Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia with excellent food and abundance of natural and cultural attractions.
Despite the ravages of the Vietnam War, since the 1990s it has begun to recover and pursue rapid economic growth, to which its young workforce contributes. It now attracts a large number of visitors but remains a less developed tourist destination than Thailand.
The history of Vietnam is full of wars and colonization. They were under Chinese rule until French colonization after 1884, events that have influenced the culture. The Chinese established Confucianism and the French influenced the local cuisine.
After a brief Japanese occupation in World War II, the communist movement led by Ho Chi Minh continued the war of independence against the French. The Geneva Conference divided the country in two at the 17th parallel, with the communist North supported by the Soviet Union and the South by the United States.
South Vietnam was plagued by internal problems, corruption and discrimination against the Buddhist majority, which led to rebellions. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam increased and escalated in what became known as the Vietnam War.
An estimated 3 million Vietnamese and over 55,000 Americans were killed by the time US forces withdrew following a cease-fire agreement in 1973.
After the country reunited, the communist government proceeded to expel the capitalistic elements from the south. Many businessmen were killed while others became refugees in Western countries, the United States, Australia and Canada.
After the collapse of the state economy, in 1986 the government implemented capitalist-oriented reforms that proved successful and led to spectacular economic growth. Relations with the United States have been fully restored, and many former refugees or their descendants educated in the West have returned to Vietnam to take advantage of new economic opportunities. Today, Vietnam is widely regarded as one of the rising nations of Asia.
The Vietnamese are very gentle, patient and kind -hearted people. Even the tourism growth has not affected the quality of the Vietnamese people character.
n Vietnam there are cities of amazing picturesqueness and exoticism, such as Hoi An with canals that resemble Venice. Hanoi is a capital that resists becoming a metropolis, preserving traditions, old and modern architecture, sounds, smells and… incredibly dense traffic. Chaotic and enchanting at the same time, it is an ideal place to be introduced to the charm of Vietnam. Attractions located in the Old Quarter include Hoan Kiem Lake and Bach Ma Temple. Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is the largest city in the country. The contrasts between past and present are stark, with ancient pagodas and traditional life amidst giant skyscrapers. Still, the former imperial city of Hue and the coastal city of Nha Trang are of great interest.
Few countries have such breathtaking landscapes as Vietnam. Landscapes of verdant limestone cliffs, beaches, islands, rice terraces and lakes make up this spot on earth. One of the top attractions is Ha Long Bay, dotted with limestone cliffs and densely jungled islands.
In mountainous Sa Pa and Muong Hoa valley are rice fields and bamboo forests.
Phu Quoc is the largest island in the country, with wonderful beaches, palm trees and tropical forests. The famous Mekong Delta lies in the south, where the river of the same name flows into the South China Sea through a maze of smaller rivers. It is a green area and the center of Vietnam’s agricultural production. It offers scenic views of rivers and rice paddies as far as the eye can see. Here, the natural landscapes and the Mekong tributaries are waterways of transportation and home to many floating markets.
Some of the best options when it comes to natural wonders can be found in the country’s national parks. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is famous for its stalagmite and stalactite caves and underground rivers.
My summer vacation in 2009 was split between Malaysia and Vietnam. On a cheap AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur, I landed with my travel buddy in Hanoi and without a schedule we toured the northern part of the country, with highlights being the stunningly beautiful Halong Bay on a traditional wooden ship, and the train journey to the mountainous Sapa, its rice fields and local tribes. I hope to visit this enchanting country again.