custom school group & youth adventure travel specialists

Vietnam

Students on trek in Vietnam |  <i>Nick Hardcastle</i> School group at Halong Bay |  <i>Nick Hardcastle</i> Travelling down the Mekong River School students travelling in Vietnam On the Vietnam Schoolies Adventure |  <i>Ben Griffiths</i> Fixing the tables during a Service Learning trip in Vietnam |  <i>HG Travel</i> Student popping out of the Cu Chi Tunnels |  <i>Nick Hardcastle</i>
  • School group in front of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleom

    We have a long association with operating safe and rewarding school trips in Vietnam. Our parent company, World Expeditions, was one of the first adventure travel companies to offer a cycle trip in Vietnam. Since then, our experience in the many mountain regions, beach side towns, historical areas and iconic regions like Hanoi, the Mekong Delta and Halong Bay is unparalleled.

    The safety of our young travellers is our number one priority.

    Our commitment to provide a proper duty of care guides everything we do.

    World Youth Adventures has an unblemished record in the operation of school & youth adventures.

    We will only operate tours in accordance with strict operational standards that have built our reputation as leaders in the student travel industry.

    Every tour is underpinned by an industry leading risk assessment plan that exceeds the benchmark standard in Australia, New Zealand, the UK as well as the USA and Canada.

    Three decades of tailoring successful student expeditions adds another dimension to the overall student experience.

    Doing your research on a Vietnam school expedition? Ask us about our Price & Value Guarantee when you request a free quote.

    Transport in Vietnam&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Richard I'Anson</i>

    In Halong Bay, we do not use 2 or 3 star boats for safety reasons. The boats we use are chosen for their proven maintenance and service history and professional crew of which all are qualified and licensed according to local regulations.

    Thanks to careful management and thorough consultation with local partners our track record is exemplary.

    Our industry leading risk management procedures have become a skill that we continue to refine.

    All of our school group experts are highly trained and experienced consultants who have safety as their number one priority.

    Expert leaders, risk assessments, quality inclusions and your financial security all come standard when travelling with World Youth Adventures.

    Cycling through the north amoungst limestone formations.&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Amanda Fletcher</i>

    World Youth Adventures is committed to responsible travel and true sustainability.

    Since 2006, through our school groups and our parent company World Expeditions' Community Project Travel program, we have completed many school renovatons, working alongside worked alongside many the ethnic minority people such as the Hmong Lau Thi Ngai village in northeast Vietnam where a water system was constructed giving the people of the village access to clean water for their homes.

    In Vietnam, to reduce the amount of carbon producing transport we use on our adventures we design our itineraries to use environmentally friendly modes of transport whenever possible - such as cyclos, city walks, bicycles and electric cars.

    In South East Asia we do not endorse the practice of elephant riding as part of a tourism experience and as such we do not include elephant rides in any of our South East Asia itineraries. In the interest of public safety and animal welfare we discourage our clients from partaking in such activities outside of our itineraries as well.

    We are committed to hiring local Vietnamese crew and guides, paying them competitive wages, providing them with opportunities for self-development and ample training in health, safety and environmental issues.

    We encourage our travellers to dress conservatively and appropriately to avoid offending the local people, especially when visiting temples and pagodas.

  • Breathtaking sunset from the boat deck at Halong Bay

    Halong Bay: using only high quality junks, your students can spend as many days as required cruising the limestone cliffs of this spectacular World Heritage listed site. Kayaking and walking options including cave explorations can also be made available. Halong Bay is located a few hours drive east of Hanoi in Northern Vietnam.

    Hanoi: Located in North Vietnam, the capital city is a vibrant place and easily enjoyed by an age. Learn about the father of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, with visits to his mausoleum, his humble wooden cottage and a museum dedicated to his life. Students can also walk through the grounds of the magnificent Presidential Palace; visit the impressive Temple of Literature as well as the One Pillar Pagoda. Relax with a walking tour of the Old Quarter or catch a water puppet theatre show.

    Central Vietnam: Discover the ancient capital of Hue, take a cooking lesson in Hoi An, or visit the World Heritage listed My Son sanctuary, the religious centre for the Champa Kingdom which began around AD192. Southern Vietnam: In bustling Ho Chi Minh city there are sightseeing opportunities to the War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace and Notre Dame Cathedral. Heading further south, travel to the Cu Chi Tunnels or take a boat ride to view life along the Mekong River.

    Close neighbours like Cambodia: To add more cultural elements to your student tour we can easily arrange for your students to cross the border to visit the Angkor Wat temples near Siem Reap, where you can walk or cycle around the complex, and also visit the capital city of Phnom Penh.

    Experience the history of ancient Hue

    Vietnam is a country full of diversity, steeped in a rich history full of ancient traditions and shaped by the influences of numerous civilizations and occupations. Relatively little is known about the ancient Vietnamese but archeological finds place human habitation in northern Vietnam as far back as 500,000 years ago. A thousand years of Chinese rule would be the biggest period of cultural influence upon Vietnam, but the failure of the Chinese influence to completely assimilate the Vietnamese people proves the depth of the country’s preexisting traditional culture. Findings from linguistic and ethnographic research prove not only the strong influence of Chinese culture (as evidenced by the Chinese language roots of Vietnamese political, literary, philosophical and technical vocabulary), but also close cultural affiliations with neighbouring southeast Asian countries, as evidenced by the discovery of shared cultural traditions including tattooing, teeth blackening, totemism, animism and many social rituals and festivals.

    From about the 3rd century BC onwards, the sophisticated Dong Son culture of the L?c Vi?t people developed in the Red River delta area of northern Vietnam. The Dong Son brought advancements in agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing, sailing and bronze casting. Dong Son culture is known for its particularly skilled bronze work, with bronze drums having since been discovered as far away as Indonesia. Prior to 207 BC, Vietnamese history is based on ancient Vietnamese mythology involving battles and coalitions between immortal kings and queens, dragons, fairies and demons, the stories of which were passed down through generations orally. The legends of ancient Vietnam bear both references to historical events since proven by archeological, linguistic and ethnographic research, and resemblances to legends told elsewhere throughout southeast Asia.

    From 207 BC onwards, Vietnamese history is based on the recorded history of the Chinese annals, from which point the kingdom of Au Lac was incorporated into the kingdom of Nam Viet, which covered much of southern China, as well as northern Vietnam and the coastal lowlands reaching as far south as present-day Da Nang. After a century of military battles over the Nam Viet region, the Chinese successfully conquered Nam Viet in 111 BC, beginning more than a millennium of rule. Prior to Chinese rule, the ancestors of the ethnic Vietnamese were already skilled at cultivating rice, supplementing their diets by hunting and fishing. Religion was characterised by the worship of numerous supernatural beings and spirits, both animal and human. Society was organised by a feudal hierarchy of king, tribal chiefs and a large underclass of serfs (with this feudal social system persisting until the mid 20th century among the Tai and Muong minority populations of northern Vietnam).

    The Chinese introduced many sophisticated advancements to the people of the Red River delta area, including innovations in technology, administration and education. More sophisticated agricultural methods were introduced and infrastructure such as roads, harbours and waterways were constructed throughout northern Vietnam as the Chinese sought to maintain control over the region with improved access to different areas. For the first century of rule, the Chinese operated as more of a leniently governed protectorate, with the Vietnamese territory still operating under the administration of local tribal leaders, however, by the 1st century AD this level of autonomy was seen as a threat to the desired sinicization of the resource-abundant Vietnamese territories. The Chinese sought to assimilate Vietnamese people into Chinese culture completely by suppressing local customs and introducing by force Chinese rites, customs, religion, clothing, language and institutions. Many of these elements were incorporated to the long-term benefit of the Vietnamese, but the Chinese never succeeded in achieving true suppression of existing Vietnamese culture.

    The strength of the Chinese emperors meant that Chinese rule over Vietnam managed to hold steady against several challenges (and to recover control after a temporary return to Vietnamese control in 40 – 43 AD) until the T’ang dynasty went into decline in the early 10th century, after which a series of Vietnamese uprisings eventually led to the restoration of Vietnamese independence in 939 AD. However, the first fifty years of independence were marked by instability. By 1009, the Ly dynasty had managed to unify the Vietnamese provinces under a new, centralised administration. The Ly made some critical innovations to the newly renamed Vietnamese territory of Dai Viet: modernising the agricultural system, establishing the new capital of Hanoi and replacing the existing feudal system with a new administrative system of civil servants based on the Chinese model. After a two-hundred-year period marked by progress but also conflicts with the Champa kingdom and the Cambodian Khmer empire, the Ly dynasty began to decline and was succeeded by the Tran dynasty, whose reign lasted from 1225 to 1400. The Tran continued to rule based on the policies and systems used effectively by the Ly dynasty, and were successful in maintaining control against attack from Yuan/Mongol armies from southern China. Tran Hung Dao, the General who led forces in their successful defense of Dai Viet, is considered one of Vietnam’s great historical heroes.

    The economic and social drain of battle left Dai Viet weakened and forced Tran Hung Dao to seek support from China’s ruling Ming dynasty to help reinforce his rule of Vietnam, but the Ming rulers seized the opportunity to reclaim Dai Viet again in 1407, with Chinese administration and sinicization policies back in full effect. Attempts to force the Vietnamese people to adopt Chinese culture, language, religion and political affiliations in many ways had the opposite effect, by strengthening the people’s sense of Vietnamese nationalism and desire to overthrow the Chinese. In 1418, a wealthy Vietnamese landowner named Le Loi began a decade long campaign of national resistance, which eventually forced the Chinese to withdraw. In doing so, Le Loi became emperor of the third Vietnamese dynasty, the Later Le (or Le) dynasty, which held power actively until 1600, and nominally up until 1788.

    The Le dynasty introduced many critical reforms including a sophisticated legal system, advanced agricultural techniques, and a focus on land redistribution, education, literature and the arts. The Le fought to extend its territory to include Champa, and the Cambodian Khmer territory of the Mekong River delta. By 1700, Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) became part of Vietnam, and by 1757 Vietnam had reached its present-day size. Bloody power struggles between the ruling family and the revolutionary Tay Sons continued until 1788 when the French military assisted Nguyen Anh in occupying Siagon and the Mekong delta area. Over the next 14 years, the entirety of the kingdom was claimed. Upon occupying Hue and Thang Long in 1802, Nguyen Anh renamed the kingdom as Vietnam, and himself as emperor Gia Long. The following 50 years were ruled in line with systems and policies implemented by the preceding dynasties, with little innovation.

    Rising anger at emperor Gia Long’s dismissal (and in some instances, execution) of French missionaries, and a demand for more overseas colonies fed by the surging French capitalism, led to Napoleon III’s decision to invade Vietnam in 1857. Saigon was seized by the French in early 1859, but Vietnamese resistance prevented the French from advancing until 1861, when thanks to new command (and superior weaponry) the French were able to take the three adjacent southern provinces. By 1883 the French had also been given control over central and northern Vietnam, which formed part of the French-controlled Indochinese Union, consisting of the colony of Cochinchina and the four new protectorates of Annam, Tonkin, Cambodia and Laos.

    From 1897, the French focused on economic exploitation of its new Indochinese colonies and the imposition of Western-style administration. Vietnamese emperors were removed or replaced with French sympathisers, and French nationals were imported to replace all important bureaucratic positions, a system which persisted until the 1930s. The economic wealth extracted from Vietnam under French colonial rule was beneficial only to the French (and a handful of wealthy Vietnamese), with very little reinvested in the country. Poverty, food shortages, landlessness, labour exploitation, high rents and taxes, and a lack of education and health services plagued the masses. Phan Boi Chau began a new movement for national liberation in the early 20th century, encouraging mass public demonstrations, and the smuggling of hundreds of young Vietnamese to study overseas in order to fuel the campaign upon their return to Vietnam.

    The movement for national liberation intensified following World War I. In 1925, the Revolutionary Youth League of Vietnam was started by Nguyen Ai Quoc, later to be known as Ho Chi Minh (HCM). By 1930, HCM had succeeded in establishing the Indochinese Communist Party, and used the widespread poverty of rural populations to stage a peasant uprising against the government. The outbreak of World War II squashed political freedoms and the then established Indochinese Communist Party was forced into hiding, with Indochina becoming a French-administered possession of Japan for five years during the war. Ho Chi Minh and the French signed an agreement in March 1946 that promised a peaceful resolution, but irreconcilable plans for Vietnam led to the French bombing of the Red River delta port of Haiphong in November of the same year, spurring on the beginning of the First Indochina War.

    From 1946 to 1954, the French resisted Vietnamese independence and HCM led a successful string of guerrilla warfare attacks. A treaty signed in Geneva in 1954 split Vietnam in two: a communist North, supported by guerrilla groups such as the Viet Cong and other communist allies; and a non-communist, US-supported South.

    The desire of the communist North Vietnam to unify with the south, and resulting pro-communist activity in South Vietnam, led to the intervention of large numbers of US troops in the mid-1960s and the Second Indochina War (aka the Vietnam War), which would devastate the land and life of Vietnam. In February 1965, US President Johnson ordered the bombing of North Vietnam, sparking a long campaign of intensive bombing of the north and mainly land combat battles in the south. By 1969, more than 500,000 US troops were stationed in the country. China and the Soviet Union provided weapons, supplies and advice to the communist war effort in the north, and to the resistance campaign in the south. Amid growing public pressure, the human and economic cost of the war finally wore down the US government who withdrew combat troops in 1973. By 1975 the South Vietnamese government had collapsed and the region was invaded by the North, with the two Vietnams being reunited on 2 July, 1976, as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

    The new nation faced considerable difficulties in rebuilding post-war. Millions of people had been killed, maimed or rendered jobless and/or homeless by the devastating war. Gigantic sections of the country had been crippled or rendered useless by combat attacks, plant defoliation and bombing. The generation of wartime Vietnamese was inexperienced with peacetime government and economic administration. Many southern Vietnamese (mostly ethic Chinese) resisted the government’s new socialist economic policies and fled the country by foot or by boat. The country experienced both major flooding and drought in the late 1970s, and Vietnam’s relations with various foreign governments deteriorated. The Vietnamese government sought to affiliate itself with new governments in Laos and Cambodia, angering both China and the US. Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge government declined Vietnam’s offer of affiliation, sparking savage border combat and the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in late 1978, with Vietnam replacing the Khmer Rouge government in Phnom Penh with a new pro-Vietnamese government. The Khmer Rouge operated a campaign of guerrilla warfare from within isolated parts of the country, and China launched a bloody invasion along the Sino-Vietnamese border in retaliation for Vietnam’s actions in Cambodia.

    Vietnam now faced guerrilla resistance, isolation and trade embargoes from most countries, with only the Soviet Union and its allies in eastern Europe maintaining support. After a decade of economic difficulties, and amid declining support from the Soviet Union, the government began implementing economic policy reforms to slash spending, liberalise trade and encourage foreign investment. Since the late 1980s, the Vietnamese government has been focused on stabilising the economy and repairing diplomatic relations with important foreign allies—especially crucial in the wake of the sudden collapse of communist rule in eastern Europe. In January 2007, Vietnam finally signed political reform agreements allowing the country to become the World Trade Organisation’s 150th member. While the legacy of socialism persists, capitalism is now the driving force behind Vietnam’s progress, with the government investing large sums into major infrastructure in a bid to continue the wave of foreign investment, trade and tourism.

  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Alana Johnstone</i>

    According to official census information, Vietnam is a largely atheist country with 80.8% claiming No Religion, followed Buddhist 9.3%; Catholic 6.7%; Hoa Hoa 1.5%; Cao Dai 1.1%; Protestant 0.5% and Muslim 0.1% (1999 census).

    Some argue that the atheism statistic may be inflated due to some Vietnamese wanting to align with Vietnam’s official stance as an atheist socialist state, but regardless of the official stats, the majority of Vietnamese are united by a shared code of rituals, traditions and beliefs.

    Vietnam’s constitution technically allows for religious freedom, but the government is very much the gatekeeper deciding whether or not a religion is allowed to practice—or even to exist—in the country. Anything deemed to be subversive or threatening to the rule of Communism is restricted, and as such, only 8 religions are recognised by the government, and proselytising by foreign missionaries is illegal.

    Vietnam’s diverse geography and complicated history has given the country a number of distinct ethno-cultural regions. Ethnic Vietnamese have traditionally occupied the lowlands, with the highlands being home to various smaller ethnic groups. The many highland ethnic tribes can be divided into northern and southern highland groups. The northern highland groups speak Tai languages and have cultural ties with the peoples of Southern China, Loas and Thailand; the southern highland groups have ties with Cambodia and speak Mon-Khmer languages, and some who have ties with Indonesia and other parts of southeast Asia and speak Austronesian languages.

    Life in cities and major urban areas is becoming increasingly westernised. The economic, linguistic and cultural influence of tourism has taken its effect on many Vietnamese, both urban and rural.

    Since the relaxation of communist political and economic control which began in the late 1980s, Vietnam has experienced both exposure to capitalist liberalism, and a return to many traditional/folk cultural practices.

    The family unit is of critical importance to the Vietnamese, with men and women working side by side in matters of child-rearing, work, and family life.

    The rate of urbanisation of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City poses challenges for dealing with pollution and the provision of health care services, utilities and education.

    The alluring, elegant women in traditional Ao Dai dresses, Vietnam

    People are generally very polite, and they should be treated with respect and you should behave (and dress) with a reasonable amount of modesty.

    If you want to take photographs (especially of tribal people) you should always seek permission first.

    Pens, pencils, exercise books and paper are much better than sweets/candy as small gifts for the children that you meet on your travels. Sweets create dental issues for the children and pollution issues for the local environment when wrappers are dropped

    Politics is pretty much a taboo subject making most Vietnamese people uncomfortable. It is also illegal to defame or disrespect the Government.

    Please bear in mind that tourism is still relatively new to Vietnam and in some areas locals have had little contact with Westerners as tourists.

    Always ask permission before entering a temple. It is also usually necessary to remove your hat and shoes.

    Please be modest about your clothing. While shorts are acceptable, there are few dress restrictions on religious or cultural grounds. Women should not wear high-cut shorts or skimpy tops. Nudity is not accepted by the Vietnamese so please wear a bathing costume if you go swimming.

    Cycling shorts may not be appropriate when exploring on foot especially in minority villages.

    The Vietnamese are a polite and welcoming people, but be aware that pointing at people, or raising one's voice in anger at any time are both considered highly offensive.

    It’s worth noting that the “Vietnam War” is generally referred to instead as the “American War” by the Vietnamese.

    Ivory and tortoise shell products are sold all over Vietnam. Please be aware that the purchase of such endangered animal products not only leads these animals toward extinction, but it’s also against the law in most western countries to import them.

    Full moon in the Everest region Nepal&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Amanda Fletcher</i>

    The most important holiday in Vietnam is without a doubt the lunar New Year celebration known as Tét: a time of feasting, visiting loved ones, and exchanging gifts. In the week or two leading up to Tét, families scrub their homes clean (as sweeping during Tet is to risk sweeping good luck away), shop for supplies (as shops are closed over Tet), decorate their homes with flowers and paper decorations, and gather in the kitchen to prepare elaborate traditional dishes. Once Tet arrives, families and friends visit eachothers’ homes, exchange gifts and share elaborate feasts. Children are given new clothes to wear and red envelopes containing money from their elders, which they can spend on toys and gambling games at street stalls. Many rituals of the Tet celebrations centre on securing good luck (and avoiding bad luck!) for the year ahead. As Tet is considered to mark the first day of spring, the festival is often called H?i xuân (spring festival). Tet is a joyful time of year in which friends and family gather together and many people return to their hometowns to celebrate. As to be expected, flights to and around Vietnam will need to be booked well in advance if you plan to visit during Tet. Prices will be higher, some hotels and restaurants will close as staff travel home to celebrate with loved ones, and transport and sightseeing can be tricky, but if you’re organised (and flexible!) then traveling to Vietnam during Tet can offer a colourful glimpse into Vietnam’s rich culture. Although families prepare for a fortnight in advance, the actual festival runs from the 30th day of the 12th lunar month until the 3rd day of the first lunar month of the new year. This generally falls between mid-January and mid-February.

    The remainder of Vietnamese holidays and festivals also follow the lunisolar calendar, with dates changing each year. Throughout the year there are various smaller celebrations including those honoring spirits and ancestors, Buddha and Confucius.

    Christmas Day is also celebrated by the country’s Catholic population, and in some hotels and restaurants in cities and tourist areas.

    Secular public holidays include New Years Day (1 January); Anniversary of the Founding of the Vietnamese Communist Party (3 February); Saigon Liberation Day (30 April); International Workers’ Day (1 May); Ho Chi Minh’s Birthday (19 May) and National Day (2 September).

    Total population is 92,477,857; Vietnam being the 15th most populous country in the world, growing at a rate of 1.03%

    The median age is 28.7 years; with 24.6% aged 0-14 and 5.6% aged 65+

    Sex ratio is 1 male to 1 female.

    The urban population is 31% (2011), with average annual rate of urbanization at 3.03%.

    Kinh (Viet) 85.7%; Tay 1.9%, Thai 1.8%; Muong 1.5%; Khmer 1.5%; Hmong 1.2; Nung 1.1%; Other 5.3%

  • Beautiful view of the Halong floating village, Vietnam

    Vietnam’s climate can vary markedly from region to region due to its length, stretching 1650km from north to south. You can go from soaring temperatures in HCMC to cool and mild conditions in Dalat to frosts and even occasional snow in the mountains of the north.

    Generally two distinct seasons prevail in Vietnam: from November to April, the temperatures are usually fairly cool, especially in the north. In the mountain areas temperatures can be as low as 0°C (32°F) and there can be a constant light drizzle. May to October is marked by hotter temperatures, heavy monsoon rains and occasional typhoons, although you can experience rain at any time of year.

    In the north, the hottest months of the year are June, July and August; November, December and January are the coolest. In the south, temperatures are fairly consistent across the year. Hanoi’s average daily min-max temperatures range from 12-20°C in January, to 26-32°C in July. HCMC’s range from 21-32°C in January, to 25-31°C in July.

    China to the north; the Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea to the east; the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest; Cambodia and Laos to the west.

    331,210 sq km (127,881 square miles) / (66th largest country in the world), divided into 58 provinces and 5 municipalities

    Vibrant colours of the rice terraces in Sapa, Vietnam&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Exotissimo</i>

    Vietnam is ranked at 136 out of 178 countries with a slight improving trend, on the Environmental Performance Index (2014), which quantifies and benchmarks performance of government environmental policies and outcomes

    Environmental issues include soil degradation; deforestation; water pollution; overfishing; groundwater contamination; pollution and environmental degradation caused by urbanisation in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

    Natural hazards include occasional typhoons (May - January) with extensive flooding, especially in the Mekong River delta.

    Vietnam is a signatory to various international environmental and conservation agreements.

    Beautiful Vietnamese flora&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Learna Cale</i>

    Vietnam's great variance in topography, climate and soil type is reflected in its diversity of flora. Half of the country's land mass is covered in mixed forest, with more than 1,500 different woody plant species including teak, ebony, oak, pines, bamboos, grasses, and savanna, brushland, swamps and mangroves. Pure rainforest is now rare.

    Forests in the central highlands are home to large stands of evergreen species which supply valuable timber. Hardwoods such as teak and oak are also commercially important species.

    Many forested areas that have been cleared are now covered in savanna vegetation. The Thap Muoi Plain in the Mekong Delta is characterised by grasses and sedge swamps.

    Herbicides and defoliants used to by the US Army during the US-Vietnam war (such as Agent Orange) were successful in destroying large areas of forest in southern Vietnam. Both illegal logging and resettlement programs have since hampered forest regeneration progress.

    Vietnamese wildlife includes elephants, large wild cats (such as tigers and leopards), small wild cats (such as palm civets and binturongs), primates (such as rhesus monkeys, gibbons, langurs and macaques), oxen, bears, deer, tapirs, wild pigs, porcupines, jackals, otters, mongooses, hares, skunks, squirrels, crocodiles, lizards, pythons, cobras, insects, and marine life. Vietnam is also home to a wide variety of birds, with southern Vietnam having over 600 identified species.

    Beautiful coastal view of Nha trang, Vietnam&#160;-&#160;<i>Photo:&#160;Exotissimo</i>

    Stretching around 1,650 km (1025 miles) along the eastern coast of the Indo-Chinese peninsula, Vietnam is a country of immense beauty and geographical diversity. Its landmass of 329,566 sq km (127,246 sq miles) makes it larger than Italy and slightly smaller than Japan. Vietnam is only 50 km (30 miles) wide at its narrowest part in the Quang Binh province.

    The country is roughly divided into three broad geographic areas – Bac Bo (north), Trung Bo (centre) and Nam Bo (south). The main feature of the north of Vietnam is mountains and forests along with the vast Red River Delta. The north is also home to the Gulf of Tonkin and a maze of islands in Halong Bay. Central Vietnam is made up of agricultural plains wedged between the Truong Son Mountains and the South China Sea making some dramatic mountain passes overlooking ocean vistas. The Mekong Delta dominates the south of the country.

    The Annamese Cordillera is a principal mountain range of Indochina, running through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam for nearly 1,100 km (700 miles) in a gentle northwest-southeast curve parallel to the Vietnamese coast. Ng?c Linh in Central Vietnam is the range’s third highest peak, at 2,598 metres (8,523 feet).

    Known as “the roof of Indochina”, Fansipan (aka Fan Si Peak) is Vietnam’s (and Indochina’s, comprising Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) highest peak, at 3,143 m (10,312 feet).

    North of Hanoi in the Cao B?ng province, the B?n Gi?c waterfalls straddle the Quây Son River, forming part of the Sino-Vietnamese border with China.

    The Red River in the north is a densely populated and cultivated river system, running a southeastern course of 1,200 km (700 miles) from the central Yunnan province in southwest China through Hanoi and down to the Gulf of Tonkin.

    The Mekong River at 4,350 km (2,700 miles) is Southeast Asia’s longest river, rising in the Qinghai province of southeastern China and running through Tibet, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The vast alluvial plains of the Mekong Delta occupy an area of nearly 40,000 sq km (15,400 sq miles)

    The Citadel in Hue, Vietnam

    Complex of Hué Monuments (1993) The imperial city of Hué was the political, religious and cultural capital of the unified Vietnam under the Nguyen dynasty from 1802 until 1945. Set on the winding Perfume River, the Heritage Listed buildings and monuments of this fortified city are contained within four walled citadels: the Capital City, Imperial City, Forbidden Purple City and Inner City. The distinct city layout and urban architectural fabric make it an outstanding example of late feudal architecture and town planning, one that bears witness to an important part of Vietnam’s modern history.

    Ha Long Bay (1994) Ha Long Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin, is a spectacular labyrinth of turquoise waterways punctuated by some 1,600 islands, islets and towering limestone karst outcrops. This dramatic and magnificent landscape is understandably one of the biggest attractions in northern Vietnam, with most of the islands being uninhibited wilderness, largely unaffected by human influence. The larger limestone islands feature an abundance of caves, lakes and other geographical features supporting a high diversity of plant and animal life.

    Hoi An Ancient Town (1999) Hoi An is a curiously well preserved example of a traditional Asian trading port, with its elegant wooden houses, communal buildings, temples and bridges all remarkably intact. Flourishing between the 15th and 19th centuries, the town’s unique architecture shows a successful marriage of local Vietnamese design and tradition with influences from the Japanese and Chinese who settled in the area. Unlike the rest of Vietnam, Hoi An was spared any damage from the Vietnam-American War. The town was also spared the influence of population growth and modernisation as other cities such as nearby Danang became preferred ports and commercial centres at the end of the 19th century. As such, the unique architecture and urban fabric of the charming town is extraordinarily well preserved, virtually unchanged from its original state.

    My Son Sanctuary (1999) South of Hoi An on the central Vietnam coast are the architectural remains of an unusual spin off of Vietnamese history: My Son Sanctuary, the religious and political capital of the Champa Kingdom, which prospered between the 4th and 13th centuries. Constructed over ten centuries of continuous development, the elaborate tower temples of the My Son Sanctuary site document the technological skill of the Champa Kingdom and the religious and political beliefs of the Cham people. What makes the Champa culture so unique is the influence of Hindu religion and mythology, with the fired brick and stone temples of My Son Sanctuary being devoted to and decorated with references to Hindu deities including Shiva, Krishna and Vishnu.

    Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park (2003) Set in the Annamite Mountain Range near the Laotian border, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is one of the most outstanding limestone karst environments in the world. This unique landscape is part of an ancient karst plateau that developed over 400 million years ago, making it the oldest major karst landscape in Asia. The park contains over 100 km of underground rivers and vast caves, the largest of which is over 44 km (27 mi) long. More than 90% of the park is covered with dense primary forest, supporting a high diversity of fauna including tigers, Asian elephants, Asiatic black bears, primates, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds and insects.

    Central Sector of the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Hanoi (2010) Almost a thousand years of Chinese rule ended in the 10th century, with the establishment of the independent Kingdom of Dai Viet in the lower Red River Valley surrounding Hanoi. To mark the region’s sovereignty, the Ly Viet dynasty built the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, which would serve as the uninterrupted seat of political power for the region for 13 centuries. At the same time as the Ly dynasty prospered in the Hanoi region, influence was beginning to penetrate southward from China, and northward from the Champa Kingdom of central Vietnam. The layout, architecture and decoration of the fortress city and its many buildings represents the marriage of Vietnamese and Chinese planning, design and spiritual principles, and provides an outstanding record of the history and interactions of the various dynasties and cultures in the region over 1,300 years.

    Citadel of the Ho Dynasty (2011) The Citadel of the Ho Dynasty, built in 1397 on a picturesque site between the Ma and Buoi rivers south of Hanoi, provides an important record of the cultural changes occurring in Vietnam at the time. The positioning, layout and design of the citadel represent the influence that Chinese Confucianism had come to have on politics, architecture, technology, administration and the role of government in the 14th and 15th centuries. The arrangement, design and decoration of the imperial city’s villages, public buildings, houses, religious monuments, markets and infrastructure represents a coherent record of the cultural values of the Ho Dynasty.

    Trang An Landscape Complex (2014) Trang An is a magnificent natural landscape on the southern banks of the Red River Delta, composed of lush river valleys flanked by steep karst cliffs. The natural beauty of the property is complemented by its archaeological importance, with the site containing remains of villages, temples, pagodas and terraced paddies, as well as archaeological evidence placing hunter-gatherer groups in the area as far back as 30,000 years ago.

  • World Youth Adventures can tailor make a school expedition to Vietnam to your school’s budget and curriculum requirements.

    Talk to us about your next school expedition, or if you need some ideas check out the trips below.


  • Capital City:  Hanoi
    Time zone:  Vietnam is +7 hours ahead of UTC/GMT
    Language:  Vietnamese (official)
    Currency:  Vietnamese Dong
    Highest Mountain:  Fansipan
    Highest Mountain Elevation:  3,143 mts / 10,312 ft
    Five-pointed yellow star centred against a red background, with red symbolising blood shed for revolution, and the five points of the star symbolising the five segments of society that unite to build socialism: peasants, workers, intellectuals, traders and soldiers.