The Southeast Asian Games is not only a sporting event held in a couple of weeks but also an opportunity for the host country to promote its cultural and historical appeals, scenic spots as well as people.
|The Huc Bridge – a small bridge over Hoan Kiem Lake to enter the Ngoc Son Temple in Hanoi. Photo: Vinh Pham
The 31st SEA Games is taking place in Hanoi and 11 nearby provinces and cities from May 12 to 23. So, what appealing destinations should tourists visit when coming to this big event?
Departing from Hanoi…
The capital city is a destination that tourists can’t miss when attending this SEA Games, especially those staying in Vietnam for only a few days. Hanoi is renowned for countless ancient buildings, special scenic spots, and relics such as the Mausoleum of President Ho Chi Minh, Hoan Kiem Lake, Temple of Literature – Imperial Academy, One-Pillar Pagoda, Ngoc Son Temple, Hoa Lo Prison, and so on.
In addition, places on its outskirts like Huong (Perfume) Pagoda, Ba Vi National Park, or Bat Trang Pottery Village also bring interesting experiences.
Coming to the capital city of Vietnam, tourists will be offered a variety of interesting tourism services accompanied by modern amenities. On top of that there is the unique cuisine with famous dishes: rice noodle soup with beef, rice vermicelli with grilled pork, rice vermicelli with fried tofu and shrimp paste, pork rib porridge, and egg coffee, among others.
Hanoi has been for many times included in global lists such as the top 25 destinations for foodies and 25 most popular destinations (according to TripAdvisor), or top 100 city destinations by market research company Euromonitor International, among others.
On the occasion, Thang Long Imperial Citadel offers free entrance for visitors who are SEA Games 31 athletes and delegates.
Visitors will have the opportunity to experience many interesting activities such as ‘Check-in’ with the saola mascot; visiting the exhibition themed “General Van Tien Dung – Famous Generals of the Ho Chi Minh Era”; especially the night tour “Decoding the Thang Long Imperial Citadel” that introduces the history as well as important milestones of Hanoi.
In addition, the Hanoi Department of Tourism coordinated with local travel companies to introduce 28 tours departing from Hanoi to neighboring provinces for international delegations, athletes, and reporters on the occasion of the 31st SEA Games.
|The bustling nightlife in Hanoi’s Old Quarter Area. Photo: Trong Nam
In Hanoi, tourists should join typical tailor-made tours namely:
– 12 hours to explore Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – Ho Chi Minh Museum – Temple of Literature and Hoan Kiem Lake;
– Cultural excursion to Ho Chi Minh Museum – Temple of Literature – Museum of Ethnology and Hoan Kiem Lake;
– Vietnamese historical trip to National Museum of History – Imperial Citadel of Thang Long;
– Trekking tour to Perfume Pagoda in My Duc District;
– Walking tour themed “French Architecture in the Heart of Hanoi”;
– Exploring Duong Lam Ancient Village in Son Tay Town, Hanoi’s suburb;
– Hanoi street food tour;
– Tours to attend the opening and closing ceremonies of the 31st SEA Games and a visit to Hanoi;
– Exploring Ba Vi National Park – Medi Thien Son in Ky Son District, Hanoi, among others.
On this occasion, Hanoi travel agencies also promote bike tours, which depart from Hanoi’s downtown to visit Co Loa ancient citadel in Dong Anh District, and Bat Trang Ceramic Village in Gia Lam District; riding bikes to explore four sacred temples that guarded Thang Long Ancient Citadel; and the five-day-four-night tour titled “The Secret Journey to the North” that departs from Hanoi to visit Ninh Binh, Nam Dinh, and Ha Long Bay.
Delegates, athletes, coaches, and international and Vietnamese press reporters attending the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games 31) can enjoy sightseeing Hanoi from a double-decker bus – Hanoi City Tour- for free. The city’s double-decker bus tour takes visitors to the most prominent tourist attractions of the capital, including 25 streets with 15 stops.
Director of the municipal Department of Tourism Dang Huong Giang said that these tours not only show the richness and diversity of Hanoi tourism but also other neighboring localities in the North of Vietnam.
|A charming girl on the iconic Long Bien Bridge, Hanoi. Photo: Phuong Phuong
… to visit nearby Quang Ninh Province
Home to Ha Long Bay – a World Cultural Heritage, Quang Ninh deserves to be one of the places that tourists should visit once in their lifetime. Majestic limestone mountains and spectacular natural caves will surely leave lasting impressions on you.
Besides Ha Long Bay, you can also roam around other tourist attractions in the province like Co To Island, Tuan Chau Peninsula, Van Don, and Bai Chay beaches to admire the Creation’s splendid masterpieces. Regarding cuisine, visitors shouldn’t forget dishes like Ha Long squid cakes – one of the 50 most famous Vietnamese dishes, jellyfish salad, Yen Tu bamboo shoots, stone crabs, horseshoe crabs, peanut worms, mud clams, mantis shrimp rice vermicelli soup, or “nodding” cakes.
On the occasion of the 31st SEA Games, the municipal Department of Tourism cooperates with tour operators to organize excursions that depart from Hanoi to Quang Ninh, including a one-day-tour to discover the “Legend of Ha Long Bay”; a two-day-one-night tour to experience night sleep on a luxurious cruise and discover Lan Ha Bay; three-day-two-night tour for riding seaplane and sleeping on cruise and trekking Ha Long Bay.
|The marvelous Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province. Photo: Lux Group
Discover neighboring Ninh Binh Province
Another province in northern Vietnam worth visiting is Ninh Binh, more than 100km from Hanoi, named among the 14 most appealing destinations in Asia according to the website Trips to Discover. Not as famous as Ha Long Bay yet, but Ninh Binh is also really stunning, with hundreds of limestone blocks covered in green plants and rivers winding in between.
Some exciting activities include exploring caves inside Trang An’s limestone mountains by boat, visiting Hoa Lu Ancient Capital, or majestic pagodas like Bich Dong and Bai Dinh – the largest Buddist complex in Southeast Asia, and so on.
Currently, some Hanoi-based travel agencies have been deploying tours connecting the two localities in order to diversify offers, specifically, the tours: Hanoi- Trang An – Bai Dinh; Hoa Lu Ancient Citadel – Tam Coc scenic complex; visiting Tam Coc landscapes and trekking Mua Cave; and the tour combines all three famous destinations including Bai Dinh, Trang An, and Mua Cave.
Coming to Ninh Binh, travelers should in no way forget the diversified and distinctive local food: goat spring rolls, rice crust, mountain snails, and shrimp paste, among others.
Additionally, the province was chosen to be a filming location for the Hollywood blockbuster “Kong: Skull Island”, released in 2017. The blockbuster has promoted Ninh Binh, which has gradually become an impressive destination for domestic and international tourists.
|The Mua Cave in Ninh Binh Province. Photo: Check in Vietnam
Should-not-be-missed Lao Cai Province
Mentioning Lao Cai, many will instantly think of Sapa – the attraction that not only satisfies adventurers but also draws luxury guests for relaxation. Situated 300km from Hanoi, the location has a climate similar to that of temperate regions, with an average temperature of 15-18 Celsius degrees. The natural scenery here is imposing, with rolling mountains and terraced paddy fields covered in white clouds and fog.
Visiting Sapa, tourists that love discovery can experience “cloud hunting”, motorcycle touring, or Fansipan Peak conquering. Meanwhile, those preferring a luxury vacation may stay at world-class hotels and resorts. There are also various specialties such as stewed horse meat and viscera, Pau Po Cu corn cake, Pau Plau glutinous rice cake, “armpit-carried” pork, sturgeon hotpot, grilled stream fish, docynia indica wine, Chinese braised pork belly, and five-colored steamed sticky rice.
|The magic nightlife in Sapa Town, Lao Cai Province. Photo: Jenna Duong
Son La Province – a must-see destination in Vietnam
Situated 300km from Hanoi, Son La hasn’t become a popular destination in Vietnam, so the province is really suitable for tourists who want to avoid bustling places and visit strange locations instead.
Travelers can stroll around Moc Chau Highland, pick tea leaves on vast tea hills, and hunt clouds in Ta Xua, among other fun activities.
Moreover, Bach Long or White Dragon glass footpath has recently been inaugurated. With a length of 632 meters, it is expected to set a Guinness World Record as “the world’s longest glass bridge”.
Bach Long Bridge first welcomed visitors on April 30 and will be officially opened in mid-May. Suspended 150 meters above the rainforest, the glass bridge is expected to attract and satisfy travelers with a head for heights.
Must-try dishes at Son La include steamed stream snails, stream moss soup, Snow Shan tea, Pa Pinh Top grilled fish, and buffalo skin salad, among others.
As the host of the 31st SEA Games, Vietnam in general and Hanoi along with northern provinces in particular are honored to host visitors at home and abroad. Each destination here has its own stories to tell, as well as wonderful scenery and food for visitors to enjoy.
So, together with sporting experiences, visitors to Hanoi on the occasion of SEA Games 31 should take this opportunity and explore the attractions of this beautiful S-shaped land.
|The Ta Xua Mountain in Son La Province. Photo: Hoang Thu Thuy