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Uncover Hidden Treasures in Vietnam’s Famous Cities
Vietnam has become something of a hot spot in recent years, with its rich culture and mouth-watering cuisine enticing travelers from around the world.  

Part of what makes Vietnam fascinating is the sheer diversity of this country that stretches for over 1,000 miles—roughly the same distance that separates Miami and New York. From the hill station of Dalat and the fabled Halong Bay to the former capital of Hue on the Perfume River and the beaches of Nha Trang, Vietnam offers a dazzling range of destinations to choose from. But its two largest cities, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south and Hanoi in the north, offer not only a fascinating snapshot of the country, but endless opportunities for exploration, whether it’s your first or 50th time here.  

You want to hit the ground running on this trip, and Korean Air will get you there relaxed and ready to make the most of this week. The airline’s service from 16 different gateways in North America includes a brief stop at its new terminal at Incheon; after another short hop, you’ll find yourself saying, “Good morning, Vietnam!”
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    Day 1
    Fly to Ho Chi Minh City
    Your Asian adventure begins as soon as you board your Korean Air flight in North America. You can choose from a menu incorporating Chinese, Japanese, and Korean—as well as Western—dishes. In every class of service, the entertainment choices with movies, short features, music, and games will help make the hours fly by as you cross the Pacific. In First Class and Prestige Class, you may want to spend some time at the Celestial Bar—which you’ll find on the A380—before getting some rest in your fully flat bed. You’ll arrive in the new Terminal 2 at Incheon ready to start exploring Asia, even before you arrive at your final destination.  

    If you have more than four hours in transit, take advantage of free tours to nearby temples, beaches, Incheon’s city center, and other local highlights. If your time is more limited, stroll around the terminal and take in its art installations, green spaces, and even live performances of Korean music and dance.  

    Once you board your flight, you’ll land in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), just a few hours later. Your base in the city will be the Park Hyatt Saigon, one of the city’s most luxurious properties, located right across the street from the historic Opera House. Refresh yourself with a dip in the hotel’s pool—the largest outdoor pool in the city.
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    Photo By Peter Nguyen
    Day 2
    Explore HCMC
    Saigon was, at different parts in its history, the capital of France’s territories in Indochina (and even when it wasn’t the capital, it was always a major commercial center). Tree-lined boulevards and elegant colonial-era buildings survive from that period. Your tour of them this morning will start right at your front door: the Opera House, completed in 1900 with a façade modeled on Paris’s Petit Palais. The Central Post Office (built from 1886 to 1891) and the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral (1863 to 1880) are among the city’s other beloved French buildings.  

    Your architecture tour also includes a later building, the Reunification Palace, built in the 1960s. The palace is symbolically important to the Vietnamese; it served as the South Vietnamese government’s seat of power, and the moment it fell to North Vietnamese troops in 1975 marked the end of the war and the reunification of the country’s two halves.  

    For lunch, head to Pho Hoa Pasteur to try one of Vietnamese’s most famous dishes, pho—a broth with noodles, meat, vegetables, and fresh herbs. Then visit the Ben Thanh Market for a glimpse of how locals shop. Even if you aren’t picking up ingredients for dinner, you’ll find stalls selling lacquerware, silk, embroidered items, and other typical Vietnamese gifts.  

    In the evening, dine on cool salads and delicious stir fry dishes at the Secret Garden, a rooftop restaurant that specializes in authentic, home-style Vietnamese dishes.
  • Day 3
    See more of HCMC
    Everywhere you travel in Vietnam, you’ll enjoy one particular legacy that the French left behind—their appreciation of good coffee. The Vietnamese, however, have made the drink decidedly their own. One unusual example of that is egg coffee: The addition of an egg yolk, condensed milk, and butter result in a deliciously rich drink. Enjoy this drink at its birthplace, the Giang Café.  

    Once you’re thoroughly caffeinated, continue on to the War Remnants Museum. While many of the displays are focused on what Americans call the Vietnam War—and it can be a disconcerting experience to see the war through the eyes of the “other” side—a larger part of the museum is dedicated to the much longer struggle against the French colonial government.  

    For the afternoon, book a unique tour with British expat Sophie Hughes, which covers the history of modern and contemporary art in Vietnam—beginning with French influences and ending with the present day—and includes stops at the Fine Arts Museum and local galleries.  

    This evening you’ll dine at Cuc Gach Quan, where the setting is as stunning as the dishes that emerge from the kitchen. The French colonial house has been given a contemporary makeover by architect Tran Binh—it was the home of his grandmother, and it is sort of like eating at your grandmother’s house (assuming she had impeccable taste in home decorating!).  

    After dinner, skip forward two centuries from the Indochine atmosphere of Cuc Gach Quan to the Chill Skybar, located on the 25th floor of one of the city’s new skyscrapers. This popular nightspot provides a glimpse of the new Ho Chi Minh City, which is fueled by commerce and new investments. You’ll see a city in the process of reinventing itself as you look out over the construction cranes and sip your cocktail.
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    Photo By Tomáš Malík
    Day 4
    Mekong Delta/Fly to Hanoi
    You’ll be met this morning at your hotel by a car and driver for an excursion to Cai Be in the Mekong Delta. For centuries, the floating market here was the center of commercial life, with farmers and merchants selling goods from their boats on the Mekong River, with the spire of a cathedral (built by the French from 1929 to 1932) presiding over the scene. With the opening of highways to Ho Chi Minh City, the market’s importance has declined somewhat, but it is still a bustling scene, with customers and merchants haggling over prices every morning.  

    Your driver will then take you directly to Ho Chi Minh City’s airport for the two-hour flight to Hanoi. Once you arrive in the country’s capital, a driver will meet you for the transfer to one of the country’s, and Asia’s, most legendary hotels, the Metropole. The hotel, which is now part of the Sofitel group, was designed and built by French investors and first opened in 1901. It has been the scene of many diplomatic and cultural moments of note, and even if you decide to stay at another hotel, you’ll want to drop by for a drink or meal and to admire the historic interiors.
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    Photo By Lukasz Saczek
    Day 5
    Hanoi
    Compared to its southern counterpart, Hanoi has a more relaxed air to it. The city was the capital of French Indochina from 1902 to 1945, and it can boast as many (if not more) reminders of Vietnam’s colonial period, in the form of stately neoclassical buildings lining the city’s boulevards. It also has a wonderfully preserved old town that predates the French—a dense warren of atmospheric streets.  

    You’ll head out this morning on a rickshaw cycle tour of the city, including Hang Gai Street, also known as silk street. With only a day in the city, you won’t be able to order any custom-tailored garments (which typically require several fittings), but the boutiques sell beautiful ready-to-wear pieces too—both men’s and women’s wear—as well as home items.  

    Afterwards, head just a few blocks south for a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake, a green oasis cherished by everyone from kids to office workers. Friendly students may be eager to try out some phrases in English and pepper you with questions about where you’re from and whether you’re enjoying your visit to Vietnam. 

    In the evening, mark the end of your visit to Vietnam with dinner at Chien Beo, one of Hanoi’s best steakhouses. Unlike steakhouses at home, here you should skip the scalloped potatoes and opt for the excellent fried rice instead. Afterwards, take in a show at the water puppet theater; it’s a captivating performance, even if you don’t speak a word of Vietnamese.
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    Photo By Sam Williams
    Day 6
    Depart
    Unless your Vietnam trip is just the start of a longer Asian adventure, you’ll head home this morning. Thanks to Korean Air’s extensive network throughout Asia, there’s no need to backtrack to Saigon; you can begin your journey home from Hanoi’s airport. When you land in Incheon to transfer to your flight back to North America, check out the Korean Air lounges, with ones dedicated to travelers in First Class and Prestige Class as well as for their frequent flyers. Then enjoy the comforts of Korean Air’s cabin and its celebrated gracious service as you fly home, dreaming of your next visit to Asia.