Travel in Vietnam: An introduction

Whether you travel from north to south or south to north, you are promised a journey of incomparable diversity

Vietnam became a unified country in 1976 with the armed forces of the communist north victorious over the south the previous year. This was preceded by three decades of bitter independence wars, which the communists fought first against the colonial power of France, then against US-backed South Vietnam. The more publicised campaign against the Americans produced heavy casualties for both sides, massive atrocities against civilians, and the indiscriminate destruction and contamination of much of the landscape.

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Vietnam struggled to find its feet after unification and the one-party communist state tried at first to organise the agricultural economy along strict collectivist lines.

Eventually elements of market forces and private enterprise were introduced from the late 1980s and a stock exchange opened in 2000. Vietnam is now opening up to outside investment and is a country that is starting to fill its enormous tourist potential. If you are attracted to the idea of travel in a country that is just now flourishing into full bloom then Vietnam is a undoubtedly a destination not to be missed. Thousands of kms of coastline, a mountainous north, the varied Vietnamese cuisine and a friendly, courageous people ensure that any journey in Vietnam will be amongst the best in Asia, if not the world.

Where to travel in Vietnam?

The list of highlights is impressive; this is a country that boasts something for everyone. Due to the shape of Vietnam, you will benefit from starting at one end and finishing in the other and it is just as easy to travel in one direction as the other.

Were you to start in the north you would fly into the city of Hanoi where you can adjust to your new time zone and explore the exciting new culture. Most would then include a stop in Halong Bay, staying on a traditional junk, before travelling south to the imperial city of Hue and driving along the stunning Hai Van pass to Hoi An, for many a highlight of their journey in Vietnam. Alternatively you may wish to spend longer in the north enjoying time outdoors amongst some of Vietnam’s minority tribe’s people in Sapa, Ha Giang or to the south of Hanoi in the Mai Chau Valley, Ninh Binh or the Cuc Phuong National Park.

To the south of Hoi An you have yet more – your exit point from the country is likely to be by air out of Ho Chi Minh City unless you are going to travel through the Mekong Delta. Before that there are the deserted beaches of Quy Nhon in the centre or the southern beaches of Phan Thiet & Mui Ne or the islands of Phu Quoc and Con Dao. There is also the less travelled Central Highlands of Vietnam to consider, the site of many of the most infamous battles during the late 60’s and 70’s. Dalat is the ideal entry point to the region and this charming hill station usually captivates your attention for a day or two before you move on. We did say travel in Vietnam has something for everyone right?!