Vietnam is a paradise for both the outdoor adventurer and city
Winding down 3,444 kilometres of coastline from the northern Red River
Delta near the Chinese border to the Mekong Delta at the southernmost tip of the Southeast
Asian peninsula, Vietnam is a splendid blend of picturesque coastline and lush inland
The region's history of conquests and wars makes travel to Vietnam
today a rich and rewarding experience during this time of precious peace.
During the 20th century, Vietnam was at war for nearly 45 consecutive
years with different countries. After French and Spanish forces ravaged the area, most of
the south became a French colony by 1867.
Finally in 1945, Ho Chi Minh
declared Vietnam's independence, sparking a French rebuttal and attracting international
interest of U.S., Russian and Cambodian forces.
Minh's dream of an independent (communist) nation was not realised
until 1989 when the U.N. subdued the conflict with Khmer Rouge and pulled Vietnamese
troops out of Cambodia.
National identity has become an integral part of life for this war
trodden state and today the proud Vietnamese are more willing to embrace foreign
travellers and share their magnificent cultural history as their economy begins to mature.
Ho Chi Minh City
Visit the economic capital of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the
south to witness the vibrant and progressive culture that has taken root in Vietnam.
While there, explore the extensive botanical gardens, Buddhist
monasteries, and stop by the Binh Soup Shop, which was the secret Viet Cong headquarters
in Saigon during the Vietnam War.
In the far north, the capital city of Hanoi is a bit more relaxed;
speaking to ancient Vietnamese culture and 1000 years of history along the streets of the
Visit the intriguing One Pillar Pagoda built by Emperor Tong in the
11th century and replenish your spirits in the Bach Ma Temple, the city's oldest and most
Ba Be National Park
Retreat to the captivating beauty of Vietnam's wilderness for a more
tranquil portion of your journey. Tropical rainforests abound in the protected area of Ba Be National Park,
located close to the Chinese border in the north.
The local Tay people live in stilt houses and contribute cultural
significance to the area.
Take an elephant ride through the expansive Yok Don National Park for
a chance to see monkeys, birds and even leopards.
If confined spaces don't trigger nightmares, the Phong Nha Cave is a must
see. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was created 250 million years ago and boasts a
cavernous entanglement stretching thousands of meters below ground. Portions of this
natural wonder are open to the public daily.
For the claustrophobic, travel to Halong Bay in the Gulf of
Tonkin, another World Heritage Site, which is dotted with more than 3,000 tiny islands
with cliffs and white sand beaches that cascade into the surrounding sparkling waters.
Due to the country's broad north-south range, Vietnam is a wonderful
country to explore any time of year. The sheltered forests and increased speed of the
coastal cities offer an invaluable variety for a perfectly balanced journey.
Travel to Vietnam to discover this underestimated Southeast Asian gem.
By Frank Johnson.
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