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Visit Vietnam

Few countries have changed so much over such a short time. Vietnam is on the rise, rebuilding from the atrocities of the Vietnam-American War and increasingly improving its infrastructure. This spells good news for travellers, since Vietnam boasts some of the most stunning landscapes, rich heritage and good food in all of Asia. The more accessible the country becomes, the more travel treasures are unearthed. 

Situated on a narrow strip of land along the eastern borders of Laos and Cambodia, this nation is all about geographical variety. To the north and south, it fans out into the Red River and the Mekong deltas – home to the rice paddies, buffalos, traditional villages and the palm-leaf conical hats of farmers who tend the land. 

Formerly Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is a place where old meets new – a chaotic southern metropolis of skyscrapers and bumper-to-bumper (or wheel-to-wheel in the case of all its motorbikes) traffic, juxtaposed with ancient temples and traditional markets. It’s the centre of commerce and Vietnam’s largest city.

If you’re interested in history, squeeze through Communist Viet Cong guerrilla tunnels in Cu Chi, a district of Ho Chi Minh City – they’re part of a vast network of tunnels that weave through much of the country. And it’s also the place to sample mouth-watering pho (a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup) and pork rolls.

Further north is the nation’s capital of Hanoi. Largely unscathed by war, it is a place where East meets West. A mix of Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences, the city is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture. At its heart is the chaotic Old Quarter; narrow streets are lined with shops, roughly arranged by trade. Best seen on foot, explore streets with names like Coffee, Medicine, Headstone, Tin or Silk. And while you’re here, be sure to take in a water puppetry show with live music. This is an ancient Vietnamese art, performed on a liquid stage at the north-east corner of Hoan Kiem Lake.

While many visitors are intrigued and excited by Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam’s natural beauty (the countryside and the coast) holds the biggest draw. To the east is the South China Sea – or the East Sea, as its called by locals. This stretch of beachy coastline is dotted with islands and water-centred diversions. Take a snorkelling or dive trip out of Nha Trang, windsurf at Mui Ne or chill on tropical islands such as Phu Quoc or Con Dao. And for a truly unbeatable experience, sail on a tradition junk to Halong Bay – widely considered one of the wonders of the natural world.

Other destinations on your “do not miss” list should be the magical lantern city of Hoi An, the former Imperial City at Hue, and the northern mountains around Sapa. These hills are settled by more than 20 tribal groups, with their own customs and elaborate local dress.

Best for: 

Active Travellers; Arts + Culture Lovers; Backpackers/Budget Travel; Beach Bums; Couples/Honeymooners; Foodies; History Buffs; Nature Lovers; Voluntourists

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