5 splendid short-haul destinations
27 February 2024
Spending time in places of natural beauty has been proven to have a multitude of benefits for both body and mind, reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and increasing positivity. Where better to put this theory to the test than Vietnam, the country with boundless dramatic landscapes and plenty of soul stirring opportunities to experience them? Here are some TravelLocal favourites.
Mu Cang Chai district
In the far north east of the country is a little visited destination of steeply undulating hills and rural villages which earns its place in our top five for its incredible rice terraces. Acres of corrugated hillsides dotted with farms sweep down to rushing streams, every angle revealing a new vista of mud-built ingenuity, each more incredible than the last. Marvel at the tenacity of the local population who have created these scenes of rare beauty using nothing but timeworn cultivation techniques and sheer strength of spirit.
Basking in the warm waters of the gulf of Thailand and closer to Cambodia than Vietnam, Phu Quoc island is a classic tropical hideaway destination. The beaches are bone white, the inland hills are dense with jungle greenery, and when the skies are blue the rich tropical colours alone are dazzling. Pack your camera – Phu Quoc is a photographer’s dream destination complete with swaying palms and temptingly clear water. Still an emerging stop on the tourist trail, there is peace and relaxation in plentiful supply at one of Vietnam’s finest beach destinations.
Bai Tu Long Bay
HaLong bay is the classic destination in northern Vietnam for visitors who want to experience the misty magic of the island-strewn waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, but because of its deserved popularity it can sometimes feel like it is a little overrun. Make the effort to reach a glorious alternative destination at Bai Tu Long Bay, where limestone pinnacles also loom from the equally alluring deep green waters. Spend a couple of serene days aboard a junk gliding around the impossibly beautiful karst islands, each sprouting a thatch of green forest and many sheltering pristine beaches or caves. Just as beautiful a destination, but without the crowds.
Paddling about among the many waterways of the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam is a joyfully diverse way to spend a few days. This region makes up less than ten percent of Vietnam’s landmass yet provides around a third of the country’s food crops. There are several standout destinations within the delta that are all worth a visit if you have the time. Explore the Ben Tre region, a fertile and scenic area known for its rice paddies, orchards and coconut plantations, or soak up Sa Dec’s scenic riverside location and flower crops before finishing off your tour with an overwhelming array of sights and sounds at one of the absorbing floating markets near Can Tho.
Hard up against the border with Laos in the mountainous north of Vietnam, there are a pair of destinations gaining ground with visitors to the region for their colourful weekend markets. Bac Ha market occurs on a Sunday, where the morning mist has barely settled before stalls are set up and wares displayed in glorious abundance. Get your fix of local colour from the minority Flower Hmong people and their incredible outfits which glow brightly even against the heaps of technicolour produce and handicrafts. Can Cau market is similar – if steeper and with less non-local visitors – but occurs on a Saturday. Both are a photographer’s dream.
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