Vietnam, viewed by many as a far-off land, has joined Thailand as an exotic destination in SouthEast Asia. Vietnam travel has caught the imagination of bargain seeking travelers from all over the world. Hanoi competes with its better known counterpart, Ho Chi Minh City (still referred to as Saigon by the locals), for the attention of travelers drawn by the blend of old and new.
More forward-looking than other Vietnamese cities, Saigon has also kept its French colonial charms. Its energy is kept alive by the local people who have adopted the recent government economic reforms (doi moi). Young and old have been swept up by the reborn free market after years of austerity. Saigon streets are packed with motor scooters, often carrying whole families. The open-air markets, such as the Binh Tay in the Cholon District, attract local shoppers; as well as curious, bargain seeking tourists.
Everywhere, the views are fantastic. Enjoy the floating markets of the Mekong Delta, where fresh picked fruit and vegetables are sold at the break of day. Luscious green rice paddies in the lowlands tended by farmers give a look at a centuries old way of life.
Misty mountains stretch from the south’s central highlands to the China border northwest of Hanoi. Coffee plantations, terraced vegetable farms and water falls provide awesome photographic opportunities. Small villages of minority people (montanyards or hill people) in traditional costumes give travelers a look at mountain life.
On the central coast, Nha Trang, Hoian and Hue are popular destinations for people who enjoy beaches, delicious seafood dinners, and relaxing tropical evenings. The Cham ruins inland from the coast and the imperial capital, Hue, take visitors to historical times in Vietnam. Everywhere tourists are welcomed by friendly hotel staffs and local shop owners eager to please their guests.
On the China Sea, east of Hanoi, is one of the wonders of the natural world. Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must see destination for any traveler to Vietnam. Bargain travelers are urged to take a two day / one night cruise of this geologic attraction. Halong Bay is a photographer’s dream with over 2000 limestone islands, some with mysterious caves and darting wildlife.
Cheap off season airfares make a Vietnam tour a viable alternative for your next overseas vacation. The bargains once you get on the ground will make it well worth the trip. Give Vietnam a look!