The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has an enviable list of natural and cultural attributes – from the scenic splendour of its unspoilt beaches, rivers and bays, to its important historical sites, rich culture and fusion cuisine. Developing at a rapid pace, Vietnam, along with its energetic people, makes for a remarkable and intriguing journey, with highlights from north to south, including Hanoi, with its French Colonial past, the beautiful beaches of central Da Nang, plus the important war memorials of Ho Chi Minh City. Visitors can explore by land, river or sea, meandering along the mighty Mekong River, absorbing daily life along the rich river deltas, or perhaps cruise Halong Bay, marvelling at the breathtaking limestone karsts and islands that dominate the seascape.
On land, there are strong architectural legacies in the key cities of Hanoi, Hue and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). In the north, Hanoi, the capital since 1976, provides a great insight to a colonial past, with its important museums, pretty villas, bustling pavement bazaars and French baguettes. Centrally located, Hoi An, is a well preserved port town and UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 15th century. To the south, the heavily populated city of Ho Chi Minh City, boasts a chequered past, with skyscrapers now sitting alongside important historical war memorials.
Travellers can also taste their way through Vietnam and whilst rice is the dietary staple of Vietnam (it is the world’s second-largest exported after Thailand), there are distinct regional delicacies based around five taste elements of spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet. Whereas the north is known for its preference of more subtle flavours, central Vietnam uses more spice, and the south more sugar. Also worth a try is the uniquely strong and flavoursome Vietnamese coffee!