Visit the temples of Hoi An, enjoy the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City and more.
Whether in the form of tall, tapering pagodas, gem-like little buildings with elaborate altars, or mysterious caves with massive statues, Vietnam’s places of worship are nothing less than extraordinary.
Throughout the country, richly decorated temples draw those with Buddhist, Taoist, Confucianist, and animist beliefs, sometimes conflated. Catholicism has also made inroads as have the sects of Cao Dai and Hoa Hao Buddhism.
The centuries-old trading port of Hoi An is noted by UNESCO for its well-preserved traditional wooden architecture and living heritage that includes temples decorated with paintings, scrolls, and watercolors; some conceal quiet rear courtyards or fish ponds.
On an optional Da Nang excursion to the Marble Mountains—a network of caves, tunnels, towers, and pagodas—enter the otherworldly Huyen Khong Cave. The massive space is a Buddhist sanctuary with shrines and commanding statues surrounded by soaring mossy walls and jungle foliage. Another optional day trip from Da Nang is the dramatic My Son Cham tower temple ruins built over ten centuries and displaying the influence of the Hindu art and architecture of the Indian subcontinent.
Hanoi’s lovely small wooden One Pillar Pagoda and Ho Chi Minh’s fascinatingly eclectic Cao Dai temple are two more examples of places of worship that provide insight into Vietnam’s varied cultural expressions.
As we travel the length of the country we experience life in both major modern cities and tiny traditional fishing communities.
With buzzing mopeds, busy markets, and active street life, Vietnam’s cities are anything but dull. Ancient temples stand side by side with glass skyscrapers, creating a diverse architectural vernacular. Influences include French Colonial, as in Hanoi’s French Quarter; and Brutalist, as seen in the stark lines and materials of Ho Chi Minh City’s Reunification Palace. Those who want to jump right into the hustle and bustle of city life are able to explore on their own, browsing artisan crafts and fabrics at markets and stores, sampling flavorful authentic cuisine, or sitting with a coffee and watching daily life unfold. If you become enchanted with Vietnamese cuisine, there’s an opportunity to take a cooking class so you can bring some of the local flavors back to your home kitchen.
Sailing by lush deltas, we encounter rural fishing villages such as colorful Qui Nhon, the floating community of Cua Van, and Port Dayot, known for its red-and-blue painted boats and unusual basket boats. For an immersive experience, we explore these water-based communities by Zodiac and traditional junk.
Vietnam’s many cultural traditions include numerous forms of music, dance, and martial arts, which we will learn about through talks by onboard experts and local guides as well as museum visits. Binh Dinh’s Quang Trung Museum illustrates the evolution of Vietnam’s cultures through artifacts such as musical instruments and costumes. In Hanoi, a guided tour of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is a primer on the country’s 54 officially recognized ethnic groups.
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