Destination Vietnam

Welcome to another  world, a world where  the colours are more vivid, the culture is richer, and  the  history more  compelling. This is the  world of Vietnam, the  latest  Asian dragon  to awake from its slumber.

Nature has blessed  Vietnam with a bountiful  harvest. Soaring mountains,  a killer coast- line and radiant  rice fields, Vietnam is simply stunning. Blanketed from head  to toe with a patchwork  of emerald-green rice paddies,  timelessly tended by peasant  women  in conical hats, this time the brochures  don’t lie.

The rumble of a million motorbikes, the cries of hawkers and the buzz of business transac- tions are as ever-present as the tinkle of the past in the pagodas,  and the swish of the scythe. Modern Asia meets  medieval Asia and, in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, the two become  one.

For culinary adventurers,  Vietnam is a treasure  trove of more  than  500 different dishes. It’s a wonderful world of pungent herbs and secret spices. Dip delicate spring rolls in nuoc mam, a fish sauce that  is as compulsory  as ketchup  for the Vietnamese. Or play ‘down-in- one’ with xeo (rice wine), the whisky of the mountains.

‘Nam to a generation, the sorrow of war weighs heavily on the consciousness of all who can remember it, but here the Viet side of the story is told at poignant sites across the country. Fiercely protective  of their  independence and  sovereignty,  the  Vietnamese are graciously welcoming  of foreigners who come as guests  not conquerors.

Don’t believe the hype. Or the propagandist party billboards that are as common as statues of ‘Uncle Ho’. Believe your senses,  as you discover one  of the  most  enriching,  enlivening and exotic countries  on earth.