Few countries have changed so much over such a short time as Vietnam. Less than forty years since the savagery and slaughter of the American War, this resilient nation is buoyant with hope. It is a country on the move: access is now easier than ever, roads are being upgraded, hotels are springing up and Vietnam’s raucous entrepreneurial spirit is once again alive and well as the old-style Communist system gives way to a socialist market economy. As the number of tourists visiting the country soars, their talk is not of bomb craters and army ordnance but of shimmering paddy fields and sugar-white beaches, full-tilt cities and venerable pagodas; Vietnam is a veritable phoenix arisen from the ashes.
About Vietnam destinations, for culture vultures, there is no shortage of temples, tombs, pagodas and crumbling palaces to admire and explore. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Huế is home to the Citadel, once the emperor’s private residence, and the Forbidden Purple City, where he housed his many mistresses. When your feet are weary, grab some bún bò buế (beef noodle soup) and watch swan pedalos cruise the Perfume River as the sun sets.
Foodies can feast on street food in Vietnam’s culinary capital. If you fancy trying your hand at Vietnamese cuisine, many restaurants offer half-day cooking courses. Sounds too much like hard work? Hit An Bang Beach instead for a day lounging on the deserted sand, sipping on ice-cold cocktails at the bar.
Go trekking in the hills of Sapa for amazing views across the jungle and mountain ranges of north-west Vietnam. Equipment is cheap and easy to come by so don’t worry if you’re not a natural mountain goat, you’ll soon be up there, gazing at the views as the mist rolls in across the peaks.