Few countries in the world elicit such a consistently passionate response among travellers as Vietnam. Blessed with beautiful natural landscapes, a wealth of evocative historic monuments and great cultural diversity, the nation has emerged from decades of war, political oppression and poverty to become a destination that bewitches even the most jaded of holiday makers.
While the capital, Hanoi, in the north, retains the gentility of former colonial times, go-ahead Ho Chi Minh City, in the south, showcases the nation’s more upbeat, modern face. Between the two lie a chain of former Imperial capitals, replete with ancient temples and palaces, as well as colonial ports whose boulevards are lined with 18th and 19th-century French villas.
Trips along the Mekong Delta in the far south or into the mountains of the Tokinese Alps in the north bring you face to face with a more timeless vision of Vietnam, where buffalo plod down dirt tracks, women in conical straw hats work the rice fields, stilted villages rise from vast flood plains and local markets are thronged with hill people dressed in elaborate traditional costumes.
Poverty is far from absent in this rural hinterland, but it’s most definitely on the wane. Since the spectacularly successful Doi Moi reforms of the 1980s, the economy has surged forward at dizzying speeds. Vietnam is now officially the fastest growing country in Asia, with a growth rate of 7 percent.
For visitors, this dramatic transformation is most discernible in the country’s new beach resorts and bijoux historic towns, where hotels offering first-world standards of comfort and service have mushroomed amid the coconut groves. Travelling between them, whether on a colonial-style cruiser or local sampan, you cannot fail to be impressed by the understated warmth and gentleness of the Vietnamese people themselves – a testament to this beautiful country’s capacity for rejuvenation, given the traumas it has lived through over the past half century or so.
TransIndus tours to Vietnam guide through all the main highlights, and plenty of lesser known gems besides, from the distinctive limestone pinnacles of Halong Bay to the watery world of the Mekong Delta. Accommodation comes in many and varied forms. You could to stay in colonial beachside mansions, bijoux boutique hideaways with views to die for, traditional Vietnamese lake lodges jutting on to the water, or city hotels in the stalwart, French Metropolitan mould.