This is the oldest neighbourhood in Hanoi, in the heart of the city around Lake Hoan Kiem. The buildings here, many of which are quite old, are low, some in the French style. Walking through the streets of the Old Quarter, you're guaranteed a good time. There are all sorts of stores, and you can stop to drink beer, eat at a street stall, or smoke the water pipes on offer. There are plenty of hotels and guesthouses here, as it's the quintessential backpacker neighbourhood. Travel agencies offering tours all over the country can also be found here.
The Marble Mountains are in Da Nang, in central Vietnam. There are 5 stone and marble mountains named after the five elements: fire, earth, water, metal and wood. You can get there via a fairly steep set of stairs but once you get to the top you see that the effort was worth it. There are caves, grottos, pagodas etc.... The mountains are just spectacular.
While the diving in Vietnam is not world-class as its seas have been over-exploited and the coral reefs depleted, there are places worth diving in Nha Trang, one of the country's top tourist destinations. It's possible to find a dive center at VN Explorer, which has two stores in the city, that has PADI international certification. It's a good company to go diving with.
Of the hundreds of travel agencies in Ho Chin Minh City offering the Mekong Delta, this seemed to be the most professional. The Vietnamese owner is married to an American, and speaks perfect English. I booked the 3-day tour to Cambodia, with Phnom Penh as the final destination. Everything was fine except for the boat from the Cambodian border to the capital, which wasn't particularly comfortable. They specialise in cruises on the Mekong, which visit floating markets, fish farms, and border cities.
Even though you have to wake up really early to arrive on time to Caibe (floating market Vinh Long Province), and much earlier still if you go from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and even though the traffic, heat and humidity are terrible, you´ll definitely "wake up" and enjoy yourself once you arrive. Once you get there, you´ll want to take a boat ride on the Anbih Culao channels so that you can see the life of the locals around the canal from close up. The channels are absolutely covered on the banks with a tangle-shaped vegetation that blocks you from seeing the insides of the houses but their lives really revolve around the channels so you will see them swimming, fishing, scrubbing pots, washing clothes, and maybe even plucking chickens. A trip not to be missed if you want to understand the idiosyncrasies of the rural people of Vietnam.
While the Mekong Delta is most famous for its exotic wildlife, we also cannot help mentioning the hectic floating markets there. There are many floating markets in the region but the most well-known must be Cai Be in Tien Giang Province. It is also the biggest wholesale market in the whole Mekong Delta.
The attractiveness of Cai Be Floating Market is so great that every Mekong Delta Cruise has to go past it once so travelers can immerse themselves in the busy daily life of the locals. From afar, Cai Be looms behind the coconut trees but visitors can already hear the voices of hundreds of sellers and buyers added with the “soundtracks” of the boats’ engine. In the nearby area, there is an abundance of rivers, canals gardens and rice fields. Waterways is the only mean of transportation in Cai Be.
The market often opens from as early as 5 a.m, just before sunrise. That’s when hundreds of boats from all corners of the Mekong Delta gather to trade all kinds of goods, from cloth, house ware to poultry, seafood and even beverages. However, the most popular trading item in Cai Be is tropical fruits. There is even an exclusive area just for fruit trading, stretching for several kilometers. Boats come here from Ho Chi Minh City, Long An, An Giang, Can Tho or Ca Mau. They altogether create a fruit heaven in the middle of Mekong Delta, from mangos, oranges, and watermelons to less popular ones like durians, guavas, pomelos, tangerines or rambutans. There are also some small boat catering like a food stall, weaving through the trading boats to sell rice meals, pho, hutieu (a famous local dish in Southern Vietnam).
So when visiting Cai Be Floating Market, you don’t have to worry about the absence of eating spots. You can also buy yourself some fruits but prepare to haggle unless you’re accompanied with an experienced Vietnamese tour guide.
Meandering deeper into the market, you will encounter the green zone which sells vegetables. One interesting fact here is that each boat will hang a sign labelling its selling item so there’s no intrusive offering here.
When the sun gradually disappear behind the lush trees in the distant background, Cai Be Floating Market is lit up. At night, the market does not lose its vibrancy. With hundreds of yellow lights dotted in the darkness of the wild Mekong Delta, this is the perfect time for photographers to showcase their talents. At the end of the day, you can have the chance to listen to traditional Southern Vietnam folk music, a memorable finishing touch to your day trip to Cai Be.
No journey to the Mekong Delta is complete without taking a visit to Cai Be Floating Market. When coming here, you will explore and learn a lot about one of the liveliest corners of the S-shaped Vietnam.
Read More: http://www.deluxegrouptours.com/holiday_locations/mekong-delta/
I recommend choosing to take the bus from Hanoi to Halong City. I went to the bus station called Luong Yen (15,000 Dongs taxi from the "Old Quarter") to purchase the ticket directly at the station, and in this way saving some money. The price was ok (60,000 Dongs or less than 2.5 €), but it was a minibus, the one in which I travelled we were a little cramped, and the minibus stopped in many places, so that instead of the 4 hours we were told the journey would take, it took a total of about 5 ½ hours to get there. Note: Prices are May 2009