MANY REASONS TO FALL IN LOVE WITH VIETNAM
Vietnam should be on the top of everyone’s travel list. It’s that simple. With its dramatic landscapes, fascinating history, epic food and pulsating energy, Vietnam will electrify all of your senses and seize you from all angles. Vietnam is at once crazy and serene, thrilling and relaxing.
THE AMAZING VIETNAMESE PEOPLE
Kind, thoughtful, industrious, optimistic, generous the people are the heart of country, and if you visit, you should take every opportunity to get to know them.
UNLIMITED VARIETY OF BREATH TAKING LANDSCAPES
Vietnam is a truly hidden gem that only those visiting the country themselves will be able to tell. To put it correctly, Vietnam is not short of World Heritage Site: Halong Bay, Phong Nha Ke Bang caves, Hoi An Ancient Street and Cham Islands are all recognized for their intense beauty. However, it is the bits and bites of the non-heritage site that will surprise you further. Da Lat, for example, is too picturesque to miss. French style villas sitting next to a pine forest, bordered by strawberry garden- you feel like Europe but the market scenes speak otherwise. Keo pagoda in Thai Binh province also exemplifies well the no-name beauty of Vietnam: feel the serenity of a religious place, situated amidst greeneries of paddy farms. Whether a must-see site or an off-the-beaten-path attraction, you will not be disappointed..
Street food in Vietnam is nothing short of amazing. At any hour of the day, you’ll find Vietnamese people of all ages congregating under market awnings or outside store fronts, chowing down and enjoying each other’s company. Eating on the street is by far the most exciting and accessible way to truly experience daily life in Vietnam, and it’s also where you’ll find the best food.
Banh Mi. This baguette sandwich filled with greens and a choice of fillings, including paté and freshly made omelette, is so good it’s been imitated around the world.
Banh Xeo. These enormous, cheap and filling Vietnamese pancakes translate (banh xeo means “sizzling pancake”) pancake contain shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and egg, which is then fried, wrapped in rice paper with greens and dunked in a spicy sauce before eaten.
Pho. Vietnam’s national dish a the country’s great staple is pho (pronounced “fur”), a noodle soup eaten at any time of day but primarily at breakfast. The basic bowl of pho consists of a light beef or chicken broth flavoured with ginger and coriander, to which are added broad, flat rice noodles, spring onions and slivers of chicken, pork or beef.
Cao lau. Central Vietnam does it best. Among Hoi An’s tasty specialities is cao lau, a mouthwatering bowlful of thick rice-flour noodles, bean sprouts and pork-rind croutons in a light soup flavoured with mint and star anise, topped with thin slices of pork and served with grilled rice-flour crackers or sprinkled with crispy rice paper.
Cha ca. Seafood dishes are among the standouts of Vietnamese cuisine. Cha ca, reportedly devised in Hanoi, is perhaps the best known. It sees white fish sautéed in butter with dill and spring onions, then served with rice noodles and a scattering of peanuts.
Mi quang. This unheralded and affordable noodle dish is a Hanoi specialty. Ingredients vary by establishment, but expect to see a simple bowl of meat noodles enlivened by additions like flavoursome oils, fresh sprigs of leaves, shrimp, peanuts, mint and quail eggs.
Nom hua chuoi. Vegetarians rejoice. Nom hua chuoi, or banana-flower salad, is a great meat-free option. Lime and chili are the key flavours and add a refreshing punch to the shredded veg.
Com tam, “broken rice”, is a street-stand favourite. Recipes vary, but you’ll often find it served with barbecued pork or beef and a fried egg.
Vietnamese seafood. An exquisite variety of freshly caught fish, snails, crabs and prawns….
AMAZING VIETNAMESE FRUITS
Don’t be alarmed if you see spiky fruits you can’t identify. It could be a durian, dragon fruit or rambutan, they’re all worth a try. You’ll also find mangos, papayas, mangosteens, jack fruit and a fleshy fruit with a bumpy green skin called custard apples, among more familiar fruits like pineapples, bananas and watermelons.
VIETNAMESE COFFEE CULTURE
In Vietnam, coffee culture is as deep and rich as just about anything else. On old brick sidewalks and in old colonial shops adorned with art deco tiles, old men sit on small stools in the morning and afternoon. They sip little cups of iced-coffee rocket fuel, or as they would say, cafe sua da (or ca phe sua da), while playing checkers and cards.
Market culture in Vietnam is still alive and well. The hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s open markets can be summed up in one word…chaotic. They are a very busy meeting place for locals (and foreigners) to trade, sell, and negotiate their overflowing abundance of meats, fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, and plastic knickknacks. It seems like everything and anything under the sun goes at these markets. And, even in the indoor markets, motorbikes frequent the halls whizzing, honking, and pushing their way through the traffic of pedestrians. Every large city and even the smaller towns have active markets which act as their main shopping arena. Much like the malls you find in North America, these crowded open and closed market places provide the local Vietnamese population with a central place to pick up fresh food, clothes and shoes, appliances, linens, and even furniture.
RICH CULTURE & HISTORY
Vietnam’s history is tumultuous and complex, the country having been occupied and divided by various countries for decades. Colonial influences are visible everywhere, from the architecture to the food and the coffee. The aftermath of the Vietnam War is apparent too in the museums and monuments but also in the faces and stories of survivors and the overwhelmingly young population. Interwoven with our own history, Vietnam’s past is not only fascinating, it’s also important to learn about.
HISTORICAL CITIES & VILLAGES
Halong Bay - Just a short few hours from Hanoi, the bay at Halong, with its craggy limestone towers dotting the wide-open bay all the way to the horizon, has long inspired Vietnamese poets and philosophers. A ride on the bay these days is a rather busy, crowded affair, but some luxury tours and a few eco-tour operators can take you to the back of beyond, exploring little-known caves by kayak.
Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park: These massive caves (more or less an off-the-track site popular with backpackers) are about halfway between Hue and Vinh. You have to arrange your own transport or go with a tour.
Hoi An - Tourism has exploded on the ancient streets of Hoi An. A hub of international craft and commerce since the 14th century, this is where Vietnamese, Chinese, and even Japanese tradesmen made and sold their designer wares. Many shops are still-operational wood, stone, and ceramic workshops, but now among them are fine-dining outlets, funky little hotels (as well as new resorts on the outlying beach area of Cua Dai), and lots of bespoke tailors. Shoppers swoon.
My Son Sanctuary - The Cham people, an Indonesian group who arrived by ship from the Malay Peninsula, held sway over most of central Vietnam and built arching hilltop towers. My Son is the finest example.
Hue Monuments - The Nguyen Kings — the last and perhaps the most glorious (or grandiose) of Vietnam’s dynastic rulers — built grand monuments to themselves in and around the massive Hue Citadel. Hue’s sights, particularly the elaborate kings’ tombs, make for a very interesting visit.
Let the pictures seduce you ……