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.