Whale Island

A 15-minute boat ride from Dam Mon (see above, Wliale Island is a tiny speck on the map -home to the lovely and secluded French-run Whale Island Resort (g 840 501 www.whaleisland resort.com s d tr q US 110 140 155 180). While single night-rates are expensive for the simple bamboo beachfront bungalows, it discounts substantially depending on length of stay for example, a five-night stay averages US 52 per night for a single - less than half the rate for one night. Prices include the two-hour car...

Halong Bays Very Own Loch Ness Monster

The dragon that gave birth to Halong Bay may be legend, but sailors have often reported sightings of a mysterious marine creature of gargantuan proportions known as the tarasque. The more paranoid elements of the military suspect it's an imperialist spy submarine, while eccentric travellers believe they have discovered Vietnam's version of the Loch Ness monster. Meanwhile, the monster - or whatever it is - continues to haunt Halong Bay, unfettered by the marine police, Vietnam Tourism and the...

Temples Pagodas Quan Cong Temple

Founded in 1653, Quan Cong Temple (ChuaOng 24 0 Tran Phu admission Hoi An Old Town ticket) is dedicated to Quan Cong - a highly esteemed Chinese general who is worshipped as a symbol of loyalty, sincerity, integrity and justice. His partially gilt statue, made of papier-mache on a wooden frame, is in the central altar at the back of the sanctuary. On the left is a statue of General Chau Xuong, one of Quan Cong's guardians, striking a tough-guy pose. On the right is the rather camp and plump...

Diep Dong Nguyen House

Built for a wealthy Chinese merchant in the late 19th century is Diep Dong Nguyen House (586 Nguyen Thai Hoc admission free S 8am-noon & 2-4.30pm). The front room on the ground floor was once a dispensary for thuoc bac (Chinese medicine) the medicines were stored in the glass-enclosed cases lining the walls. The owner's private collection of antiques -which includes photographs, porcelain and furniture - is on display upstairs. Two of the chairs were once lent by the family to Emperor Bao...

Border Crossing Youyi Guanhuu Nghi Quan

The Friendship Gate at Dong Dang Pingxiang is the most popular border crossing in the far north. There is nothing in Dong Dang to hold the traveller's interest, except its position as a border town. The border post itself is at Huu Nghi Quan (Friendship Gate), 3km north of town a xe om (motorbike taxi) ride here will cost 20,000d. The border is open from 7am to 5pm daily, and there's a 500m walk between the Vietnamese and Chinese frontiers. Entering Vietnam this way, watch out for border touts...

Sleeping Eating

The only hotels are at Cai Rong pier, about 8km north of the new bridge to the mainland. Cai Rong is a colourful, busy area, with lots of fishing boats and passenger vessels, and a backdrop of limestone mountains in the bay. It's also full of karaoke bars and motorbikes. You might want to get a room with air-con to block out some of the noise. There's no beach. Hung Toan Hotel ( 874 220 r 120,000d (g)) Head to the top floor for the best rooms, which share a huge balcony. This value-for-money...

Alexandre Yersin Museum

Dr Alexandre Yersin (1863-1943) founded Nha Trang's Pasteur Institute in 1895. He was probably the Frenchman most loved by the Vietnamese. Born in Switzerland, he came to Vietnam in 1889 after working under Louis Pasteur in Paris. He learned to speak Vietnamese fluently, and spent the next few years travelling throughout the central highlands and recording his observations. During this period he came upon the site of what is now Dalat and recommended to the government that a hill station be...

Lang Vay Special Forces Camp

In February 1968 Lang Vay Special Forces Camp was attacked and overrun by North Vietnamese infantry backed by nine tanks. Ten of the 24 Americans at the base were killed, along with 316 South Vietnamese, Bru and Mon-tagnard (term meaning highlanders, used to refer to the ethnic minorities) defenders. All that's left of the dog bone-shaped camp are the overgrown remains of numerous concrete bunkers, and a rusty tank memorial. The base is on a ridge southwest of Hwy 9, between Khe Sanh bus...

Buu Long Mountain

Since various tourist pamphlets will tell you that Buu Long Mountain (admission 8000d) is the 'Halong Bay of the south', you'd be forgiven for thinking that it must be nothing short of stunningly beautiful. In truth Buu Long Mountain is no Halong Bay, but it's a pretty and peaceful place to make a day trip to escape the crowds of HCMC. The summit is 60m above the car park, and there are several good walking trails. The top of the mountain is marked by a pagoda, from where you can look down and...

Floating Restaurants

There are numerous 'floating' seafood restaurants just offshore in Cat Ba Harbour. There have been several stories of overcharging, so be sure to work out in advance the price, as well as the cost of a boat to get you out there and back. Locals advise heading around the bay to the couple of floating restaurants in Ben Beo Harbour the water's cleaner and it's less touristy. A boat ride there and back, including waiting time, should cost around 50,OOOd. Ask your hotel to recommend a boatman. One...

Long Khanh Pagoda

It's hard to miss the 17m-high Buddha built in 1972 , heralding Quy Nhon's main pagoda -set back from the road next to 143 D Tran Cao Van. Founded in 1715 by a Chinese merchant, the monks who reside here preside over the religious affairs of the city's relatively active Buddhist community. The pagoda was repaired in 1957 after being damaged during the Franco-Viet Minh War. Mosaic dragons with manes of broken glass lead up to the main building, flanked by towers sheltering a giant drum on the...

Hang Pac Bo Water Wheel Cave

HangPac Bo Water-Wheel Cave is just 3km from the Chinese border. The cave and the surrounding area is sacred ground for Vietnamese revolutionaries. Here, on 28 January 1941, Ho Chi Minh re-entered Vietnam ready to lead the revolution that he had long been planning during 30 years of exile. Ho Chi Minh lived in this cave, writing poetry while waiting for WWII to end. He stuck close to China so that he would be able to flee across the border if French soldiers discovered his hiding place. He...

Around Hu Thien Mu Pagoda

Built on a hillock overlooking the Perfume River, 4km southwest of the Citadel, this pagoda Linh Mu admission free is an icon of Vietnam. The existing 21m-high octagonal tower, Thap Phuoc Duyen, was constructed under the reign of Emperor Thieu Tri in 1844 and has become the unofficial symbol of the city. Each of the seven storeys is dedicated to a maniishi-buddha, which is a Buddha that appeared in human form. Thien Mu Pagoda was originally founded in 1601 by Nguyen Hoang, governor of Thuan Hoa...

Established in Cue Phuong National Park

848 006 www.cucphuongtourism.com admission adult child 40,000 20,OOOd is one of Vietnam's most important protected areas. Ho Chi Minh personally took time off from the war in 1963 to declare this Vietnam's first national park, saying 'Forest is gold. If we know how to conserve it well, it will be very precious. Destruction of the forest will lead to serious effects on both life and productivity.' This national park is 70km from the coast and covers an area about 25km long and 11km wide,...

Hon Lao Monkey Island

The island is named after its large contingent of resident monkeys and has become a big hit with tourists. Most of the monkeys have grown quite accustomed to receiving food handouts, providing ample photo opportunities. However, these are wild animals and should be treated as such. Bear in mind that monkey bites are a fairly reliable source of rabies. Aside from being unwilling to participate in a cuddle, the monkeys are materialistic. They'll grab the sunglasses off your face or snatch a pen...

Doc Mieu Base

Doc Mieu Base, next to Hwy 1A on a low slope 8km south of the Ben Hai River, was once part of an elaborate electronic system McNama-ra's Wall, named after the US Secretary of Defense between 1961 and 1968 intended to prevent infiltration across the DMZ. Today it is a lunar landscape of bunkers, craters, shrapnel and live mortar rounds. Bits of cloth and decaying military boots are strewn about on the red earth. This devastation was created not only by the bombs, but also by scrap-metal hunters,...

Bai Bau Beach

While the Life Resort charges nonguests an extortionate US 10 to lounge on their beach whether they've spent a fortune at the restaurant or not , those in the know will head a kilometre to the north for an even better beach at less than a 10th of the price. Bai Bau admission 5000d, deck chair 5000d is a beautiful white-sand crescent no more than 150m wide, sheltered by rocky headlands, with mountains for a backdrop. It can get busy on the weekend and during Vietnamese holidays, but midweek...

Champy New Year

The Cham New Year kate is celebrated at Po Klong Garai in the seventh month of the Cham calendar around October . The festival commemorates ancestors, Cham national heroes and deities such as the farmers' goddess Po Ino Nagar. On the eve of the festival, a procession guarded by the mountain people of Tay Nguyen carries King Po Klong Garai's clothing, to the accompaniment of traditional music. The procession lasts until midnight. The following morning the garments are carried to the tower, once...

Ho Cc Beach

Con Dao Island Rainfall Diagram

Keep heading along the coastal road, another 12km or so from Ho Tram, and you'll arrive at the remote and beautiful Ho Coc Beach. Golden sands backed by dunes and clear waters, along with the lack of development, make it a draw - particularly on weekdays, when you'll have the beach largely to yourself. As elsewhere along the coast, weekends bring crowds of Vietnamese tourists. The area around the beach is part of an 11,000-hectare rainforest that was designated a nature reserve in 1975. Most of...

Mulberry Beach

Mulberry Beach's main road has several good seafood places down on the water. Cay Bang 838 522 69 6 Tran Phu mains 45,OOOd Sllam-IOpm This local favourite, serving fresh seafood, overlooks the water and is a festive place on weekends. Quan Tre Bamboo 836 157 7 D Tran Phu mains 45,000-90,OOOd S lunch amp dinner Go to this place if you're hankering for lobster or a cocktail with a view of the giant Mary with Baby Jesus statue, best enjoyed from the upstairs terrace. Ganh Hao 550 909 3 6 Tran Phu...

Tri An Falls

An 8m-high and 30m-wide cascade on the Song Be Be River , the Tri An Falls are awesome in the late autumn, when the river's flow is at its greatest. Tri An Falls are in Dong Nai province, 36km from Bien Hoa and 68km northeast of HCMC via Thu Dau Mot . Further upstream is Tri An Reservoir Ho Tri An , a large artificial lake fed from the forest highlands around Dalat and created by the Tri An Dam. Completed in the early 1980s with Soviet assistance, the dam and its adjoining hydroelectric station...

Quan Lan Island Dao Canh Cuoc

The main attraction here is a beautiful, 1km-long white-sand beach shaped like a crescent moon. The water is clear blue and the waves are suitable for surfing. However, there is no shortage of blissful beaches on the eastern seaboard, so take a hike. The best time to play in the water is from about May to October -winter is a bit chilly. The northeastern part of the island has some battered ruins of the old Van Don Trading Port. There is little to show that this was once part of a major trading...