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Travel Directory / Asia / Vietnam

Vietnam Travel Guide

If you want to be overwhelmed by breathtaking sunsets and untouched natural magnificence, Vietnam is your place to be. Bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest and Cambodia to the southwest, this Southeast Asian country has delicate attractions to capture the heart of even the most skeptic visitor.

Vietnam is divided into four major regions: the north, central coast, the central highlands and the south. The well known cities are: Hanoi, Hai Phong, Can Tho, Dalat, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An and Nha Trang.

The northern part of Vietnam houses the capital city of Hanoi and it is known for the exotic and splendid views of the country. It covers the Red River Delta up to the high mountains near China and the Ha Long Bay which is considered by UNESCO to be a World Heritage site.

The best way to appreciate Ha Long Bay is by taking a dramatic boat tour, where you can enjoy shaped limestone outcrops and yawning caves. While in Hanoi, you can also visit the historic Confucian-style Temple of Literature, the chaotically traditional alleys of the Old Quarter and the Perfume Pagoda which is a famous Buddhist cave temple near Red River Delta. There is also the fishing island of Cat Ba, which is an interesting place to visit.

On the other hand, the southern part of Vietnam, they say, is the commercial center of the country. It is built around Ho Chi Minh City (formerly capital city of Saigon) and covers Mekong Delta which is the rice basket of the country. While in Saigon, you make a quick stop at the rather grisly Ho Chin Minh Mausoleum where the embalmed remain of a great man is put on view in a glass box. The former capital city is also stuffed with venerable temples and ancient "war sights" where most visitors go.

The central coast also houses another UNESCO World Heritage site: Hoi An. Hoi An is a pleasant seacoast town in Vietnam and around the same area is the ancient city of Hue. Hue is an ancient city where recent Vietnamese kings have lived. If you happen to visit Hoi An the night before the full moon of any month, you will get to experience Full Moon Festival. This is when the town's electricity is temporarily switched off and the streets are illuminated by lanterns and traditional dances are performed in the streets.

The central highlands of Vietnam are filled with hills and lush rainforest. It features some tribes and occasionally, some elephants. Because of its location, it is more accessible to those who are adventurous enough to go hiking. The largest city in central highlands is Dalat, which is the previous retreat place of the French. Dalat offers a great golf course and tall green mountains nearby.

Other recommended places to visit in Vietnam are beaches in little Phu Quoc island which is close to the Cambodian border. You can also go trekking in Sa Pa which is inhabited by a variety of hill tribes. If you wish to meet the "mad monk" of Da Lat, Vien Tuc is an artist, zen poet and Buddhist who welcomes visitors to his pagoda-cum-art gallery. If you are already exhausted with all the traveling, stop and drink freshly brewed bia hoi at makeshift street side joints in the city. Bia hoi is the native draft beer of Vietnam famously drank by many residents.