Walking in a Vietnamese Wonderland: Where to Celebrate Christmas in Vietnam
|An English teacher, dressed as Santa, hands out gifts to his festive students. Photo by Glen MacDonald.|
While more of a Western tradition, Vietnam still joins in on the Christmas spirit. In English classes, Vietnamese children write letters to Santa Claus. Drunken revelers may wear a cheap Santa outfit at a cheery bia hoi. Chic Hanoian women pose for photos in front of decorated Christmas trees, wearing deep red Ao Dais. It is quite easy to seek out the yuletide joy in Vietnam but the question is; where? Fortunately, the Vietnam Times breaks down the best regions to celebrate the Christmas season in Vietnam.
For a classic Christmas, head to Sapa
For fans of a traditional Christmas, Vietnam's northern region is perfect. The cooler atmosphere has locals and visitors bundle up in thick jackets and sweaters. Foreigners don't usually associate Vietnam with the wintery cold so this will be a nice change of scenery, showing a different side of the Asian nation. In fact, there may be some snowfall if you visit Sapa, meaning you could have experience a white Christmas in Vietnam!
Some more adventurous tourists may try to seek out the snow on the frosty peak of Mount Fansipan. Known as the roof of Indochina, this is perfection location for some epic views of Christmas Day. You can either trying climbing the massive mountain or you can take a cable car for a fun, easy ride.
|Fansipan on Christmas Day. Photo by Glen MacDonald.|
There are plenty of cozy accommodations around Sapa. The colonial architecture still remains, giving the mountain town a very European feel. Walking through the town on a quiet evening, one could mistake it for the French Alps. Structures like the Stone Church and Hotel de la Coupole are decorated in garland and lights, making for the best Christmas photo spots.
There is fun to be had in the nearby countryside. Cat Cat Village is similar to a rustic Christmas village. Like delighted elves, the local Hmong people are happy to meet visitors and sell charming crafts and other gifts.
|In Cat Cat Village, a Christmas angel appears. Photo by Glen MacDonald.|
Christmas in the north is not for the faint of heart. The average temperature in Sapa can be as low as 11 degrees Celsius. If you are not a fan of the cold, maybe Sapa isn't the place for you. However, the hospitable homestay owners are happy to meet the needs of guests. On a particularly chilly day, one can still be warm under heavy blankets and with several swigs of rice wine.
Ngoc Quynh Phan, a Hanoian resident, spend her first Christmas in Sapa last year. "Every place in Sapa is decorated for Christmas, colorful light bulbs, and pine tree with bells everywhere," said Phan. "Despite the cold winds, the Christmas vibes kept me warm. I hope to go back one day!"
|Ngoc Quynh Phan, smiling from the top of Mount Fansipan. Photo by Ngoc Quynh Phan.|
For an island holiday, head to Phu Quoc
While Sapa's Christmas lights are delightful, nothing can rival the epic sunsets seen on Phu Quoc island. Each year, both foreign and domestic tourists flock to these idyllic shores. Instead of white snow, people frolic in the white sandy beaches and salty sea.
|Santa on holiday. Photo by Glen MacDonald.|
Surrounded by the majestic Pacific, Phu Quoc has several wonderful beaches to explore. Many families enjoy Sao Beach, as it has something for everyone. Children can snorkeling near the rocks of the Long Beach resort, while mothers can take pictures on the beach's iconic swing sets. Teens can try thrilling water sports, such as parasailing, while their fathers watch over them from the shade of several beach bars.
Starfish Beach is also a must-see location. Located on the island's north shore, a long bumpy ride through the jungle makes commuting to the beach a bit of a hassle. However, arriving on the beach is totally worth it. Rather than looking for stars on top of Christmas trees, you can easily find starfish in the shallows. While amazing to look at, please refrain from disturbing these creatures in their natural habitat.
|The treasures of Starfish Beach. Photo by Glen MacDonald.|
There are plenty of options for fine dining with a beachfront view. Rory's Beach Bar is owned by an Australian and Korean couple, which makes for a delicious and diverse Christmas banquet. With dazzling sunsets and well-kept beaches, it is no wonder some travel sites call Rory's one of the nicest spots on the island. For a place closer to the main town, check out Sun Viet Seafood and Beach Bar. This restaurant offers the best option for cheap Vietnamese dining while also providing priceless ocean views.
Many expats enjoy Phu Quoc because it gives them a different type of Christmas. Nathalie Stokes, an expat from Canada, admits she struggled to get into the Christmas spirit at first. Fortunately, the magic of Phu Quoc soon had her enjoying herself.
|Enjoying the winter sun. Photo by Nathalie Stokes.|
"I'm really sad to not be with my family and this will be the second year in my life that I'm not with them," admits Stokes. "So I decided to make the most of it and come down to Phu Quoc with some close friends to make it the most "Christmassy" feel that I can get. Christmas at the beach is phenomenal! I chose Phu Quoc because this is my first Christmas in Vietnam and I wanted to be with friends and at the beach so win-win!"
As a small island with immense popularity, Phu Quoc seems to become crowded during Christmas time. While this makes service a little slower and the beaches a bit busier, this is also the perfect opportunity to make a new friend. 'Tis the season to show goodwill toward others, after all.
|A Christmas tree watches a heavenly sunset. Photo by Glen MacDonald.|
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