By Kerrie Lee
|Because of its geography – long and narrow – there is a great range of climatic and cultural variation in Vietnam. Here are some highlights for children and tips on how to maximise their holiday enjoyment.|
Bear in mind that it can be quite cold in the north during winter (December to February), so pack some warm clothes, especially if you’re going upcountry to the spectacular mountainous region of Sapa or to cruise the mystical, World Heritage-listed Halong Bay. You can stay overnight on a boat there but, depending on the ages of your children, a day trip may be better.
In the fascinating capital, Hanoi, be sure to see the water puppets in their little theatre beside Hoan Kiem Lake. Performances vary from graceful through dramatic to hilarious and, accompanied by live music and fireworks, provide a memorable treat for the whole family.
Heading down the coast, the exquisite town of Hoi An is a wonderland at each full moon, when colourful lanterns are lit and there’s traditional street entertainment.
Further south, Nha Trang has a six kilometre-long beach and snorkelling trips are available to nearby islands. But the real high-light is a visit to the steaming, eucalyptus-scented mud baths, where there’s also a huge, thermal swimming pool.
Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) is the exciting, chaotic commercial heart of the country. It’s also home to a couple of terrific water parks and a visit to one is just reward for children who have been doing ‘grown-up stuff’ without complaint.
There’s so much to see on a boat tour through the Mekong Delta that it’s hard to know where to look.
You’ll stop at villages where home-based industries include the manufacture of delicious lollies, which you get to taste and, inevitably, buy.
One of Vietnam’s newest destinations is the gorgeous island of Phu Quoc to the south-west of the mainland. There are low-key resorts where families can swim and snorkel safely in the tepid sea, and stay in palm-shaded bungalows with domestic cattle and pigs grazing below the verandah.
Contact: Vietnam Tourism, visit www.vietnamtourism.com
Phone: 02 6286 6059
Visas: Holders of Australian and New Zealand passports require a visa – either single- or multiple-entry, with a maximum stay of 30 days per entry.
Flights: Royal Brunei Airlines flies three times a week to Ho Chi Minh City. Visit www.bruneiair.com. It's about nine hours from Sydney or Melbourne.
Weather: Winter (December to February) can be very cold and misty in the north, but the far south is always warm to hot, with the build-up to the wet season (February to May) also featuring high humidity. In hilly areas which, depending on height above sea level, are subtropical or even temperate, the weather remains cooler all year. The typhoon season, which affects mainly the centre and north of the country, is from about July to November.
Language: Vietnamese, but English is widely spoken.
Cultural tips: If you’re visiting Buddhist temples, don’t wear short shorts. Cover your shoulders and leave your shoes at the door. When sitting, don’t point the bottoms of your feet at people and especially not at images of Buddha. Never touch anyone on the head.
Currency: Vietnam dong – AU$1 = VND11,700 approximately