Vietnam,the colorful land of the bountiful, is on the eastern side of Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. Shaped like an elongated 'S' Vietnam is roughly the size of Italy or New Mexico in the US. Vietnam boasts of an idyllic landscape made more dramatic with its scenic coastlines. The colors of this land are vivid with exotic fauna and flora that are resplendent in their glory.
Here is a land where soaring mountains join hands with extensively harvested rice fields. Peasant women in conical hats tend to the fields with children joy riding on buffaloes jutting into myriad country paths.
Vietnam should be an ideal travel destination for those yearning to indulge in captivating natural beauty in tranquil village setting. Vietnam makes for an interesting vacation spot, with dense rainforests, fine beaches and delicious cuisine. With its mysterious caves, sinuous rivers and heavenly waterfalls, and stunning rock formations, Vietnam hosts a cultural and historical feast to the curious tourist.
This city of Ho Chi Minh is the South Capital of Vietnam. Founded in the 18th century by Vietnamese refugees migrating southward to escape the civil war in the north, Ho Chi Minh City was named Saigon in the early 19th century by the French conquerors. The Chinese translation of the word Saigon is 'western palace'.
This big and chaotic metropolis was a colonial center with its broad promenades and squares. French influence can be felt on the buildings. Temples and pagodas can be found amidst popular markets abundant with food specialties.
In the center of the city is the famous road in the country known as Rue Catinat to the French and later as Tu Do or Freedom Street during the Vietnam War. The road stretches to the Sai Gon River.
Ho Chi Minh is the major producer of processed foods such as rice, coffee, frozen shrimp. Paper goods, glass, plastic and textiles, machinery, chemical and building materials are also produced here.
This metro houses two major universities namely, Ho Chi Minh University and the Thang Lang College.
A number of museums, a large zoo, sports facilities and clubs are found in this place. Broad lined boulevards with offices and residences in French colonial style, ethnic population and typical Chinatowns, narrow streets selling A to Z -from textiles, furniture and modern appliances, Saigon has it all.
Ha Long Bay
Designated as a World Heritage site in 1994, Ha Long bay is among the most well known of Vietnam's tourist destinations. This bay is simply incredible with mysterious 2000 odd islands rising from the
emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.
Halong literally means 'where the dragons descends into the sea'. Legend has it that Ha Long islands were created by the great dragon that lived in the mountains. The flailing tail of the dragon gouged out the valleys and crevasses while the dragon plunged into the sea leaving only the pinnacles visible and the rest filled with water. Ha Long Bay is hunted by tourists hungry for rare corals and seashells, stalactites and stalagmites, broken off from the caves.
Ha Long Bay is truly a vision of breathtaking beauty spectacular with tiny islands dotted with beaches and grottoes, etched by wind and water. Thousands of limestone karats and isles in various sizes and shapes are the best known natural wonder of Vietnam. The tourist can explore the bay on a boat cruise viewing the illuminated caves and few real beaches.
The bay is complemented by its biological interest. More than 200 species of fish, 450 different kinds of mollusces, elephants, fighting cocks, antelopes, monkeys and iguanas live in these islands. Infact Cat Ba Island is a UN Biosphere Reserve and home to many rare species.
The bay is about four hours drive from Hanoi. Special tourist buses and cars are available for the tourists who can use these services instead of local buses which are unsafe. Perhaps the easiest way to visit Ha Long bay is to take a tour from Ha Noi and cruise Ha Long staying overnight in a boat.
The bay is dry and cold in winter and hot and moist in summer. The average temperature ranges from 15 degree C to 25 degree C. Steady stream of tourists visit the bay year around although from February
to April the weather is cool and drizzly. During the summer months tropical storms are frequent. May to October is the peak season although the hottest time of the year.
As the 13th longest river in the world, Mekong originates in Tibet and runs through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and finally Vietnam, where it pours into the Mekong Bay.
If Vietnam is often alluded to as 'rice basket,' the credit goes to the Mekong Delta, a watery landscape of green fields and sleepy villages, wondrously crisscrossed by the brown canals and
The inhabitants of this delta are friendly and easy going. Tourists can dine on home-cooked delicacies. Other than rice, sugarcane, fruits, coconuts and shrimps are cultivated here. As one of the most densely populated areas of Vietnam, every hectare of this delta is intensively farmed.
There are several interesting excursions for those visiting South of Vietnam. The great beach locations like Muine and Vung Tau, the paradisiacal island of Phu Quoc and the Coo Chi Tunnels.
This medium sized town along the banks of the Mekong River lies midway between Mytho and Can Tho. The islands in the Mekong River are laden with fruit orchards and straddled by wooden bridges made from trunks of coconut or bamboo palms. This town bears testimony to the country scenery and simple lifestyle of people at the river. Tourists can visit the tropical fruit gardens and boat along the canals to the islands. Some popular attractions include Mr. Sau Giao's flower garden, Mr.Muoi Day's Stilt house and
Mr.Hai Hoang's Old house.
Vinh Long houses many pagodas, communal houses such as Van Thanh Temple and Long Thanh Communal house, Tinh Xa Ngoc Vien, Phuoc Hau, Tien Chau, Saghamangala Pagados to name a few.
This is one place that is quite different from any other part in Vietnam with its cooler climate and enjoyable chalets. It is almost like French Alps in springtime. Dalat is a small place surrounded by country side and blessed with lakes, waterfalls, evergreen forests and gardens. Silk, garden vegetables and flowers like the beautiful hydrangeas are found aplenty here.
An immensely popular place with the tourists, Dalat has more than 80,000 foreigners and more than 800,000 domestic tourists visiting her every year. Dalat is indeed the favorite honeymoon spot in Vietnam!
Years ago, Dalat boasted of game rich areas nearby with deer, roe, peacock, pheasants, wild boar, black bear, wild caws, panthers, tigers, gaurs and elephants abounding. But the game shows are now extinct.
Perched right on the edge of Bassac River in the Mekong Delta, Chau Doc is almost like a stepping stone for tourists arriving from Cambodia. The town is rich with cultural diversity housing mosques, temples and churches alike. Chau Doc is lively with spicy restaurants catering to natives and tourists alike. Floating markets sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Floating fish farm houses fitted with fish cages under the living area is another rare sight to watch here.
One main tourist attraction of Chau Doc is the Sam Mountain which is about 6 km from town. The Tay An pagoda, Temple of Lady Xu, Tomb of Thoai Ngoc Hau attracts tourist attention. Watching the sunset over the endless miles of rice fields with Cambodia in the distance is a rare visual treat indeed!
This immaculate queen of Mountains, Sapa, sits regally overlooking the lofty hills towering over the town on all sides. Located in northwest Vietnam, Sapa is yet another facet of this mysterious land with cascading rice terraces and luscious landscapes.
The mountains around Sapa are often shrouded by mist that rolls back and forth the peaks with valleys and villages hosting hill tribes. Peaches and plums and gardens raising medicinal herbs can be found in
Sapa was built in 1922 as a hill station but was almost wiped off the map due to several conflicts and wars that swept over Vietnam. Sapa experienced renaissance with the advent of tourism. Its roads were upgraded and streets given names and hotels thronged to serve the tourists.
Sapa is inhabited by the H'mong and Dzao people, the largest ethnic groups in the region. The billowing red headdresses of the Dzao are indeed a surreal sight in their medieval villages. While crowds flock the Sapa Saturday market, smaller markets are held every day. A tourist can see several interesting villages all within walking distance of this center.
The climate of Sapa is by and large chilly and winter brings fog and drizzle. January and February months are the coldest while weather from March to May is often excellent.
Boating in Vietnam
Travel to Vietnam would not be complete without a boat cruise. Ha Long Bay is a famous destination for boat trips among its scenic emerald islands. Family operated boats ply the river in Hue, taking the tourists to the imperial tombs. From Nha Trang, Hoi An and Phu Quoc, snorkel and fishing trips are available to nearby islands. From Saigon to the sea side resorts of Vung Tau, hydrofoil boats are operated, one of the fastest way to reach the beach from the city. A discerning tourist can also embark on river tours, traveling all day to any part of Mekong region. Lunch trips are also available.
Food in Vietnam
As a coastal country Vietnam offers a great variety of seafood. The basic Vietnamese cuisine is rice, fish sauce and soy sauce. Colorful mouth-watering fruits such as the pink Green Dragon or the red hairy
Rambutan are available. Home to palaces and pagodas, tombs and temples, art festivals, historical and cultural heritage and culinary stimulation, Vietnam is as much for the adventurer as it is for the holiday tourist.