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Good morning Vietnam
15th Oct 2012 by Just You
There’s a 2000-year-old civilisation to discover in South East Asia…
Vietnam is a country of friendly people who’ll welcome you to their land of ancient cultures, vibrant cities, wondrous architecture and stunning natural settings. For over 2000 years, Vietnamese culture developed in its own unique way and from the capital Hanoi in the North to Ho Chi Minh City in the South, there are all kinds of hidden gems for you to discover.
Hollywood films often portray Vietnam as a land of jungles and rice paddies. However there are many natural biomes across the country’s 58 provinces. Cooler mountain regions and forested highlands give way to cultivated terraces, swathes of tropical jungle and a varied coastline.
There are hundreds of little-known beaches, but one of Vietnam’s main attractions is Ha Long Bay, where you’ll take a cruise among its limestone karsts. Capped with vegetation, they soar high into the air above the placid waters.
Since the early 11th century, Hanoi has been a key city in the region and today has over six million inhabitants. From Hanoi, Vietnam’s early imperial dynasties kept rivals in China at bay. Today, the warm, humid climate is matched by the warmth and friendliness of the people. Be sure to try the national noodle soup dish, pho, and watch for women wearing the traditional ao dai costume (pronounced ‘ow-zai’).
Your tour will take you to the heart of Hanoi – discover the old quarter and its silk traders and jewellers, and enjoy the cooler air by one of the city’s famous lakes. Step back hundreds of years in the Temple of Literature, the One Pillar Pagoda, and Hanoi’s famous Citadel. Then visit the mausoleum of modern Vietnam’s founding father Ho Chi Minh, called Bac Ho by the locals, meaning Uncle Ho.
As you travel south from Hanoi, you’ll visit a second historic capital – Hue, pronounced ‘hway’. From 1802 until French rule in 1945, the Nguyen dynasty held court in this charming city in central Vietnam. Like Beijing, Hue is home to a Forbidden City – the dwelling place of the Emperor. Only its ruins remain, but you will be able to see the Perfume River, the tombs of numerous emperors, the oldest school in Vietnam, and Hue’s Citadel. Near the city, you’ll visit the old trading port of Hoi An – considered one of Asia’s greatest commercial centres during the 18th century. Like Halong Bay, both Hue and Hoi An are World Heritage Sites.
Vibrant modern Saigon
After orderly Hanoi and historic Hue, Ho Chi Minh City is all hustle and bustle. Bicycles, motorbikes and cyclos – the foot powered trishaws used as taxis – dart in every direction at the great roundabout outside Ben Thanh market. In the city traditionally called Saigon, plazas and modern office towers now mix with pagodas and shrines, as well as French colonial architecture like the National Theatre, Old Post Office and the Roman Catholic Cathedral. From Saigon it’s not far to the awesome Mekong Delta, or to the Cu Chi tunnels, where the Vietcong literally undermined the American forces in the 1960s. Today, it’s a fascinating testament to the country’s independence