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Vietnam located in South East Asia along the South China Sea slim fits its undeniable mark on the region. This narrowly long shaped nation is home to some of the most stunning landscapes, the picture perfect post card images of its fertile deltas from the Mekong and Red River, conical shaped hatted farmers tending the paddy fields and the naturally beautiful beaches. Vietnam however, with its war torn past, its fractions between the north and south and its political history has in the recent years managed to leave most of it behind and emerge as an important tourist destination for its sheer natural beauty, pristine wildlife and cultural variations.
Vietnam is heavily influenced in culture, cuisine and architecture by its northern bounding country China. Historically it was colonized by the French earlier and the Japanese occupation in the middle of the 20th century.
North and South Vietnam have historically been at loggerheads resulting in the brutal Vietnam War, called the American War by the Vietnamese. The nation though has moved on leaving behind the horrific memories of the bloodshed, the reference and poignancy of the war finds itself in many of its monuments as well as in the general way of life.
Hanoi – The capital city of Vietnam located in the north is fast developing into a roaring economy to be reckoned. The Old Districts of the city reflect a strong French influence in architecture and building types. It is also the center of political seat, housing the national assembly building, the President’s Palace and the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum in the Ba Dinh District. The newer districts are where the malls and skyscrapers are found as well as the popular Museum of Ethnology or the tallest building of the country the Keangnam Hanoi Landmark Tower. Royal City one of the largest underground malls, the iconic Long Bien Bridge across the Red River and the Hoan Kiem Lake are some other attractions in Hanoi.
Ho Chi Minh City – Also known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city of Vietnam and is located in its southern regions. Some of its tourist attractions include the War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace, Museum of Vietnamese History, or the religious sites of the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Thien Hau Pagoda and Central Mosque. The Saigon Skydeck offers splendid views of the city from a high deck point, whereas the Cu Chi Tunnels are a definite must visit site for its relevance in the Vietnam War. Ho Chi Minh City is also the city of some wonderful spas and restaurants and street hawkers that scoop up one delicacy after another.
Hoi An – Also listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hoi An is an old city that is a cultural and architectural melting pot of sorts. The Chinese shops, French colonial buildings, Japanese Covered Bridge and Vietnamese tube homes are as varied as its busy riverside food market that hosts a vast range of culinary delights. The ruins of My Son, an ancient Hindu site are a little away from the city.
Hue – Home to the Nguyen Dynasty, Hue’s impressively massive Imperial Citadel is a sprawling complex of shops, museums, walls, pavilions and a lot of quietude. The Tombs of the Emperors are another regaling attraction of the city.
Da Nang – Located in central Vietnam, Da Nang is a quintessential city that lacks the high adrenaline rush of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh and making it a great gateway for exploring the holidaying spots and beaches around central Vietnam. The Bach Ma National Park, Marble Mountains and Ba Na Hill Station are some of the tourist destinations that are easy accessible from here.
Ha Long Bay – Vietnam’s best scenic views are found in Ha Long Bay. The Karst topography works its magic giving way to hundreds of limestone islands covered with lush rainforests. The islands often named after their shapes are accessed through cruises, kayaks or boat rides. The Stone Dog Island, Teapot islets as well as the mesmerizing Cat Ba Island most of which is designated as a national park is home to the endangered Cat Ba langur.
For nature lovers, the Phong Nha-Ke Bang in the central coast is a renowned national park known for its remarkable karst topography and cave systems. The Cat Tien National Park popular for its rare primates, the Ba Be National Park sporting stunning limestone mountains and lakes and the Ban Gioc Waterfall are some of the other natural attractions that stress further Vietnam’s charm and exquisiteness.
Ethnic and cultural attractions
Apart from the various cultural, tribe connections that one encounters in the cities or national parks, some other landmark destinations that are best known for their ethnic inhabitants are the Dong Van Karst Geo Park with its many cultural heritages besides its geological references, the town of Kontum that provides access to many ethnic village as well as the Cuc Phuong National Park home to the Muong Tribe.
Food is an essential take away in any tourist destination and Vietnamese food is really good. The street food is wonderful and delicious sporting the Banh mi sandwiches, the op la or eggs, the noodle soup pho, the noodle dish of bun mam and many more. The combination of Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese food is an awesome threesome that can give serious competition to many other world cuisines.
Vietnam is a definite tourist hub that beckons travels to explore its immaculate beaches, its rare wildlife, its culture and varied ethnic tribes as well as its modern architectural and monumental feats, rapid city lives and urban comforts. Chao says Vietnam!