Restoration at My Son
The My Son complex of Cham temples located in a lush valley around 40km from Hoi An is one of Vietnam's World Heritage sites and brings a steady stream of visitors every day to view the ruins of a once-powerful civilization. However, many of the ruins were in such a decrepit state that they gave little idea of how the site once was. Now a sensitive restoration project by UNESCO has brought back to life Group G of these temples, and ongoing work is transforming the ruins of Group E, which dates back to the 8th century.
Dragon Bridge at Da Nang
With a new airport, towering glass buildings and several new bridges across the Han River, Da Nang is changing faster than any other city in Vietnam. A striking symbol of this transformation, the new Dragon Bridge carries six lanes of traffic and actually breathes fire on weekend evenings at 9pm.
The Thanh Tuan Bridge, Hue
This bridge is hardly new; in fact it dates back to 1776, but improved roads around Hue now make it an ideal destination for a bike ride out of town. Located around 6km east of the city centre, it is a beautiful structure made of sturdy wooden beams and covered with an elaborate tiled roof.
Paradise Cave, Phong Nha
One of several caves discovered in recent years in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Paradise Cave is a massive underground cavern where a raised walkway allows visitors to stroll through a wonderland of stalactites and stalagmites that are cleverly illuminated to show the surreal shapes formed by centuries of mineral deposits.
Ho Citadel, Thanh Hoa Province
Built at the end of the 14th century in the wilds of Thanh Hoa Province, the Ho Citadel was designated a World Heritage Site in 2011. It is built of massive stones, some weighing up to 20 tons, but the area it encompasses is now empty apart from rice fields and grazing land for cattle. A truly enigmatic sight.
New resorts in Mai Chau
With its beautiful valley views and White Thai inhabitants, Mai Chau has been growing in popularity among tourists in recent years, especially as it's not so far from Hanoi. Most visitors stay in village homestays, where they sleep on bamboo floors and get to watch performances of minority dancing. However, new resorts such as this one are now popping up in the valley for those who prefer a few more comforts to accompany their rural idyll.
Pu Luong Nature Reserve
This beautiful nature reserve is located just a short way south of Mai Chau and is the spot to head for some superb trekking if you want to avoid tourist crowds. Though it's off the beaten track, there are a few homestays in minority villages, and tour operators are beginning to arrange visits here.
Not much remains of the Hanoi Citadel, as it was razed by the French before they left the country. However, it was opened to the public in 2012 and there are sufficient points of interest to make it worth a visit. These include the D67 Building, where the table at the Command Centre still bears the names of those who plotted to achieve re-unification, such as General Giap.
Sin Ho Minority Market
Sin Ho is a small town located high in the hills around 100km west of Sa Pa, and offers a good alternative destination for those who are curious to visit minority markets without hundreds of tourists wandering around. This lively, colourful market takes place every Saturday and Sunday.
Sa Pa's new cable car
Work is under way on a cable car (scheduled to begin service in 2015) that will carry visitors from Sa Pa, the most popular tourist town in North Vietnam, to the top of Mount Fan Si Pan, which at 3143 metres is the highest peak in Vietnam. While this will offer the chance for some great views from the summit, ecologists are concerned about the potential pollution deposited by thousands of tourists at the top of the mountain, not to mention the ugly cables that will spoil the pristine appearance of this beautiful valley.
is a British writer and photographer based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.