The Liberation Day/Labour Day holiday is just around the corner, and while all of your friends are packing up their bags with flight tickets in hand, you're stuck wondering how many sitcom re-runs you'll manage to get through before you suffer a cabin fever psychotic break. With the help of our writers — who have explored both inside the cities as well as on the destinations on the outskirts — we have you covered. Thankfully, some of Vietnam's best destinations are a bus, motorbike, or taxi ride away from the city centres, with no plane ticket — and just a little prior planning — required.
I tried to find the artists' village a few years ago and failed miserably. When I was new to Saigon, a durable expat had told me about a place he had once been taken to, where a group of artists lived in traditional wooden houses.
I’ve often thought that “You are not special” is a terrible thing to say to someone as it trivialises the human experience. But staring up at 30 metres of raw Cat Ba Island mountain that you are expected to climb is a humbling experience — one that could make the most rock-strong of our bretheren feel a bit trivial or even unspecial.
We meet in front of the Caravelle at 8.30am sharp, the earliest I’ve ever had call to be in Lam Son Square. All around us are departing tourists and waiting taxis, sticking to the frenzied itineraries of first-timers. We have one of our own coming up, but it’s a bit subtler than the well-worn path of the guidebooks. We’re going to be peeling back the layers of history.
"You should set up a tour down here," I say to our musician friend, who is doubling up as a guide.
"No way," he replies. "All the tour companies will copy me. And I don’t want this place full of tourists."
Given the increasing amount of attention it's received from tour groups, is Vietnam’s iconic pottery village an example of rich craft and cultural heritage or just another tourist cash cow? Marc Forster-Pert went to find out. Photos by Francis Roux
Ben Tre is the land of the coconut. Matt Bender took an Epicurean holiday to the Mekong Delta to find out what all the fuss is about. Photos and translation Francis Xavier