If you have never thought about travelling to Vietnam, then maybe you should. Vietnam is a nation of eternal optimists whose people have been ravaged by war, survived communism and are now coming to terms with capitalism. As a result they now openly embrace the tourists who come to visit all that this beautiful country has to offer. And what a country it is too! In fact you could say that it is a country of two places. So why not get some long term travel insurance and go and explore!
For most people it is fair to say that the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital Hanoi is what everyone imagines Vietnam to be like and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. It is awash with motorcycles that swarm through the tangled web of narrow streets. It is also a cauldron of commerce 1000 years in the making where street vendors sell everything from live chickens to haircuts.
Let’s not forget that Vietnam was once under the control of the French and Hanoi is reminiscent of this colonial past. You can still see grand old French style château’s sitting against huge tree lined boulevards. The city is also dotted with parks and lakes which provide a welcoming and somewhat romantic break from the hustle and bustle of the old town. In fact if you look there are French influences everywhere and you can smell the fresh baguettes and the heady scent of Cafe au Lait on many street corner cafe’s For a rather strange phenomenon, why not get up early (just as the sun rises) and head on down to Hoan Kiem Lake and watch hoards of people silently moving in peaceful unison practising T’ai Chi. All in all, Hanoi combines ancient history, colonial splendour and modernism and is simply a must see destination.
Well, Hanoi is certainly one façade that Vietnam has to offer, but on the flip side we have the mountainous region of Sapa. Situated in north west Vietnam it offers tranquillity and a chance to get away from it all. The Sapa valley which lies close to the Chinese border was a former hill station. It, like the rest of the country has been ravaged by war, and in a series of conflicts from WWII, to the back-to-back wars with the French and the American’s, saw it nearly wiped off the face of the earth. Grand old hotels that had been built by the French had been left to rot and as a result Sapa was forgotten all but by a handful of intrepid tourists.
However move forwards nearly 40 years and Sapa is now being seen for the beautiful place it really is. Cascading terraces of rice spill down mountainsides and large mountains peak above the clouds. The surprisingly cooler climate means that off season (January and February) temperatures can drop to a chilly 0º C, but the cooler climate brings with it an abundance of fruits such as fresh peaches and plums which on occasion grow wild here. Sapa is a great place to experience the real Vietnam and makes for an excellent two centre holiday, combined with Hanoi.
Iamage by lrargerich