Hanoi & Saigon
Stopovers to Australia: Hanoi & Saigon
There can be few places where old and new square off quite so obviously – or successfully. Discover the many faces of Hanoi and Saigon.
Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City if we’re using official titles) moves at the frenetic pace of the bikes that buzz the streets. It’s a whirl of historic pagodas and bustling markets, crooked alleyways and thrusting skyscrapers.
Image credit: “Ho Chi Minh City in Saigon Vietnam Jan 2012” by calflier001 via Wikimedia Commons
Hanoi is just as thriving, but bears its French colonial history more obviously, and its war scars more lightly.
Things to do in Hanoi and Saigon
Visit Tran Quoc, the city’s most historic pagoda, brush up on your Ho Chi Minh history at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and museum, or amble through the old quarter with its plentiful shops.
Lighten the mood after the War Remnants Museum (see sidebar), and practise your haggling skills at Ben Thanh Market. Visit the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre for touristy but delightful entertainment.
Do I need a visa for Hanoi & Saigon?
Yes. Get your visa in person or by post from the Vietnamese Embassy. You can download application forms here. The embassy site notes that online visa services are not authorised or regulated, so beware applying online.
What vaccinations do I need for Hanoi & Saigon?
Check with your GP eight weeks prior to departure to ensure your standard UK vaccinations (diphtheria, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and TB) are all up to date.
Additional recommendations: Typhoid
Consider: Hepatitis A & B. The malaria risk in Hanoi & Saigon is low but if you’re planning to visit rural areas speak to your GP about malaria prevention tablets.
Best time to visit Hanoi & Saigon?
Vietnam has a surprisingly varied tropical monsoon climate. From November to April the north west monsoon brings cool, dry weather; from May to October the south west monsoon brings hot, wet weather.
We’d recommend visiting November-April when temperatures are lower (Hanoi averages 17°C; Saigon 26°C), humidity is much lower and there is minimal rainfall. Although visiting during the south west monsoon will make for a soggy experience (particularly in July and August) you could save money as it isn’t peak season.
While in Saigon you must see...
The War Remnants Museum
To the Vietnamese, the Vietnam War had a very different name: the American War.
The museum once went by a different name too: the distinctly unnerving (for a western tourist) Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes.
The exhibits can be as divisive as the name once was. We’ve heard visitors describe the museum as propaganda, revisionist and traumatic, while others call it enlightening and thought-provoking.
It’s certainly a challenging but ultimately compelling visit.
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