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In modern-day Vietnam one thing in particular stands out. It is, quite simply, the remarkable speed at which the country is developing. High school children in Saigon vie for the trendiest motorbikes, mobile phones and trainers, while children in the northern highlands are happy with a pair of sandals. Youngsters in the Mekong Delta have email accounts yet 10 years ago they didn’t have a telephone. And while staff in call centres gossip about the latest fashions, their parents harvest rice by hand. Vietnam has experienced war and bloody revolution in the past 100 years. But the revolution it is now undergoing is peaceful and prosperous. It is these changes that make Vietnam the absorbing and gripping place that it is.
Among the country’s many highlights is the hill station of Sapa known for its stunning scenery and ethnic minority villages. Getting off the beaten track in the north is recommended for the mountains and visiting other ethnic minority villages. The capital, Hanoi, historical, beautiful and cultured, lies at the heart of a vast range of architectural and scenic treasures such as Cat Ba Island and Halong Bay, famed for their magical coastal scenery. Moving south there is the imperial capital of Hué, whose palaces and mausoleums deserve at least two days.
The wonderful coastal edge train journey from Hué to Danang should not be missed, nor should nearby Hoi An, an enchanting 17th-century mercantile town, and a nearby beach right on the Eastern (South China) Sea. Between here and Ho Chi Minh City the seaside town of Nha Trang is the main attraction but the smaller resort of Mui Ne is a more tranquil alternative.
Energetic and exciting Ho Chi Minh City, although a city of seven million, is really a small town: not many will stray far from the historical core which, containing as it does all anyone could possibly need in the way of hedonistic pleasures (and with scarcely any intellectual or cultural distractions), is the most popular destination in the country.
The Mekong Delta has plenty of attractions, but to see it at its best it is necessary to get into the depths of the country beyond the main towns. The Central Highlands are slightly off the beaten track. The former hill station of Dalat is a cross between a French and a Home Counties town with old French villas, a central lake and a golf course. Further north, the real highlights once again are the ethnic minority villages around Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku and Kontum.
Places of interest in Vietnam
Vietnamese poets have traditionally extolled the beauty of romantic Halong Bay, with its rugged islands that protrude...
Vietnam’s capital is a small city of broad tree-lined boulevards, lakes, parks, weathered colonial buildings,...
Ho Chi Minh City is a manic, capitalistic hothouse, clogged with traffic, bustling with energy and enlivened by top...
Hué, an imperial city that housed generations of the country’s most powerful emperors, was built on the banks of...
Despite its huge and obvious appeal, Sapa retains great charm. Its beauty derives from the impressive natural setting...