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A attractive destination: Vietnam

Date Added: October 15, 2012 10:02:03 AM
Author: admin
Category: Regional: Asia
No longer held down by its past (or its politics), the slender nation of Vietnam makes for easy itineraries, book-ended as it is with two very different cities: poetic, tight-lipped Hanoi and zestful, go-go-go Ho Chi Minh City.

You can fly into one and out from the other, seeing the dialect, temperament and diet change as you move from the south’s rice paddy fields to the centre’s white-sand beaches and the north’s hill-tribe villages and limestone cliffs. Despite the surge in attention, there are undiscovered pockets everywhere; to find them, you usually just need to walk a couple of blocks from the main street.

March and April, September to November

• Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake, particularly when lined with morning exercisers at 5am
• Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in the capital, Hanoi
• Dragon-shaped mountains and blue-green water of Halong Bay
• The citadel and royal tombs along the Perfume River in Hue
• Terraced rice fields, mountains and traditional homes in Sapa

• Eat pho (noodle soup) from a tiny plastic stool at a sidewalk eatery
• Pick one of the many Hoi An tailors to make a shirt, suit or dress
• Boat through the Mekong Delta
• Escape tourist ghettos, where it’s easier to mix with friendly locals

Read Dumb Luck by Vu Trong Phung, a fun 1936 tale of Red-Haired Xuan, a Charlie Chaplin–type character
Listen to the motorbike engines, beeps and street vendor calls from a street cafe in Ho Chi Minh City
Watch a film having little to do with war, Tran Anh Hung’s The Vertical Ray of the Sun, showing life in modern Hanoi
Eat as much local food as you can; the pho, banh cuon (steamed rice rolls with minced pork) and goi cuon (summer spring rolls) are fresher, better and cheaper than Vietnamese restaurants abroad
Drink bia hoi (draught beer), particularly at Hanoi’s infamous ‘bia hoi’ corner in the Old Quarter: a hundred stools, 101 drinkers and cheap beer

Conical hats; cyclos; ao dai (traditional dresses); scooter gridlocks