Travel to Vietnam and be charmed by the assortment of wonders to discover and places to visit within this easily-accessible and friendly southeast Asian country. The cities are buzzing. Hanoi, on the banks of the Red River, is one of the most ancient capitals in the world. Visit the Old Quarter and sample some of the best street food in Asia. Try Vietnam's national dish pho (pronounced "fuh"), noodle soup, and indulge in a ca phe soon, a delicious Vietnamese coffee. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is the financial hub of Vietnam with sleek skyscrapers, outstanding rooftop bars such as Chill Sky Bar on the 26th floor of the AB Tower, a local favourite.
Venture from the cities into the countryside and coastal sandy white beaches to experience quintessential Vietnam. Being a small country where travel is cheap, there is an abundance of intriguing and beautiful things to see and do for the discerning traveller. Emerald paddy fields and rugged mountains are to the north. Here traditional communities welcome you with friendly smiles. To the south are the forested limestone islands of Ha Long Bay, sandy beaches, and bars where no footwear is required.
Hue is said to be Vietnam's Imperial city. Consider the four-kilometre dragon boat ride along the aptly named Perfume River lined with hundreds of frangipani and jasmine trees to Thien Mu Pagoda.
Vietnam boasts eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is where you'll find Hang Son Doong, the world's largest cave. Presently it's an expensively priced 5-day trek to this remote site (those that do it gloat in pride as it is a life-time experience). This recently discovered wilderness should fit the bill for those wanting a combination of nature and a journey far from crowds, though that could change as the region becomes more accessible. There are other cheaper treks available for those with less cash.
Not all of Vietnam is conical-hatted farmers tending to rice fields. However, if this is on your list, head to the delta areas of the mighty Mekong where buffaloes graze, dragonflies busily buzz, beer, and food are cheap, and in the paddy fields, families tend to the next rice crop.
Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate with south or southwest monsoons from May to September and northeast monsoons from October to April. Areas, such as central Vietnam, may experience storms and floods, especially in the late rainy season. This can make planning tricky if you intend on trekking. April and May can be extremely hot. During the Tet festivities, many businesses close, which can be an inconvenience to travellers. Pre-booking is advised.