It may be a favourite destination for backpackers, but it’s also possible to explore Vietnam in style. Abi Jackson discovers culture, history and five-star luxury.
This part of the world is usually associated with backpackers, young gap-year explorers roughing it in no-frills hostels - but that’s changing.
The region is becoming increasingly popular with other groups: honeymooners seeking something a little less predictable as well as families and retired couples looking for a culture-packed adventure.
Lang Co, tucked between expanses of paddy fields and jungle on Vietnam’s central coast, is relatively quiet, so visitors here are still a bit of a novelty - though a very welcome one.
A short drive from the fishing village sits a stunning stretch of sandy beach which, until a few years ago, was almost completely remote.
Now it’s home to the newest addition to the Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts - Banyan Tree Lang Co and sister hotel Angsana, which opened earlier this year.
Getting to Vietnam may have become easier, but it’s still a long journey, so the VIP greeting at Banyan Tree goes down a treat.
A large gong chimes to mark my arrival and I’m handed a refreshing drink before checking in (everybody’s a VIP here). Within moments, flight-weariness forgotten, I’m wide-eyed as I take in the surroundings.
Anybody familiar with Banyan Tree resorts will know that they’re utterly stunning.
The resort is made up of 49 private villas. Guests are whisked to their rooms on golf buggies which can be called for at any time (or you can borrow a bike).
Though not exclusively for adults, the resort’s clearly been designed with couples in mind. At night, the river is lit with colourful lanterns and guests can enjoy a romantic boat ride.
Romantic dinners can be set up on the beach, or in your villa, though the resort’s restaurants are certainly worth a visit.
For me, a walk along the deserted beach at sunrise (5am, if you’re wondering), followed by an al fresco garden breakfast, with birdsong and the occasional butterfly for company, is a total treat.
Hue is a scenic 1.5-mile drive away. Roads here are in decent condition and relatively safe, with strict speed limits.
Hue city, with a population of 1.3 million, appears surprisingly modern at first, as the farmers’ traditional attire gives way to fashionable skinny jeans and tops.
The streets buzz with scooters, carrying young office workers, couples and sometimes entire families.
Perfume River separates the more developed south from the city’s north, where the heritage sites are found.
Historical Hoi An is perhaps the region’s most popular tourist hotspot, and it’s easy to see why. Again, a river runs through the ancient town, where a picturesque bridge, lined with brightly coloured lanterns, takes centre stage.
A short drive away is the impressive Thien Mu Pagoda. Built in 1601, at seven storeys high it’s Vietnam’s tallest and has an iconic status among locals. Despite its heartbreaking history, I’m moved by Vietnam’s sense of peace, and the people are among the loveliest I’ve met.