viet-travel.biz. Conical hats emerging from lizard green rice paddies? Grainy black and white colonial-era photographs of slender. dark-haired women in flowing white Ao Dai dresses? Shinning exotic white-sand beaches fringed with coconut palms? Luxurious Asian style resorts and golf courses? Saigon, the exciting southern city, or Hanoi, the northern Vietnamese capital. Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam to Dalat, the romantic city, fabulous sites as the World Heritage, Halong Bay. Vietnam is all these things and more, a country with a past as rich as the Soil in the blazing green deltas. This past reads like a romantic legend full of heroic struggles and astounding victories, whereby this small country retained its culture, absorbing and adapting the strengths of its foes but never losing its traditions or its sense of history. With 54 ethnic groups, most of whom live in remote areas and follow age-old customs, Vietnam offers unparalleled opportunities for cultural exploration in Asia.
Vietnam is most commonly divided in to three regions, each of which has distinctive geographical features and travel options. The North - Central - The Southern
Most visitors to the North arrive in the country’s capital, Hanoi - the city is abuzz with sights, sounds, smells, and fabulous food - a delight to the senses! Narrow laneways lead to hidden cafes, ancient temples sit beside towering modern buildings, and swarms of motorbikes zip around serene lakes. Hanoi also has dozens of museums as well as the mausoleum and former home of Ho Chi Minh, the country’s most important political figure.
Escaping the busy capital, travelers are treated to some of Vietnam’s most stunning landscapes. The Northwest is full of mountainous terrain inhabited by several ethnic minorities. This area is well known for its trekking and is also home to Vietnam’s highest peak, Mt Fansipan. To the east of Hanoi lies the fertile Red River Delta and endless miles of farmland. Further afield is Halong Bay, a remarkable section of the Gulf of Tonkin filled with emerald waters and limestone cliffs.
Central Vietnam is the country’s cultural heart with ancient wonders and rich traditions. Hue was the seat of the Royal Imperial Court for centuries and its influence is seen today in the city’s architecture and culture. Several elaborate tombs and the mighty Citadel are still standing and modern buildings continue to incorporate design elements reminiscent of the era. The city’s food reflects the culinary demands of the former emperors and is regarded as the best in the country. Further south, Hoi An remains seemingly untouched from its years as a popular trading port. The traditional houses, tailor shops, and local markets are a delight to explore. The center is also the country’s narrowest strip of land and the scenery is extremely diverse. The stretch of land referred to as ‘the Central Highlands’ is another trekking destination for exploring Vietnam’s ethnic hill tribes.
Southern Vietnam is dominated by Ho Chi Minh City, a modern, bustling city full of wide boulevards and highrise buildings. Travel just a short distance north and you can reach the fabulous beaches of Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, and Nha Trang as well as the cool highlands of Dalat. To the far south lies the Mekong Delta, where the Mekong River splays out in to thousands of tributaries. The winding canals, floating markets, and tiny villages of this area are an incredible sight to behold.