Le Guide du Routard Viet Nam 2009 (The Guide of the Traveller Viet Nam) – an updated, French travel guide from the publishers of world-renowned guide books, is hot off the press.
The book gives readers fresh facts they need to know about the dos-and-dont’s of traipsing around the rugged and verdant countryside of Viet Nam. It replaces the out-dated 1994 first edition.
French journalist Olivier Page has documented his meandering wayfaring across the country since 1994 in the book. He’s never to be seen without his camera and notebook.
“Between 1992 and 1993, many French people started to pay attention to Viet Nam. French television arrived in the country for the first time after the war at the time. Through television, the French saw a new image of Viet Nam – a country at peace, opening up to the world,” he said.
He travels twice to Viet Nam to update the guide.
“Seventy-five per cent of our work involves verifying practical information on hotels, restaurants, bars, train and bus services, etc,” he says.
This year, for the 2009 edition, his group checked out Ha Noi, HCM City, Hue, Ha Long Bay in the northern province of Quang Ninh, Da Lat, Phan Thiet and the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta to make sure the guide’s information was up-to-scratch.
“A hotel or a restaurant will only be trumpeted in Le Guide du Routard if it can satisfy three criteria: it is reasonably priced, has pleasant characteristics (charm, style, and architecture) and a warm welcome from the proprietor,” he said.
The 2009 edition has 600 pages. City maps pepper the pages, twice as much as the earlier edition. There are no photos, only text boxes and information. According to Page, Le Guide du Routard is the only guide of Viet Nam published in French with accents on the Vietnamese words. Most readers are French travellers on low-and middle-budgets.
Besides capturing beautiful landscapes in the north, centre and south Viet Nam, the writers have researched and written about historic war sites, such as Dien Bien Phu, Khe Sanh and Vinh Moc tunnel near the 17th parallel.
Brand-new entries about traditional craft villages like Bat Trang and Phu Lang, Dong Ho and Mong Phu were added.
The book mentions the construction of a new international airport project on Phu Quoc Island and its potential to raise the pulse of the sleepy island.
“I discovered the first cellar of Vietnamese wine tasting in Da Lat. This is where Vietnamese and foreign tourists can buy and taste the best wine in the region. This has not been mentioned yet in the tourist guides. I will talk about it in the next edition,” he said.
The book was published last September. Page spent two months in Viet Nam that year, other journalists stayed for just three weeks.
“We have the contacts Vietnamese friends all over Viet Nam, who help us out a lot.”
Emilie Lambert, a Frenchwoman, said, “The book has been very useful for me in planning my trip to Viet Nam in 2009.”
According to Page, the 2010 edition will be published in September this year.
Love of Viet Nam
Page was born in Brittany and is an incurable globetrotter. He says he’s mostly attracted to Viet Nam for its war history, but loves other things besides.
“My curiosity as a journalist draws me here. It’s a place where I feel very good. I love how direct Vietnamese people are, their courage and the way they can make things from the most basic tools. I also love the culture and cuisine of Viet Nam. Its food is good, simple, economic and nutritious. I lost 3kg over two months and I feel great. I recommend Vietnamese cuisine to everyone, in particular vegetarians. My favourite food is pho.”
Le Guide du Routard Viet Nam 2009 is published by Hachette Tourism.