It was confirmed yesterday that Vietnam will host its first Formula 1 Grand Prix in April 2020. The 5.5 km race, comprising 22 turns, will take place in the streets of its capital, Hanoi. Such global attention invariably means a peak of interest in the Southeast Asian country, so we’ve broken down the basics for those planning to visit this historic country before the tankers go down.
History and culture
Hanoi’s Ngoc Son Temple (or Jade Mountain Temple, as it is also called) may be Vietnam’s most popular temple, but there is much more to admire. The well-preserved Temple of Literature is a Confucian temple founded in 1070 on the site of the country’s first university. The temple aims to honor scholars, and students often visit it in the hope of getting good grades.
On the sleeping side, the former residence of the French governor of Tonkin (the historical name of northern Vietnam) is the luxurious setting of the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel. With an excellent central location, the hotel includes a spa, gymnasium, three restaurants and four bars. Prices start from £ 195 per room including breakfast.
Far from Hanoi, near Tây Ninh, is the Holy See of Cao Dai, which houses the Great Temple of Cao Dai. Cao Dai is the ultimate syncretic religion, combining elements of Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism and Islam. It is worth learning about this fascinating practice before visiting this incredible resort to get the most out of your visit.
With over two million Vietnamese civilians killed in the Vietnam War and another five million injured, there is no escaping the tragic history of this beautiful country. The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City serves as a keepsake for those losses and includes thought-provoking stories of victims of the atrocities that took place. While not an easy visit, it is an important visit.
Those looking for a mid-range hotel in Ho Chi Minh City will find The Cinnamon Hotel centrally located and reasonably priced, with rooms starting at £ 44.
Food and drink
It would be remiss not to give Vietnam its own category devoted only to food and drink just because it’s so good. Part of the fun of eating through Vietnam is discovering unassuming shacks, complete with plastic chairs and tables, where you can feast like royalty for very little money.
Hanoi’s exhilarating street food scene is an unforgettable experience, with sights, smells and tastes guaranteed to ignite your senses. Pho, Phở Cuốn, xôi and bánh mì noodles are just a few of the dishes that you may have enjoyed elsewhere in the world, but nothing can compare to devouring them in their country of origin.
Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and French influences combine at Hội An, located on the central coast of Vietnam. Foodies won’t regret exploring this port city where you can sample mì quảng, cao lầu and bánh mì Hội An noodles. The central market hall on Nguyen Hue and Tran Phu streets is a great first port of call. for hungry bellies.
Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world after Brazil and it plays a central role in the lives of many Vietnamese. From iced coffee to “weasel” coffee, a cup of the black stuff can be found almost anywhere. Cà phê trúng – egg coffee – is a sweet drink made from egg yolk mixed with condensed milk and is a popular specialty. Café Giang at 39 Nguyen Huu Huan and Dinh Café at 13 Dinh Tien Hoang are widely recognized for serving some of the best cups in the country.
Sea and sand
Hạ Long Bay has long been a top destination for travelers to Vietnam and it’s not hard to see why. The towering limestone escarpments and chimneys rising out of the jade water and topped by a rainforest make an irresistible combination and it’s easy to see why this area has become such a popular tourist spot. Be aware, however, that this is one of Vietnam’s biggest tourist attractions, so let go of any idea of loneliness and join in the fun.
With over 2,000 miles of coastline, visitors seeking sun and sand are spoiled for choice in Vietnam. The east and west coasts of Phú Quốc Island have sandy beaches perfect for sun worshiping and swimming, while Nha Trang is an ideal destination for water sports, snorkelling, and diving. Mango Bay Resort on Phu Quoc is a beachfront boutique hotel with a strong commitment to sustainability and the environment, while those looking for a little relaxation will enjoy free yoga and tai chi sessions. Prices start from £ 80 per night including breakfast. Visitors to Nha Trang on a budget should head to the Tabalo Youth Hostel where a bed in dormitory costs from £ 5 per night.
Don’t wait until 2020 to discover this sensational destination.