn of the century, this is where President Ngo Dinh
Diem was captured and assassinated with his brother in November 1963.

Nghia An Hoi Quan Pagoda
Visitors are greeted by a magnificent carved wooden boat hanging over the
entrance and immediately to the left is an oversized representation of
Quan Cong's horse and groom. At the main altar is Quan Cong flanked by
General Chau Xuong and the mandarin Quan Binh in glass cases.

Tam Son Hoi Quan Pagoda
This pagoda, built in the 19th century by Fukien immigrants, is dedicated
to Chua Thai Sanh, the Goddess of Fertility. The pagoda attracts visits
from childless women.

Quan Am Pagoda
This is thought to be the oldest pagoda in the city. The complex contains
a series of courtyards and altars dedicated to a range of deities and
spirits. The roof of the main structure supports four sets of ornate
figures and is fronted with old gold and lacquer panels of guardian
spirits. The main altar displays a seated statue of A-Pho, the Holy
Mother, in front of which is a white ceramic statue of Quan Am, the
Goddess of Purity and Motherhood.

Thien Hau Pagoda
This early 19th century pagoda is dedicated to the worship of both Buddha
and Thien Hau Thanh Mau - Goddess of the Sea and protector of sailors. The
most interesting part of the pagoda is the roof, richly decorated with the
high-relief frieze depicting episodes from the Legends of the Three
Kingdoms. It is one of the most ornate in Vietnam and can best be seen
from the open courtyard.

Phung Son Pagoda
Also known as Go Pagoda, it was built on the site of an earlier Cambodian
structure at the beginning of the 19th century. There is a large seated
gilded Buddha in the inner sanctuary surrounded by a variety of other
figures from several Asian and Southeast Asian countries.


Binh Tay Market
Binh Tay, with a wonderful array of noises, smells and colors, is one of
the most colorful and exciting markets in Saigon.



Chua Huong, the Perfume Pagoda, is located some 70 km southwest of
Hanoi. The term 'temple' is a bit misleading, since it is a whole
cluster of temples and shrines in the Huong Son (Perfume Mountain)


Con Dao

Con Dao is mainly famous for its prison built by the French to put
away opponents of their colonialism. In 1954, the prison was taken
over by the South Vietnamese Government. All in all, over 22'000
prisoners have stayed there over time.

In the Revolutionary Museum, displays and explanations of the
resistance against the French and the South Vietnamese government show
the treatment of political prisoners.

But the island was well known to the Europeans for quite some time
before that. Between 1702 and 1705, the British East India Corporation
maintained a fortified trading post on the island. The English gave up
their attempt when they were murdered by their own Makassar soldiers.

Con Dao consists of 14 islands, located, some 180 km south of
Vung Tau. They form the southern most point of Vietnam. The largest
island, Con Son, occupies an area of 20 km2.

There are several nice beaches, like Dam Trau Hang Duong and Phi Yen,
on the islands.

The best time to visit the islands is during the relatively calm time
between March and June.



About 22 miles (36 km) northwest of Ho Chi Minh City is a short
section of the 124 miles (200 km) of tunnels that has been widened to
allow tourists to share the underground experience. The Viet Minh
began work on the tunnels in 1948 and used them for storage and
shelter with sleeping quarters, hospitals and schools. Cu Chi was
zealously Communist and the tunnels were used by the Viet Cong to
launch the Tet Offensive in 1968.

There is now a shooting range where you can try old rifles from the
American war.

Admission US$3.



(Lars) A high-altitude, mountain rainforest.  Several trails for the
hiker. Approx. 70 km northwest of Ninh Binh.  Hostel-style accomodation
available. Didn't look too clean but I would have stayed one or two
nights, if only I would have known about it. Also better looking huts, but
I don't know any prices or where to rent them. Can be reached from Ninh
Binh or on daytours from Hanoi.



About 40 km north of Kontum, this is a small town with not too much to
see. At the top of the road there is a large war monument, and remains
of war material can still be seen.

There are many interesting minorities villages between Kontum and
Dakto. Since they are often difficult to find, you will need a local

(Mark Richardson) However in Dakto at the top of the main street is a
large war monument on the opposite side of the road there is a short
lane leading to the delapidated remains of an American Huey
helicopter, a Russian made T 54 tank which has a local legend amonst
the communists which is completely false. It is supposed to have gone
in the wrong direction and stumbled upon 8 american tanks, destroyed 7
of them then was destroyed by the eighth. I never knew the T54 was
such a remarkable piece of hardware. And it did all this at a time
when there were actually no American tanks in the area!!!! The nearest
thing I have found to such an event is the destruction of a number of
south Vietnamese tanks, which were not in operation at the time, by
wire controlled anti tank missiles. But of course the official version
must be true as they have even written a song about it which starts
something like "Five brothers/comrades in a tank like five fingers in
a glove" This history was recited to me by a drunken Cadre (tautology)
in Kontum. Looks more like anti-tank mine destruction. At this site
there is also an anti aircraft gun/tank and a small building
containing a few old photos and weapons usually locked but if there is
someone in the area a few friendly gestures can gain you access but
its probably not worth the effort and no photos allowed.
Turning left in front of the monument you can follow this road to the
site of Charlie base and Eagle airport though only the runway remains.
Caution should not be taken too lightly as on one trip I answered the
call of nature by the side of the runway only to notice a wet
unexploded bomb in the weeds just in front of my feet.
Hamburger hill is to the left and is just a small hummock on the
mountain ridge. At the right time of year and in the right light the
area appears to be just a crater pocked land scape. Dont go off the
roads/tracks in this area. Just because there are peasants working the
land doesnt mean that it is safe. There are many incidents with live
ordnance. Dont become another statistic.

(Mark Richardson) On continuing north from the old runway one will
come across a large bend in the river. A few km further on the left
one can see the roof of a communal house amongst the trees. Park your
transport here. Take the track to the river and cross the impressive
bamboo bridge to this village. In 1996 this bridge was in considerably
better condition than 2 years prevoiusly (when I felt a bit like Indy
Jones, bits were missing).
My wife says that this is a xedang village and I'm not going to argue.
Here you can see the day to day life maybe a game of volleyball one of
the few western influences to take hold here in this remote area and
if you are very lucky as I was on my last visit get invited to aparty
where vast quantities of Jar wine were being consumed.
One word of warning: they have quite a strict code of customs when it
comes to alcohol. If you drink you must drink a full measure which can
be as much as half a pint without stopping! The measure is denoted by
a peice of bamboo dipping into the jar. Be careful once you start 
drinking they will try to keep you there, the more intoxicated you
become the happier they are and the greater the "respect" you are
showing them. Always usefull to have cigarettes to pass round at these
occasions. If worried about the food they offer you just take a piece
of pork fat to nibble on, though usually they wont insist you eat as
they can be a little embarrassed by the poverty of there diet. However
I can strongly reccomend rat, also grasshoppers!

(Mark Richardson) Please note that when you go into any montagnard
village if the people dont approach you within a few minutes dont try
and approach them. There may be a very good reason for there apparent
shyness. Having said this if you enter a Bahnar village and the people
welcome you, as most of the time they will, until such a time that
tourism becomes intrusive you can always try the following sentence:
"Inh oa et xic" pronounced 'In wa et seek'. I want to drink jar wine.
Someone will be able to speak English or French to a certain degree
and the story telling will begin.

In the Dakto area there are some natuaral hot springs but I havent
visited them. Travel was always more difficult for me. Dakto is Bahnar
for Hot Water.

(Mark Richardson) On the road to komplong there is a local beauty spot
known as km 23 but it seems further from the town than this. To find
it you will need a friendly local as you turn right up a very small
track which is not indicated. It was here that I surprised a
montagnard in only a loincloth out hunting with a crossbow. A few km
further up the main road one can turn right go through some fairly
dense growth and through an isolated village to a small waterfall
(again impossible to find without a local).



Dalat is a hill station in the central highlands. The altitude of
1475 m warrants rather cold nights. It was founded in 1897 by
Alexander Yersin, who first discovered the plague bacillus. Once
called the 'Paris of the East', it has now become a favourite
honeymoon spot.

All the tourist attractions are 'Asian style', meaning that they
correspond more to the taste of local people.


The famed 'Valley of Love' looks nice, but with all the souvenir
shops, the 'Walt Disney' boats and the 'cowboys' it is hard to glimps
the beauty of the landscape. To me the landscape looked nice, but not
as beautiful than the north of Vietnam. Entrance to the 'Valley of
Love' is VND 8000 with insurance; for a quiet stroll just pass the
shops and walk 500 meters.

The summer palace of the last emperor, Bao Dai, is open to visitors.
The 25-room villa was built in 1933. Admission is VND 10'000.

Entrance to the Cam Li falls is VND 3000 and probably not worth it.

Admission to the Crazy House is VND 3000.

The one thing I liked best (the only one, actually) was the old monk
Vien Thuc at the Lam Ty Ni Pagoda. He is always smiling, friendly and
eager to show and explain things. He has painted in his life already
84000 pictures (this was in October 1994, now this figure probably has
increased by a couple of thousend). He sells them in various sizes,
some of them postcard size. Once you choose to buy one, he looks at it
and then exclaims: "Oh, this one is beautiful. I'm going to name it
for you." He has to think only seconds to come up with a name like:
"Looking at this picture all sorrow dissolves into emptiness." All his
pictures (and the names) are Zen. He also likes to show his guest
books. Note: A recent report tells of much higher prices, some
USD 10 for even a small drawing, and that he is no longer nice if the
tourists are not willing to pay his prices.

(Michael) The development around Guang Trung resevoir is worth a look.
It is baren now, but when the trees grow a bit it should be quite
lovely. A new 'meditation center' with guest house overlooks the
lake. The government clearly intends this to be a vacation

(Michael) Visiting the ethnic villages (Lat and Chill) around Dalat
was a bit depressing. The people have lost their semi-nomadic
lifestyle and now live in what seems to be enforced poverty. They will
soon be integrated into ordinary Vietnamese life. I did not attempt to
visit any of the ethnic villages further away from Dalat.

(John) A motorcycle taxi with driver can be hired for $5 to shuttle
you to all the sights around Dalat. Many of the sights are pretty lame
by western standards. I rented a motorcycle $6/day and drove myself
without any problems. The mountainous roads make for fun riding.

(John) I also saw about ten weddings in the less than 48 hours I was

(Michael) Dalat is a great place to run; cool and dry with plenty of
good trails. I suggest a run out to Su Nu Pagoda at meal time
(contrary to the advice in LP) so you can listen to the nuns sing. A
run around the lake is also nice as is the run out to Thien Vuong
Pagoda and beyond. Although LP warns about getting too far out into
the boonies, I had no trouble. I did run into several men in uniform
(they could have been off-duty doormen for all I know) but I was
universally greeted with smiles and thumbs up, wherever I ran.

It is now possible to rent a mountain bike for VND 15000 (Feb 96.) A
motorcycle with driver are for rent at USD 6 per day. Make sure that
it is for the day, that you are the one deciding where to go, and pay
the only when you are back at the hotel.

The bus from the city to the airport takes about 30 minutes and costs
USD 3.

Motorbikes with 90 cc cost USD 5 for a full day.


Dalat's Pine Lake Golf Course was the first to open, or rather
re-open, in Vietnam after the war. Its 18 hole course was opened at
the 24 February 1994, but a 9 hole course was already founded in the
1920s, being the first golf club in Southeast Asia.



Beware of Shanghai restaurant and its neighbor! The food is ok, but
they try to cheat the customers. The napkins served everybody without
asking cost and if they don't have the correct change they short
change you without so much blinking. I had to ask twice for my change,
before they finally said that they didn't have change (Lucky enough I
still had some small notes). Some prices they charged were not what
was written on the menu, so we had to re-check the bill again. My
guess is that because Dalat is such a touristy area they try to rip
off people and Vietnamese (the majority of the tourists) do not care
or expect things like that.

The new Tranh Tranh just around the corner at 4 Tang Bat Ho (21836) is
reportedly much better. The food is nice and at a reasonable rate. It
fills up every evening with ex-pats and travellers. There is seating

A place I liked much more was Thanh Thuy restaurant just next to the

(Anna, Feb 96) Upstairs in the new market building are many food
stalls selling good cheap food, including three vegetarian food stalls
(com chay).

A nice bar opened on October 2, 1994 is Saigon Nite at 45 Truong Cong.
It offers a big variety of drinks (with original alcoholic ingredients
imported from the west) which all cost around 25000 VND. There is a
pool table in the back room.




DaNang has an excellent Cham museum, housing many beautiful stone
carvings of ancient origin (Khmer and Cham). Entrance is VND 20000.

Near the train station is a nice Cao Dai temple.

DaNang is a good place to start a day trip to My Son. These Cham ruins
are definitively worth a visit. A taxi to bring you there, wait for
your return and bring you back costs around USD 25, while a motorcycle
is about USD 6. The entrance fee, including crossing of the bridge and
a minibus to the ruins, is now USD 5.


There is a diving center at China Beach at the Furama Resort Hotel. It
is open between March and October.

Reserve your hotel online at


In Danang there is only one travelling cafe, the Lien cafe. It is just
opposite the Marble Mountain hotel in the north of the town. They rent
a taxi with driver to go to My Son for USD 25, minibusses to Nha Trang
are USD 15 and motorcycle are USD 4 (50 cc) and 5 (70 cc) per day. The
people are very friendly and can offer many good advice. The food is
cheap and good.


 Month       Jan  Feb  Mar  Apr  May  Jun  Jul  Aug  Sep  Oct  Nov  Dec

 High   C     24   26   28   31   33   34   34   34   32   29   27   25
        F     76   79   83   87   91   94   94   93   89   84   81   77

 Low    C     19   19   21   23   24   26   25   25   24   23   22   19
        F     66   67   70   74   76   78   77   77   75   73   71   67

 Rain  mm    112   38   23   28   64   76   84  117  373  584  368  224
   inches    4.4  1.5  0.9  1.1  2.5  3.0  3.3  4.6 14.7 23.0 14.5  8.8



Do Son is said to be the most beautiful beach (actually there are
three beaches!) in the northern part of Vietnam.

There is a casino.


There are some villas at one of the three beaches for USD 20.




Nha Tro, Hai Ly: I'm not quite sure about the name, but this is a
small mini hotel on the right side of a little side street just off
the main road, opposite the bus terminal. It has pleasant rooms with a
double bed and private shower and toilette for USD 6. People are
friendly and can organise a tour to the DMZ (on motorcycle for some
USD 10 to 20.)

Try the Phung Hoang mini hotel at 63 Le Duan (Hwy 1). It is run by a nice
family, and the food is excellent. The rooms are USD 10 or less.

Don't use the Quang Tri tourist department. They chage too much and
don't deliver.


There is a tour guide named Jimmy Hoa who is reported to be fair and
well-informed. He served as a Sgt. in the Army of the Republic of
Vietnam (ARVN) during the war and worked as an interpreter for the US
3rd Marine Division for three years. He will organise tours to the
sites around Dong Ha.



Reserve your hotel online at



The Halong Bay is one of the Unesco Wold Heritage Sites. This
beautiful bay covers an area of 1500 km2 in the northern
part of Vietnam's East Sea. The name Ha Long means 'where the
dragon decends into the sea'. This wonderful landscape with its
3'000 islands rising from the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin
resembles very much the famous mountains of Guilin, China. Make sure
you make a boat trip (rent a boat or take part of an organised tour,
see tous).

It is recommende to go by one of the tourist tours, since it will save
you both time and money!

Chartering your own boat for a whole day will cost about USD 40.

(John) It is very convenient and a good value to take a organized tour,
and it doesn't cost that much more than it would cost to go on your own.
The 2-day organized tours usually include transportation there and back
(5 hours each way), two 3-4 hour boat rides, two lunches, one dinner, one
breakfast, and overnight accommodation. Mine cost $22. Three day tours
are also available which include a day at Cat Ba Island national park.

Reserve your hotel online at


VIETNAM - Peter M. Geiser's Hotel and Travel Guide

Copyright (c) 1995 - 2005, Peter M. Geiser



New series by Peter M. Geiser and Sibylle Dussy, with many photos:

"Classics", FAQ of

Hotel guides


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