Although Vietnam is still a ‘new destination’, more and more visitors are drawn by the image of a country previously associated with war and conflict, but now revealed as a place of unspoiled natural beauty and culture. It has much to offer – friendly people, exotic ethnic cultures, spectacular scenery and beaches, plenty of things to see and do, and a well-deserved reputation as the safest country in Asia.
Vietnam is changing, and changing rapidly. It’s a young country – 65% of its population is under 25 – and has made remarkable progress since opening its doors to foreign investment in the 1990’s. Vietnam’s progress in reducing poverty has far outstripped that of any other country. It has drastically reduced poverty, become the world’s second largest exporter of rice and coffee, and consistently maintained a high GDP growth rate.
Unforgettable experiences are everywhere in Vietnam. There’s the sublime: gazing over a surreal seascape of limestone islands from the deck of a Chinese junk in Halong Bay. The ridiculous: taking 10 minutes just to cross the street through a tsunami of motorbikes in Hanoi. The inspirational: exploring the world’s most spectacular cave systems in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The comical: watching a moped loaded with honking pigs weave a wobbly route along a country lane. And the contemplative: witnessing a solitary grave in a cemetery of tens of thousands of war victims.
Incredibly subtle in its flavors and outstanding in its diversity, Vietnamese cooking is a fascinating draw for travelers – the dozens of cooking schools in Hoi An are testament to this.