Wake up to the sound of Saigon’s moped inferno, explore the Viet Cong tunnels at Cu Chi, enjoy a delicious lunch in the midst of Hoi An’s charming architecture, kick back with a chilled cocktail at the beach in Danang, savor a sunset dinner onboard an original wind-powered junk boat, as it navigates through the dramatic limestone formations of Halong Bay, and fall asleep in your luxurious cabin.
Everywhere you turn you are reminded of the Vietnam War. Vietnam possibly has the world’s most delicate cuisine; it’s unique, not Thai nor Chinese.
Its refined culture, dramatic history, incredibly hospitable population, and sophisticated cuisine, has made Vietnam one of the most popular travel destinations in Southeast Asia, a place for the camera to be used at all times.
Hanoi was established in 1010 and consists of typical Vietnamese streets – narrow, lined with craftsman shops, bicycle taxies, mopeds, and street kitchens – a charming chaos of scents and sounds.
Hanoi is the stronghold of the supreme communist party, and the political capital of the country.
Saigon – officially Ho Chi Minh City – is the economical capital with a higher level of energy, nightlife, skyscrapers in contrast to French colonial architecture, and chaotic like most of the country.
Area: 331,000 km2, bordering China in the north, Laos in the west and Cambodia in the southwest.
Geography: The country is dominated by mountain ranges from north to south with a thin strip of lowland facing the coast, lush vegetation and rice fields concentrated in the delta around the Mekong River in the south.
Coastline: 3,450 km out to the South China Sea.
Population: 91 million people, of whom 86% are Vietnamese and approx. 14% distributed among 53 ethnic tribes.
Capital: Hanoi with approx. 7 million citizens.
Other cities: Saigon with approx. 8 million in., Hat with approx. 350,000 inhabitants.
Climate: Large regional differences in the north, central and south, but best visited from November to April. No matter when you will be able to experience the cool north, dry central and humid south.
However, avoid the days before and after the Chinese New Year Tet in early February as everyone has to visit each other, why flights and trains can be overbooked as well as that the shops are closed.
Although a memorable experience, Tȇt, the Vietnamese New Year, according to the Chinese calendar in early February, when everyone visits family and friends, can be a difficult time to travel, with overbooked transport and hotels, and closed shops.
explore vietnam’s attractions
Bustling street life
Dramatic limestone formations
the bulging markets
THE OVERSTOCKED MARKETS
The lush river delta
The moped inferno
vietnam: a brief introduction
Until 938 Vietnam was ruled by the Chinese, after which the capital Hanoi was established. Buddhism became the main religion in combination with Confucianism and Taoism; in fact the Vietnamese indigenous religion, today practised by 45% of the population, consist of elements of all three religions. After centuries of attempted invasions by Mongols and the Chinese, which were resisted by the Le Dynasty, the fifteenth century saw the arrival of the first French monks followed by internal power struggles and a division of the crown’s power between north and south.
The country expanded along the coast against the Khmer Empire to the south, and the new capital Hue was established in 1802 by the Nguyen Dynasty. A number of weak emperors made it easy for the French to conquer the country in 1859, and later absorb it into French Indochina along with Laos and Cambodia.
During the 1920s the harsh exploitation of the population fostered the idea of independence, and Ho Chi Minh came to play a leading role in the fight against the French. During the Japanese presence during WWII, the precursor was established for what would later become the resistance movement Viet Cong, and the French suffered the final defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
The country became divided between the communistic north, and the south led by President Diem. He requested American military intervention, which led to the Vietnam War, that was brought to an end in 1975. In response to its invasion of Cambodia, an international boycot of Vietnam isolated the country, which only received aid from the Soviet Union.
Following the collapse of that superpower in 1991, Vietnam spent a decade of harsh economic and social reforms, but has recovered strongly during the last fifteen years. The Vietnamese of today hold no grudge against Americans; they think ahead, and with a smile welcome everyone to enjoy their tasty cuisine, experience their warmhearted culture, and explore Vietnam’s astonishing scenery.