Vietnam is a land of challenging myths and appealing scenic beauty. It is also the land of smiles, warm hospitality and generosity, where people intend to do whatever they can to give you the time of your life, no matter who you are and where you are from.
Legends say that Vietnam has a history of four thousand years and that Vietnamese are descendants of a Dragon King and Fairy Queen. Scientists have established it as one of the cradles of mankind.
Legends also say that most of the sea and landscapes across Vietnam are pearls spewed by Dragon sent by the Omnipotent to help the Vietnamese in their plights to stay Vietnamese. Explorers and tourists alike call them true wonders of the world. The Bay of Descending Dragon (Ha Long) off the northeastern coast, for instance, is one such masterpiece of nature.
Another specialty about Vietnam is the richness of its culture. This S-shaped land stretch on the eastern edge of the Indochinese peninsula is inhabited by 54 ethnic groups with as many traditional cultures, each as original as the country itself. A trip up the northern mountain will take you to the home of Muong, H'mong, Dzao, Tay, Nung, Thai and others smaller ethnic minority group. A few days with them, especially with the Muong, the established ancestor ethnic group who makes up more than 70% of the nearly 80 million Vietnamese population, will certainly give you a good idea about how ancient Vietnamese lived their life. The numerous natural scenery and historical sites across this vast area give you a good insight into the history of Vietnam, past and present.
For the majority of visitors, the furiously commercial southern city of Ho Chi Minh City provides a head-spinning introduction to Vietnam, so a trip out into the rice fields and orchards of the nearby Mekong Delta makes a welcome next stop - best explored by boat from My Tho, Vinh Long or Can Tho . Heading north, the quaint hill-station of Da Lat provides a good place to cool down, but some travellers eschew this for the beaches of Vung Tau and Phan Thiet . A few hours' ride further up the coast, the city of Nha Trang has become a crucial stepping stone on the Ho Chi Minh-Hanoi run. Next up comes the enticing little town of Hoi An , full of wooden shop-houses and close to Vietnam's greatest Cham temple ruins at My Son . The temples, palaces and imperial mausoleums of aristocratic Hué should also not be missed. One hundred kilometres north, war-sites litter the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) , which cleaved the country in two from 1954 to 1975.
Hanoi has served as Vietnam's capital for close on a thousand years and is a small, absorbing city of pagodas and dynastic temples, where life proceeds at a gentler pace than in Ho Chi Minh. From here most visitors strike out east to the labyrinth of limestone outcrops in Ha Long Bay , usually visited from the resort town of Bai Chay , but more interestingly approached from tiny Cat Ba Island . The little market-town of Sa Pa , set in spectacular uplands close to the Chinese border in the far northwest, makes a good base for exploring nearby ethnic minority villages.