Vietnam has long been a country of conflict and trauma. Lying in South East Asia, part of the Indonesian Penisula, Vietnam has seen invasion and colonization on its shores for hundreds of years. Even since its independence on 2nd September 1945, there are still influences all across the country of former invaders, France and China being the two most prominent.
The conflicts that have taken place in the country have in many ways shaped this land, war museums standing next to temples, French colonial buildings sitting next to Vietnamese architecture, a whole melting pot of nations and culture that is fascinating for the traveler.
The culture of Vietnam has been heavily influenced by Southern China, though the Nation still has a very strong sense of its own identity. Confucianism has formed the basis of society in Vietnam and even the language has a Chinese influence though the overall spoken language is Vietnamese.
The wars that have taken place are still evident, especially the Vietnam war, with the cities having many museums and monuments dedicated to the different conflicts that have passed before. For those keen to travel to Vietnam, they will be treated to an amazing country, full of breath taking scenery and cities that seem to pulse with life. Vietnam is truly a country that has risen from its troubles and strifes and is a vibrant and exciting destination.
Hanoi is the Capital of Vietnam and is one of the major cities where past colonization can really be felt. The city has many influences on it, including Chinese, French and South East Asian. It is regarded for its culture and stunning architecture and as being one of the oldest cities in the world.
Hanoi lies on the banks of the Red River in the North of the country and although always the capital of the North, it became the Capital of the entire country after the Vietnam war in 1976, when the North won the conflict with the South.
Hanoi is a wonderful city to explore on foot. There are many places of interest to see, fascinating temples including Bach Ma, the oldest temple in the city and located in the heart of the Old Quater.
The French influence in the city is evident all around with beautiful Colonial buildings nestling amongst Pagodas and temples as well as a real multi-cultural feel to the city with great night life and restaurants and a really vibrant feel.
There are many interesting sights to take in whilst in Hanoi, the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is a great example. Standing as the political heart for the past 8 centuries, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist destination.
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is another major tourist destination. Ho Chi Minh has been revered in Vietnam as the greatest leader of the country and this mausoleum is a testament to that feeling. Based on the Mausoleum of Lenin in Moscow, it is a sobering and awe inspiring feature of the city. His body has been preserved and laid out in a glass case and it is for many people a spiritual experience and one that will leave a lasting impression on you.
The Perfume Pagoda 60km South West of Hanoi is a must whilst in Vietnam. Dating back to the 15th Century, this stunning complex of Buddhist temples has been built into the limestone mountains of Huong Tich, and serves as a place for major festivals. The whole area is a place of spiritual pilgrimage for many Vietnamese, especially during the Huong Pagoda festival which takes place during February, then many hundreds of thousands of pilgrims will descend on the area.
One of the oldest cultural traditions to take place in Hanoi and Northern Vietnam, which is still as popular today, is the Water Puppet theatre. The Thang Long Puppet Theatre has been regarded by many people to be the best one to visit and the show is a real delight. The tradition of the water puppet theatre stems from the time when the rice fields had been flooded and people would entertain each other by standing in the water, waist deep and using puppets to perform across the water. The show is accompanied by music and is a real spectacle.
Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh City is still commonly known to Vietnamese and foreigners alike as Saigon. It was renamed in 1975 when Saigon fell after the Vietnam war .It is located in Southern Vietnam and is most famous for the role it played during the Vietnam war. Like Hanoi and many other places across Vietnam there are many influences from its past all around in the architecture and the culture of the city. The city is famous also for its French colonial landmarks, most notably, Notre Dame Cathedral, which was constructed using all materials that were brought over from France.
The city brings in a huge number of tourists each year, around the 1 million mark and they are attracted to the vibrant city and the mix of the old and the new fused together. As with Hanoi there are many sights to take in whilst in the city.
Giac Lam Pagoda is believed to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Ho Chi Minh and dates back to 1744. This richly decorated shrine is a major tourist attraction and place of worship and contemplation for many locals.
The War Remnants Museum is also an worthy place to visit. Here you will discover comprehensive knowledge about the 30 year war that happened between Vietnam and America. There are many interesting artefacts on display from the weapons used including tanks, helicopters, fighter planes and bombers. There is also a large photographic display from war journalists detailing life at the time of the war. Although there is mixed opinion about the museum it is still one of the most visited in the country with over 1/2 million people going each year.
Other worthy attractions to go and view whilst i Ho Chi Minh are the Municipal Theatre of Ho Chi Minh also known as the Saigon Opera House, which is another example of French Colonial architecture in the city. Built in 1898 it is seen as one of Ho Chi Minh’s top tourist attractions whether you take in a performance or just go to look at the architecture, it is well worth a visit.
Ha Long Bay.
One of the most alluring and enduring images of Vietnam has to be Ha Long Bay. Whether you have visited the country or not, this is an image that almost everybody will recognise. Lying in North East Vietnam, this amazing place is dominated by thousands of limestone islands that tower out of the emerald green waters and are topped with rainforests
.As well as attracting people because of the stunning natural beauty, the area is also a haven for scuba divers and rock climbing and in the national park of Cat Ba hiking is a very popular past time.
In 1994 the area was designated a World Heritage site and has long been the top destination for tourists to North Vietnam. Tourists will travel on junk boats to tour right up to the islands and they really are a majestic sight. The sheer size and number are breathtaking and have something of another worldly quality about them.
Ha Long Bay is the start the tourists travels in this area. Apart from here, there is also Lan Ha Bay to explore. This bay lies south east of Cat Ba Town and is not as busy as Ha Long Bay and because of this there are not as many tourist boats in the area. For those wishing to just chill out and relax, Lan Ha Bay is also blessed with many white sandy beaches that are ideal to just spend time on.
Vietnam has emerged over the last forty years as a major tourist destination and now is a wise time to visit this stunning country. There are marked differences between the North and the South which make for interesting travels. This is a country of ancient cities and stunning nature and natural beauty and is an ideal destination for people looking for something with a bit more to offer from their holiday experience.