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A land of astonishing beauty, Vietnam is a spectacular and scenic travel destination. With the stunning collage of mountains & deep valleys, deltaic creeks, sparkling white sand beaches, river & seas, sand dunes, sanctuaries, national park and monuments, Vietnam is a complete package in itself. A Southeast Asian country on the South China Sea, this country is known for its pristine beaches, exquisite Buddhist pagodas and babbling rivers. Be it a beach lover, leisure seeker, mountain goat, an adrenaline junky or a history buff, Vietnam is a complete destination for everyone which is becoming better each passing day. A visit to Vietnam is like an adventure of its own.
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A long, narrow country squeezed in between the South China Sea and the Laos and Cambodia borders, Vietnam is a land of striking landscapes that range from the lush rice terraces and forested mountains in the north to the picturesque valleys of the Central Highlands and the fertile delta and beautiful beaches of the south. Included in the mix are booming modern cities, colonial towns, traditional villages, archaeological sites and otherworldly islands.
Ha Long Bay
With its aqua-green water and cluster of limestone rocky outcrops rising from the water like sea dragons, Ha Long Bay resembles a scene from a fantasy story. Located about 130 km (80 miles) east of Hanoi in northern Vietnam, this otherworldly bay features more than 2,000 jungle-covered islands pitted with intriguing caves, grottoes, sinkholes and lakes. Many of the islands have been sculpted over the centuries by natural processes into fantastic formations.
For the last century, Hanoi has the Indochina and Vietnam Wars to emerge as the booming capital city of a reunified Vietnam. At the heart of Hanoi is its Old Quarter, an open-air museum of historic Asian and French colonial architecture that has largely remained intact despite the bombings of the Vietnam War. Here among scenic tree-lined boulevards, tourists can browse busy markets, sip coffee at quaint cafes and visit prominent sites like the Grand Opera House, the Presidential Palace and Saint Joseph Cathedral.
Located off the coast of the South China Sea in South Central Vietnam, Hoi An is a beautiful, old city dating back 2,000 years to the Champa Kingdom. The city’s historic architecture, traditional culture and textiles make it a popular destination in Vietnam. At the heart of Hoi An is its atmospheric Old Town which is small enough to walk around easily. The narrow, winding lanes of the Old Town are lined with beautiful old architecture, traditional wooden houses and hundreds of tailor shops selling clothing, shoes, bags, souvenirs and custom-made services.
Situated on the banks of the Perfume River in Central Vietnam, Hue once served as the imperial capital of the Nguyen dynasty. Today, the vestiges of this former glorious period are reflected in the city’s architecture, culture and cuisine, making it one of the best places to visit in Vietnam. Of the city’s monuments, the Citadel is the most famous. Once the seat of the Nguyen emperors, the Citadel is a sprawling complex of grand palaces, ornate temples, walls and gates Another important landmark on the river is the city’s official symbol, the Thien Mu Pagoda.
Surrounded by pictorial mountains, rice terraces and a diversity of hill tribes in the remote northwest of Vietnam, Sapa is a quiet town frequently used as a base for trekking in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains and touring rice paddies and traditional villages. From the town, there are many organized tours that aide tourists in mountain hikes and exploring the nearby rice paddies and remote villages. These tours present views of beautiful waterfalls and the opportunities to experience the food, customs and way of life among the local tribes.
It’s only natural the weather changes significantly inside Vietnam. When i say significantly, I mean dramatically. 3 different weather regions. It can be snowing in Sapa while a blazing hot sunny day down in Phu Quoc.
Northern Vietnam: expect hot wet summers and cool dry winters up North. It can get quite cold here during northern hemisphere winter – from September to November – particularly next to the border with China.
Central Vietnam: experiences hot, dry weather between January & August when temperatures can hit the mid-thirties.
Southern Vietnam: boasts a full tropical climate, with only 2 defined seasons – wet and dry. The best time to go is obviously during the latter, from December to April.
Lodging is not an issue in Vietnam, even if you're travelling on a pretty tight budget. Accommodation in Vietnam ranges from scruffy US$6-a-night dorm accommodation in backpacking hostels to world-class resorts, both in large cities and in popular coastal and rural destinations.
Even backpacking hostels and budget hotels are often far cleaner and nicer than in neighboring countries (Cambodia, Thailand, Laos), and cheap hotels that charge US$8-10 for a double room are often very clean and equipped with towels, clean white sheets, soap, disposable toothbrushes and so on.
In hotels costing a few dollars more (US$12 per room upwards, more in Hanoi) you can expect an en suite bathroom, telephone, air conditioning and television. As with hotels elsewhere in the world, mini-refrigerators in Vietnamese hotels are often stocked with drinks and snacks, but these can be horribly overpriced and you would be much better off buying such items on the street. Adequate plumbing can be a problem in some hotels but the standard is constantly improving.
With unbelievable abundance of fresh vegetables, herbs, fish and seafood, Vietnam has a lot to offer. It can be mentioned here a range of widely- admired dishes such as noodle served with beef or chicken( pho), spring roll, eel or snail vermicelli, crab fried with tamarind, crab sour soup, rice spaghetti, steamed rolls made of rice-flour, rice pancake folded in half (and filled with a shrimp, meat and soya bean sprouts), etc.
Food sits at the very centre of Vietnamese culture: every significant holiday on the Vietnamese cultural calendar, all the important milestones in a Vietnamese person's life, and indeed, most of the important day-to-day social events and interactions - food plays a central role in each. Special dishes are prepared and served with great care for every birth, marriage and death, and the anniversaries of ancestors' deaths. More business deals are struck over dinner tables than over boardroom tables, and when friends get together, they eat together. Preparing food and eating together remains the focus of family life.
Vietnamese cuisine varies slightly from region to region, with many regions having their own specialties. Generally, northern Vietnamese cuisine is known for being bland while southern Vietnamese cuisine is known for being spicy.
At the same time, the Vietnamese are surprisingly modest about their cuisine. (And old proverb/joke says that a fortunate man has a Western (French) house, Japanese wife, and Chinese chef.) High-end restaurants may serve 'Asian-fusion' cuisine, with elements of Thai, Japanese, and Chinese mixed in. The most authentic Vietnamese food is found at street side 'restaurants' (A collection of plastic outdoor furniture placed on the footpath), with most walk-in restaurants being mainly for tourists. Definite regional styles exist -- northern, central, and southern, each with unique dishes. Central style is perhaps the most celebrated, with dishes such as mi quang (wheat noodles with herbs, pork, and shrimp), banh canh cua (crab soup with thick rice noodles) and bun bo Hue (beef soup with herbs and noodles).
Upon arrival, check all of your documentation and make sure you bring the visa-on-arrival pre-approval papers, photos and cash with you. EUR and USD will do (although with ridiculous conversion rates).
Rural Vietnam is a relatively safer place for tourists than urban Vietnam. Low level street crimes like bag snatching regularly occur in major cities like Hanoi and Saigon. Few instances of knife attacks during robberies have been reported.
Avoid fights and arguments with locals (especially groups). Keep in mind that yelling is highly insulting to Vietnamese, so the reaction of a Vietnamese in such a situation may be unexpected.
As a foreigner, Vietnamese expect you to act a certain way in their country. You should respect the general law of the land. Most of these arguments can be avoided easily by showing general courtesy, and tolerating cultural differences that may seem rude to you.
Health issues (and the quality of medical facilities) vary enormously depending on where you are in Vietnam. The major cities are generally not high risk and have good facilities, though rural areas are another matter.
Travellers tend to worry about contracting infectious diseases in Vietnam, but serious illnesses are rare. Accidental injury (especially traffic-related) account for most life-threatening problems. That said, a bout of sickness is a relatively common thing.
Vietnamese people are very proud of their culture and heritage, and this is displayed in the subtle social conventions and customs you’ll encounter.
Dress more conservatively than you would at home (ideally covering your shoulders and knees)
Hold hands, but public physical displays of affection such as hugging and kissing are frowned upon.
Respect social hierarchies and understand the concepts of “collectivism” and “face” (more on this later)
Pass items with both hands
Smile, wave, and say xin chao (hello)!
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