Vanuatu has had one of the most turbulent histories of any island nation in the region due to repeat recolonization. As a result, the country has an unusual mix of cultures and buildings present and sadly has a lower population than when the first contact was made with Europeans. In my opinion, Vanuatu has a fantastic atmosphere to it, a very happy and welcoming atmosphere, more so than New Caledonia. A key highlight of visiting Port Vila is the central marketplace, which acts as a hub for the entire town. In this market, you will find every fruit, vegetable, and meat available in the country. Additionally, you will find a traditional food area serving all local dishes, as well as goods market which sells every manner of tourist nicknacks and garments. I also suggest making the walk to the top of the central hill in town as it offers a beautiful view of the island in all directions. The city also has a fantastic kava shop, stocking every variation of kava available. If you are not familiar with kava, it is a traditional substance consumed throughout the Pacific. It is a sedative that causes relaxation and numbness and is normally used in large social settings. Port Vila overall is a nice place to spend a relaxing day and take in Vanuatu’s culture and cuisine.
New Caledonia is a Pacific Island nation located just east of Brisbane Australia. The nation is a former French colony and has a rich mix of French and traditional tribal culture. Noumea is the largest and most developed city in the country, as well as being the nations capital city. In Noumea, you will find some fantastic markets and some great French and traditional cuisine. If you have some time, make sure to visit St Josephs Cathedral in the center of the city, aside from being a beautiful and historic building, it offers a great view of the city. Mare, by contrast, is mostly undeveloped and still has a traditional tribal feel to it. Most residents either still live in traditional thatched huts or small more modern shacks. The island is home to beautiful beaches and palm/pine forests. Here you will find traditional foods and beverages, along with fresh coconuts and French beer. Mare is a fantastic way to spend a day on the beach, eating traditional food and drinking cheap French beer, soaking in the Pacific Island sun and making the most of the clear blue waters surrounding the island.
Ho Chi Minh’s War Remnants Museum is one of the most impressive collections of military history that I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. The museum is not just impressive, but highly moving, if you are faint of heart, I would advise caution in visiting due to some of the content of the museum being highly graphic in nature. I have made sure not to upload any photographs displaying content that I regard as being overly graphic. The museum houses some of the key war machines used in the Vietnam War, these are kept in fantastic condition. They also house a highly impressive collection of Vietnam War weaponry, including weapons ranging from pistols, right through to bazookas, chain guns, and mortars. A key part of the museum that some may have a problem with, is the section of the museum dedicated to Agent Orange and its ongoing effects on the people of Vietnam. This section includes numerous photographs of deformity and diseases caused by the dumping of the chemical throughout the country. They also house several deformed babies that are kept preserved in glass cases. The other key section that may upset some visitors is the room dedicated to war crimes/atrocities, this room features some highly graphic photographs that I have chosen not to include in this article. As well as these sections, the museum also houses an extensive propaganda section with documents from both sides of the war, as well as a torture section demonstrating what POWs went through when captured.
Ho Chi Minh City is the largest and most developed city in the country, with a population of over 8.5 million the city is as populous as it feels. One word that comes to mind when describing the city is ‘traffic’. Never in my life have I witnessed as many people on scooters in one place as in Ho Chi Minh. The city has a constant ceaseless flow of wave after wave of bikes. These bikes carry not just passengers but everything else a person could think of, from baskets to planks, to puppies and geese. The city is filled with winding alleys and side streets, each with their own hustle and bustle to them. At night the city lights up and the constant activity continues as beer halls and markets continue their business well into the night. Throughout the city, you will find markets and fantastic restaurants serving everything from world-class sushi and fantastic Italian food cooked in woodfire ovens to traditional pho houses. Ho Chi Minh is the one real place in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos where you will find luxury malls with state of the art cinemas, arcade, and bumper cart rinks. There are some amazing attractions well worth a visit throughout the city which will be discussed in the next few articles. Make sure to spend a few days in Ho CHi Minh to really get a feel for the city and take advantage of everything it has to offer. Food and shopping are two of the biggest activities to take part in, along with museums, galleries, waterparks, and zoos.
The Hang Nga Guesthouse in Da Lat can only really be described as the crazy house in Da Lat, because that’s exactly what it is. The entire structure looks like an LSD dream from the 1970s made real. The structure almost seems like something from Alice in Wonderland, with crazy shapes, colours and structures of every nature melded into one. Mixed into this facility you will find Scandanavian influenced houses, rock formation castle that seem like something from the Lord of the Rings, beanstalk walkways and giant spider webs. The building is actually surprisingly large providing a view over the entire city. Best of all, you can rent a room at the crazy house for around $30 a night because it’s actually a hotel believe it or not.
Da Lat is the central highland capital of the Lam Dong province, located in central Vietnam. The city sits at a higher altitude than the majority of other larger cities in the country, located in the mountains as opposed to the coast. As such, the climate, foliage, and scenery are very different from that of the majority of other tourist visited cities. Da Lat offers a nice break from beaches and tropical weather and the opportunity to see another side of Vietnam. Da Lat is an agricultural hub due to its climate, with the city being surrounded by farmland and orchards. The town center is rather unusual and revolves around one large roundabout and a large rectangular one-way street encircling a building making for interesting driving. You will find more traditional Vietnamese cuisine in Da Lat than in the larger cities, along with some fantastic bakeries, offering pastries that you have never seen before in your life. Surrounding the city are numerous tourist attractions which will be discussed in their own articles. You will also find fantastic wet markets to visit, with all means of animals and fruit/veggies. Just make sure to pack a raincoat because it will definitely be raining for at least some of your time in Da Lat, hence the fertile soil.
Marble Mountain is located just outside of the city center and is well worth the visit. The site (as the name suggests) is a collection of five large marble and limestone hills, housing caves, and temples. You will find beautiful architecture, statues and art work throughout the complex. You will also find fantastic views overlooking the surrounding area, including the other limestone and marble hills. Chùa Linh Ứng is a large temple complex located out of the city on the peninsula. The complex houses numerous beautiful statues, stunning architecture and one enormous Buddhist statue overlooking the bay. You will need a few hours to cover Marble Mountain and around an hour to see Chùa Linh Ứng, both are highly worth the visit.