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Vietnam offers the perfect blend of bustling city life and rural tranquillity. It is one of the most inexpensive holiday destinations, and its tourist culture provides a kaleidoscopic view of this Far Eastern gem: history, modernity, myth and legend.
The natural wonder of Halong Bay; famous for its spectacular scenery and limestone grottos and caves; is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bay has over 1,600 inlets and tiny islands emerging almost mystically out of the pea green waters of the Gulf of Tonkin; scoured by wind and wave erosion to form dramatic rock shapes; many of which contain caves filled with stalagmites and stalactites.
Former capital of the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty; the royal city of Hué is on the country’s central coast; midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It is a serene place, a small city of canals boasting splendid historical sights; and has a massive Citadel, and the former Forbidden Purple City. Most of its beautiful imperial architecture was destroyed during the 1968 Tet Offensive; when the North Vietnamese launched an attack on the south; yet despite a tumultuous history it retains much of its cultural identity and is a Cultural World Heritage Site.
Hué is also an important centre for Buddhism and hundreds of temples and pagodas exist around the city, such as the Thien Mu Pagoda, one of the most famous structures in the country. The Perfume River lies between the city and the remains of the mighty Citadel with many attractions along its banks. Sampan boat trips on the river offer an enchanting way to see the main sights in and around Hué, including the splendid tombs of the Nguyen emperors a few miles south of the city.
Along with its historical sights, Hué is also the main starting point for day tours to the DMZ (Demilitarised Zone), a historical area spanning both sides of the former border between North and South Vietnam, and the Vinh Moc underground tunnels.
Ho Chi Minh City, better known by its former name of Saigon, is a brazen, industrious and dense metropolis, the largest city in Vietnam and the business capital of the country. With a population of five million, it is noisy and dirty, yet it is also exciting and historic, the essence of the nation.
Did you know?
- The Vietnamese use traditional gongs instead of school bells in schools.
- One third of the world’s cashew nuts come from Vietnam.
- The Vietnamese keep potbelly pigs as pets.
- Although a developing nation, Vietnam has a literacy rate of 94%