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Vietnam

Vietnam has a striking landscape. The deltas of the Red River and the Mekong is where you will encounter the paddy fields, dragonflies, buffaloes and conical-hatted farmers that constitute the classic image of Vietnam. In stark contrast to the pancake-flat rice land of the deltas, you have the surreal-looking limestone islands in Halong Bay, the inland karts-mountains of Cao Bang and the beautiful mountain tracks you can hike and where you can explore tribal villages near Sapa and Bac Ha.

Vietnamese people are energetic, direct, sharp in commerce and resilient by nature. There is an equally marked difference between north and south. If you have ever spoken to a traveler who has been to Vietnam then they will probably have told you about the reticent, thrifty, law-abiding northerners that lack the dynamism and entrepreneurial know-how of their southern compatriots.

Food in Vietnam is simply stunning! Incredibly subtle in its flavors and outstanding in its diversity. With the balance between fresh herbs and meats and a selective use of spices, Vietnamese food is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide. The soups of northern Vietnam are definitely a clear influence of China while spices sparking up southern cuisine and myriad herbs are typical for the central region.

Highlights

Vietnam has a lot to offer. Below we made our own selection of places we think are definitely worth a visit.

  1. North to South – if you have the time we really recommend to do a trip from north to south (or other way around) as you will see the diversity Vietnam has to offer.
  2. Hanoi – a place you simply should visit since there is no other city like this. Extremely crowded and everybody seems to be engaged in all kind of economic activity. Go there with a mindset of ‘indulging’ in busy city life, not for relaxation or greenery.
  3. Halong Bay - drive to enchanting Halong Bay for an overnight cruise. With its limestone cliffs its beauty is exceptional.
  4. Sapa – this little village is in the middle of cascading rice terraces with evergreen mountains towering above on all sides. It’s a beautiful place for trekking and meeting the hill tribe people.
  5. Hoi An –is a small colonial town located at the South China sea. Its center is tiny and has alleys lined up with various colorful houses that still date back from the French occupation. It is a touristy place so we don’t recommend to stay there for long. Then you better go to the more laidback coastal village of An Bang (5 km from Hoi An).
  6. Ho Chi Minh – this city has a pulsating energy that drives the country forward. Wander through timeless alleys to incense-infused temples and zip a cocktail on one of the roof bars.
  7. Mekong Delta – Visitors can dwell on southern charm in little-visited riverside villages, sample fruits traded in the colorful floating markets, or feast on home-cooked delicacies before overnighting as a homestay guest.

What to eat

Almost every aspect of social, devotional, and family life revolves around the procurement, preparation, and shared pleasure of food. The food of the north is heavily influenced by China with its stir-fries and noodle-based soups. As you move south, there's more flavor blending with nearby Thailand and Cambodia.

  1. Pho - This simple staple consisting of a salty broth, fresh rice noodles, a sprinkling of herbs and chicken or beef. You can find it on almost every corner of the street.
  2. Nom hoa chuoi - Banana flowers are peeled and thinly sliced then mixed with green papaya, carrots, and cilantro along with chicken and a heavy-handed pour of a salty fish sauce dressing and crunchy peanuts.
  3. Vietnamese spring rolls – well filled with all kind of vegetables covered with a crispy layer and often a delicious dip sauce. The best we had was in a little coastal village near Hoi An. Read this blog post to discover.
  4. Bánh Cuốn - Soft, delicately thin sheets of steamed rice cakes are served with crispy fried shallots, chopped cucumber, shredded romaine lettuce, bean sprouts, slices of pork sausage, chopped shrimp, scallions, and ground beef - all drizzled with fish sauce.

We noticed that often restaurants make their own creations which don’t have a common name (which is a pity as we would love to share these delicacies!). Garlic pumpkin, fish in a tomato sauce with herbs and many more. Explore and enjoy!

When to go

Vietnam is at its best from October to April; the summer can be uncomfortably hot and often rainy. However, the climate varies from region to region, so consider local weather patterns if you’re visiting only one or two places.

What to know

Travelers regardless of their respective nationality have to apply for a visa to Vietnam, except those who enjoy visa exemption. It can be done upfront online via www.vietnam-visa.com/



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