1. Secure a booking in a suite at any of the marvelous Colonial hotels across Vietnam, oozing charm and romance, warmth and comfort. The Park Hyatt in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) offers a sanctuary for work and relaxation, rooms have dark wood floors, and crisp white linen and they have an amazing spa. The Ana Mandara in the high mountainous regions of Dalat are sure to be enjoyed for its cool climate, after the humid – also be sure to explore the markets which abound in the choicest of vegetables and flowers. Talking about the Ana Mandara Group, you be sure to check into Nha Trang Ana Mandara Six Senses, as well. But I think my all time favourite hotel across Vietnam remains La Residence in Hue, where clearly the opulence of the colonial Governor’s is still very much evident. Then of course, there’s the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi, where the old Citroen motor car outside gets dusted daily, with a feather duster. Painted dark green shutters and original wrought iron complete the picture. Float genteelly amongst the lime stones of UNESCO Halong Bay on board the Emeraude Classic Cruiser… this will be an unforgettable experience.
2. Walk down tree lined boulevards and experience a touch of life when once The Quiet American lived – ‘Paris of the East’, strole down Dong Khoi Street Saigon, where the silk shops lure you to pause awhile… Visit the exquisite hand embroidery shops, where it’ll be hard making a decision about which linen to purchase… visit the markets where many bargains can be had for a million dong, which when converted, really only buys you a coffee back home! Experience at least one meal at a street vendor with the locals.
3. Sit down and savour a coffee and baguette/croissant that rival any Parisian café… not to mention discover the national dish Pho Ba, served with the freshest of herbs. What about Vietnamese rice paper rolls? Experience the secrets of shopping for ingredients with a chef, and then return to his restaurant/kitchen and turn the ingredients into a marvelous meal for lunch. Discover the charms of KOTO cookery school, where the budding chefs have been rescued from life on the streets.
4. Admire the Colonial architecture across Vietnam – Saigon, Hanoi, Dalat – Notre Dame Cathedral, Old Post Office, Opera House, Golf Club Houses, as well as many more buildings sure to become photographed from every angle, with local bride/grooms adding the sparkle and romance to your holiday memories. Visit UNESCO proclaimed towns, Hoi An, where clearly time has stood still for centuries.
5. Take a Cyclo ride amongst the 36 Old Quarters in Hanoi – where each street is named after the produce it sells. Silk Street, Rice Street, Book Street etc. Talking about silk.. Be sure to remember to bring along on your trip to Vietnam any picture or favourite article of clothing you’d like tailored… overnight your two piece suit is immaculately produced, with perfect attention to detail.
Jean Wethmar is Director and Small Group Tour Leader at The Cape Club.