Vanuatu: Port Vila

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.

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New Caledonia: Noumea and Mare

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.

 

Củ Chi Tunnels

The Củ Chi tunnels are located outside of Ho Chi Minh City in a large forested/jungle area. This is a historical site dating back to the Vietnam War, housing the tunnel system used by the Viet Cong against American forces. The tunnel system is immense, including tunnel networks stretching several kilometers long and stories deep. Included in this tunnel network are bunkers, underground bomb-making facilities, water supply system tapping into underground rivers, etc.  The entire area was once boobytrapped using numerous styles of traps. At the modern-day facility, these traps have been replicated for visitors to view and are operated to show their effect. The tunnels have been reinforced and expanded so as to allow visitors to travel through them and really experience how vast these networks were. Also located on the premises is a very impressive shooting range with a vast array of guns to fire. I personally chose to use a jeep mounted M30 machine gun, which I was able to fire down a range at targets. The main weapon to be found in plenty is the AK47 in numerous models. The tunnels are a must visit if you find yourself in Ho Chi Minh City.

 

Ho Chi Minh War Remnants Museum (Content Warning)

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.

 

 

Da Lat Surrounding Attractions

Located just outside of Da Lat are several fantastic attractions such as Datanla Falls, Trúc Lâm Temple, Robin Hill and Tuyền Lâm Lake. All of these attractions are within a short driving distance of the city if you rent a bike or scooter. Located at Datanla Falls is an awesome land based rollercoaster that takes you through the forest and down to a cable care. The cable car takes you through a small valley to the falls themselves. The falls are beautiful and are a very relaxing way to spend the day. Trúc Lâm Temple can be accessed via a cable car that departs from the Robin Hill cable car station. The view from the car is stunning and takes you over valleys, hills and alpine forest, ending at Trúc Lâm Temple located on the shores of Tuyền Lâm Lake. The temple complex is beautiful and is surrounded by forest area. Overall you can have a fantastic day exploring these attractions while still spending very little money. The only real cost involved is the roller coaster ticket and cable car tickets, which amount to very little.

 

Da Lat

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 and Chùa Linh Ứng

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.