LAND OF THE ASCENDING DRAGON
Vietnam is a country most people have heard of but until recently few had the opportunity to visit. It was not until the early 1990s that the first travelers started arriving. Things have come a long way in the past decade and visitors from all over the world are now discovering what a hidden gem of a country Vietnam is. Brilliant green rice fields, bustling city streets, thatched bamboo huts, grand colonial buildings, exotic temples and pagodas, deserted sandy beaches, breathtaking mountain scenery, conical straw hats, colorful ethnic minorities, graceful women in “ao dai” tunics, delicious cuisine, luxurious hotels and resorts and more, much more, it’s all here in Vietnam.
Geographically Vietnam is a very diverse country with a great variety of scenery from the verdant tropical waterways of the deep south to the pine forests and peaks of the far north, from the sandy beaches of the coast to the cool tea and coffee plantations of the Central Highlands.
The country can be conveniently divided into three distinct regions, The South, The Centre and The North, corresponding to the three administrative regions of Cochinchina, Annam and Tonkin under the French colonial rule. The north of the country was the first to be settled and is characterized by the rich farming lands of the Red River Delta. The centre contains the Truong Son Mountain Range running along the border with Laos in the west and the narrow coastal strip bordering the Eastern Sea in the east. In the south, the Mekong Delta is the country’s most fertile region and Vietnam’s major rice and fruit producing area.
The two great metropolises of the country are the elegant capital city Hanoi and the dynamic, economic powerhouse Ho Chi Minh City. Since 1993 UNESCO has declared five World Heritage Sites in Vietnam, four in central Vietnam and one in the north. The four sites in central Vietnam are former imperial capital Hue, the historic trading port of Hoi An, the centre of the former Cham Kingdom, My Son, and Phong Nha Caves. The fifth World Heritage Site is the spectacular natural wonder that is Halong Bay in northern Vietnam.