Escape Worldwide is a long haul travel agent based in the UK. We specialise in various destinations such as Thailand, Kenya, Tanzania and Cuba and many of the places we feature have been visited by us.
See http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk for more info!
In recent years, Vietnam has established itself as a
popular holiday destination in the Far East. Mark explores the sights and sounds.
Vietnam is a destination that combines incredible scenery
and a varied history with vibrant cities, great food and exceptionally friendly
people. This is a country of contrasts, and none more apparent than that of its
two main cities, the elegant and charming capital Hanoi and the vibrant
southern powerhouse Saigon. Both are well worth a few days to explore, and
Vietnam's geography makes it easy to start your journey in one and finish in
Hanoi's French influence is apparent in its elegant
buildings and tree-lined avenues – the Old Quarter is a fascinating place to
wander through. The pretty Hoan Kiem Lake is a good place from which to get
your bearings, with the photogenic Rising Sun Bridge crossing the water. Close
by, Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum is most popular with Vietnamese visitors, who come
to see Uncle Ho's final resting place, while his nearby former home gives you
an insight into the life of the country's most famous leader of recent times.
Saigon – or Ho Chi Minh City – is very different to Hanoi,
where the climate is steamier and the pace of life is far more frenetic. Modern
Saigon congregates at the designer boutiques close to the Opera House, while
the more traditional side heads to Ben Thanh market for groceries, clothes and
plenty more. The Reunification Palace is one of Saigon's most striking
buildings and is now a museum, preserved pretty much as it was when the
Americans left in 1975, while buildings such as the post office and Notre Dame
Cathedral show the city's French influence. The fascinating War Remnants Museum
is quite possibly the most moving museum you're likely to visit, one that
really brings home the effects of war. Make sure you have time to take a trip
out of the city to see the Cu Chi tunnels, a mind-boggling series of over 250km
of tunnels that criss-crossed the region at the height of the Vietnam War.
Central Vietnam is home to some of the country's most
beautiful scenery and interesting towns, with the gems of Hue and Hoi An being
linked by the beautiful Hai Van Pass. The former capital of Hue is home to
numerous tombs of emperors, several beautiful pagodas and the remains of the
Citadel. Hoi An is perhaps the most interesting of the two, with its restored
wooden buildings and long history of seafarers giving it a charm that's hard to
resist. A half-day walking tour of the World Heritage-listed Old Town will take
in the key sites, including the famed Japanese Covered Bridge and the Fujian
Chinese Assembly Hall.
With over 1,000 miles of stunning coastline, Vietnam is
also home to some beautiful beaches, from the diving paradise and nightlife of
Nha Trang and the restaurants and bars of Mui Ne, to more peaceful spots such
as Ninh Van Bay or the relaxed Quy Nhon, famed for its seafood. Both Hoi An and
Hue have beaches close by, making them great options for a holiday that
combines sightseeing with beach time.
Vietnam is a charming and fascinating country, one that's
steeped in history and packed with interest, and a trip there will leave you
planning your return before you've even left.
As Escape Worldwide celebrates its 11th birthday,
the team take a look back at some of their favourite destinations. Karen
Stewart recalls a trip to northern India, when the story of the Taj Mahal brought
a tear to her eye.
There are some places in the world that you feel you
know even if you haven't been, and the Taj Mahal is one of them –
it's such an iconic building that everyone knows what it looks like, but when
you actually visit you're really blown away by just how beautiful this place
I was part-way through a trip to see
the highlights of northern India when I visited the Taj Mahal –
it was my first trip to India and a real eye-opener to this fantastically
diverse country. I began with a few days in Delhi, which acts as the main gateway to
northern India and is a good place to get started, before moving on
to Jaipur, which I have to say was my favourite part – there's
something about the atmosphere there that I can't quite describe, but
just makes it really worth visiting.
Touring India can be quite a tiring experience
as there's so much to take in – it's such a hectic place and just walking down
the road can be an experience. The roads can be very busy, so getting around
can be slow at times – don't try to do too much. But then, just when
you're getting a bit tired, you arrive at somewhere as stunningly beautiful as
the Taj Mahal, and you quickly remember how wonderful this place is.
It's fair to say that the Taj Mahal is
among the most visited sites in India, so you're unlikely to get much
in the way of peace and quiet here – forget having a 'Princess Di' moment to
yourself. From a distance the Taj Mahal takes your breath away, but
it's only when you get up close to it that you can really appreciate the detail
involved. The bas-reliefs on the walls, the calligraphy on the gates and the
gemstones that are inlaid into the interior walls all come together to produce
the most beautiful building imaginable. Seeing the beauty and hearing the love
story behind it brought a tear to my eye.
The entrance to the Taj Mahal itself is
through the landscaped gardens, with a reflecting pool running
through the centre giving another perfect photo opportunity – be sure to bring
plenty of film, memory cards and batteries with you as you're bound
to take more photos than you thought was possible.
I'd recommend taking a guidebook too as
there's so much to take in here – the history of the building, the story behind
it, the meaning of the architecture and the construction of it – that you
simply won't be able to remember all the detail. If you can find a quiet
corner, re-read some of the stories, just to ensure you've really appreciated
why this place is quite so special.