Larger and more densely populated than its Mekong neighbours, Vietnam is also culturally distinct. Whereas ancient Laos and Cambodia were influenced by India, Vietnam’s cultural roots are Chinese. Hence, the art, the architecture, the religious mix and the social fabric in general are quite different.
Geographically, Vietnam occupies the eastern portion of the Indochina peninsula, facing the South China Sea, and the land is defined by two river deltas, that of the Red River in the North and the Mekong Delta in the South, separated by a long narrow strip bordering the sea and back by the Central Highlands. Both of the river deltas are extremely fertile and are the country’s largest rice – producing area.
The history of Vietnam is largely defined by a 1,000 – year expansion of the Vietnamese from the North to South, gradually achieving dominance over the Cham in the center of the country and the Khmer in the Mekong Delta area. A dynasty of emperors, with their capital in Hue, unified the country in 1802 until the French exerted colonial control in the middle of the 19th century. Only after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 was the country again united as a single independent nation.
Unforgettable experience are everywhere in Vietnam.
There is the sublime:
Gazing over a surreal seascape of limestone islands from the deck of a Chinese junk in Ha Long Bay.
Taking 10 minutes just to cross the street through a tsunami of motorbike in Ha Noi
Explore the world’s most spectacular cave systems in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park.
Watching a moped loaded with oinking pigs weave a wobbly route along the country lane.
Witnessing a solitary grave in cemetery of tens of thousands of wars victims.
A Culinary Superpower:
The Thais may grumble but in the Southeast Asia nothing really comes close. Vietnamese food is that good. Incredibly subtle in its flavours and outstanding in its diversity. Vietnamese cooking is a fascinating draw of travellers – the dozens of cooking school in Hoi An are testament to Chinese flavours influencing in the soups of Northern Vietnam, spices sparking up Southern cuisine and myriad herbs and complex techniques typifying the central region, rightly renowned as Vietnam’s epicurean epicenter.
Thrills and Chills:
If you’ve got the bills, Vietnam’s got the thrills and Chills. Some activities require a little physical effort, like motorbiking switchback after switchback up the jaw dropping Hai Van Pass in the central Vietnam. Others require even more sweat: kitesurfing the tropical waterS off Mui Ne or hiking the evergreen hills around Bac Ha or Sapa. And when you are done with all that adrenalin stuff, there is a plenty of horizontal time to relish. Vietnam has outstanding spas from the marble temples of treatments, to simple family – run massage salons with backpacker friendly rate.
Meet the Locals:
Vietnamese people are energetic, direct, sharp in commerce and resilient by nature. The local loves a laugh and you will have plenty of opportunities to socialize with them and hear their tales. Generally the rule is the more uncomfortable the seats in the bar or café, the more fun you will have. Poor in parts but never squalid, Vietnam is developing at an astonishing pace and inevitably there are some issues to consider. However, on the whole of this is an extremely safe (a part of the traffic) and wonderfully rewarding country to explore.