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Vietnam is a paradise for both the outdoor adventurer and city explorer alike. Winding down 3,444 kilometers of coastline from the northern Red River Delta near the Chinese border to the Mekong Delta at the southernmost tip of the Southeast Asian peninsula, Vietnam is a splendid blend of picturesque coastline and lush inland terrain. The region's history of conquests and wars makes travel to Vietnam today a rich and rewarding experience during this time of precious peace.
During the 20th century, Vietnam was at war for nearly 45 consecutive years with different countries. After French and Spanish forces ravaged the area, most of the south became a French colony by 1867. Finally in 1945, Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam's independence, sparking a French rebuttal and attracting international interest of U.S., Russian and Cambodian forces. Minh's dream of an independent (communist) nation was not realized until 1989 when the U.N. subdued the conflict with Khmer Rouge and pulled Vietnamese troops out of Cambodia.
Urban and Pristine Wonders of Vietnamese Travel
National identity has become an integral part of life for this war trodden state and today the proud Vietnamese are more willing to embrace foreign travelers and share their magnificent cultural history as their economy begins to mature.
Visit the economic capital of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south to witness the vibrant and progressive culture that has taken root in Vietnam. While there, explore the extensive botanical gardens, Buddhist monasteries, and stop by the Binh Soup Shop, which was the secret Viet Cong headquarters in Saigon during the Vietnam War.
In the far north, the capital city of Hanoi is a bit more relaxed, speaking to ancient Vietnamese culture and 1000 years of history along the streets of the Old Quarter. Visit the intriguing One Pillar Pagoda build by Emperor Tong in the 11th century and replenish your spirits in the Bach Ma Temple, the city's oldest and most revered.
Retreat to the captivating beauty of Vietnam's wilderness for a more tranquil portion of your journey. Tropical rainforests abound in the protected area of Ba Be National Park, located close to the Chinese border in the north. The local Tay people live in stilt houses and contribute cultural significance to the area. Take an elephant ride through the expansive Yok Don National Park for a chance to see monkeys, birds and even leopards.
If confined spaces don't trigger nightmares, the Phong Nha Cave is a must see. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was created 250 million years ago and boasts a cavernous entanglement stretching thousands of meters below ground. Portions of this natural wonder are open to the public daily.
For the claustrophobic, travel to Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin, another World Heritage Site, which is dotted with more than 3,000 tiny islands with cliffs and white sand beaches that cascade into the surrounding sparkling waters.
Due to the country's broad north-south range, Vietnam is a wonderful country to explore any time of year. The sheltered forests and increased speed of the coastal cities offer an invaluable variety for a perfectly balanced journey. Travel to Vietnam to discover this underestimated Southeast Asian gem.