This thin slice of a country has attractions inconveniently scattered along its length, with Ha Noi (Hanoi) over 1, 000 miles from Ho Chi Minh City, whereas for example, neighbouring Cambodia hosts a group of magnificent old buildings in one compact area, Angkor.
However, though travel in Vietnam requires a little more time and effort, this will be rewarded by good standards of accommodation, great cuisine, some pretty good cultural offerings, impressive beaches and the usual friendly Asiatic people. American and French failed imperialist warmongers welcome!
The 1, 000-year-old capital city is set in a beautiful lake-scattered landscape with a fair number of interesting sights and museums and a sticky sub-tropical climate. It features many striking French colonial buildings from its time as centre of the French Indochina empire, as well as fine Chinese-influenced Vietnamese architecture including many temples. The city is now being modernized with some speed, speed being the operative word as motorcycles take over the streets.
One Pillar Pagoda in Hanoi, one of a good selection of attractions. Photo by Bui The Tam.
Rural women heading for market in Vietnam’s prettiest little town, Hoi An.
A medieval trading port, Hoi An has a unique historic background of mixed Chinese, Japanese and European influences.
The whole town is like a an open-air museum – a local guide would be useful here.
Not to be missed are old Chinese houses, the Fujian Congregation Hall (Phuc Kien Pagoda) and the Japanese bridge-pagoda.