Vietnam overwhelms the senses with mist-shrouded mountains, lush green forests, rice paddies worked toiling peasants and pristine white beaches.
Journey through some of the delightful countryside with fields stretching into the distance. Travel on roads where bicycles are more predominant than cars, many being ridden to market, laden down with everything from huge sacks of rice to baskets full of livestock. Lining the riverbanks are wooden stilted houses thatched with palm leaves.
With a long and chequered past Vietnam was for 2,000 years ruled by the Chinese, the Khmers, Mongols, Portuguese and the Japanese. They all left their marks on the country in the temples and Pagodas, together with palaces, fortresses and buildings in every style imaginable. It was then colonised by the French, whose contribution was cathedrals, fine mansions, neo-classical public buildings, not forgetting excellent baguettes and pastries.
Today, in one of the world’s last communist countries, the motorcycles and western dress of the industrious youth happily co-exist with orange-clad Buddhist monks and political posters from a different era. Visitors are invariably impressed by the development of excellent hotels and services in all the major centres and the much-improved road network.
Vietnam’s small elegant capital lies in the heart of the Red River Delta in the north of the country. With a wealth of historical and spiritual sights to explore and the city is often called ‘the Paris of the Orient’. The city’s broad tree-lined boulevards, lakes and parks, belle époque villas and beautiful temples reflect a blend of Indo-Chinese and French colonial influences.
Hanoi and Saigon still retain a French flavour in their pavement cafés, architecture and wide tree-lined boulevards. The Vietnamese themselves are a wonderfully friendly people, always smiling, courteous and proud to show off their beautiful country to all.
Vietnam experiences a fair degree of diversity in climate. The north has distinct summer and winter seasons. From May until October the weather is hot and very humid with temperatures averaging about 30 degrees Celsius. November to April are the winter months when the temperatures are about 18-20 degrees Celsius.
Each Vietnamese dish has a distinctive flavour, common ingredients include fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, and fruits and vegetables. Vietnamese recipes use lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird’s eye chili, lime, and basil leaves. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and reliance on herbs and vegetables. With the balance between fresh herbs and meats and a selective use of spices to reach a fine taste, Vietnamese food is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide.