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Details about South Vietnam

South Vietnam has much to offer to cyclists, backpackers and other tourists alike. The journey typically starts in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). That said, if you come from Cambodia, you might cross one of the following borders: Moc Bai (to Bavet), Vinh Xuong (to Kaam Samnor) and Tinh Bien near Chau Doc. Remember if you want to come this way, you need to have organized your visa in advance.

The Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City

production and sales of joss sticks

The Mekong Delta is very different from the rest of Vietnam. The culture is based on the Mekong river delta. It seems everyone is in one way or another related to the river and the industry around it.

Snake whiskey in the Mekong DeltaThe most northern point is of course Ho Chi Minh City which is also the entry point of exploring the delta.

Personally I didn't like Saigon very much. It's a huge and very busy city without much atmosphere (contrary to Hanoi).

North west of the city, a good day cycling, you can (and should) visit the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Cao Dai Temple. Both reflect much of present day Vietnam's history. The Cui Chi tunnels are a museum of the Vietcong who were infiltrating deep into south Vietnam's territory during the Indo China War which ended in the mid 70's.

The Cao Dai Temple is a good example of a typical Vietnamese religion, not even 100 years old. The religion borrows heavily on other religions and western philosophies. The ideas of the Cao Dai (meaning "high place") are based on the Three Teachings: Buddha, Sage (Wise old man) and Saint.

Dalat, Champa ruins, Nha Trang and the road to Hoi An

For the upper class in south Vietnam, Dalat was the escape from the summer heat in Saigon. At 1500 meter altitude it has an amazingly mild climate.

The wide green open lands, waterfalls and excellent fruits is a major tourist destination in south Vietnam for both local and foreigners.

On the way to Nha Trang and further north nearby Hoi An you will find many remains of the former Champa kingdom.

Nha Trang is one of the main beach holiday destinations in Vietnam. The beaches are considered to be really beautiful but I found the sea a bit rough, especially after being used to beaches in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Nevertheless, the Nha Trang and Hoi An beaches are great.

Boats on the river near Hoi An

Hoi An and Danang

The beautiful town of Hoi An with accommodation in all price classes is a must visit for all travelers in Vietnam. You should visit the My Son ruins.

Several kilometers from Hoi An you will find Cua Dai beach, if you ask me, a much nicer beach then China Beach, further north near Da Nang.

It's not far from Hoi An to Danang and I suggest you follow the coastal road so you can see the difference between Cua Dai Beach and China Beach.

Da Nang is only interesting for the museum, with a large collection of Champa artifacts.

 Hue and the road to Lao Bao (Laos)

The Forbidden City and the tombs of Hue are the main reason to visit the former capital of Vietnam. It's also an excellent base to explore the former DMZ - De-militarized Zone and the road to Lao Bao with a visit to Khe Sanh

Forbidden City Hue
The Forbidden City in Hue

Time to spend in south Vietnam

To be honest, you can travel in south Vietnam for several weeks easily. I would suggest you spend at least 2 weeks in the south traveling from Ho Chi Minh City to Danang and another few days in Hue.

If you are on the bicycle, count minimum an extra week to the schedule.

Cycling in south Vietnam is pretty easy although if you travel into the central highlands you will find some serious mountains. The road to Dalat, either from Ho Chi Minh City or Nha Trang has some serious climbing too.

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Central Vietnam

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Vietnam Maps

map of Vietnam
Map of Vietnam

The Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta is usually skipped or only quickly done by travelers. There is still much to experience and certainly worth a visit.

Sunset over the Mekong near Chau Doc

Cu Chi Tunnels and Cao Dai Temple

A terrific day trip from Ho Chi Minh. You will learn two key elements of modern day Saigon: 1. a glimpse of the recent history and 2 a glimpse of a very Vietnamese religion. This is a day not to be missed: