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VIETNAM A LAND OF CONTRASTS

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Having always heard of the wonders of South East Asia we chose this year to venture into Vietnam and Cambodia for a tightly packed 3 week adventure. Vietnam had long held our fascination for its seemingly unparalleled diversity in a country stretching over 3000 kms.

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Flying low into the capital city of Hanoi over paddy fields and villages was our first taste of what was to come followed by a relaxed Customs and 35C heat. We had arrived! Our itinerary took us from Hanoi to Halong Bay in the North, South to Hoi An mid country onto Ho Chi Minh City(HCMC) and then by boat to Cambodia ending in Siem Rep at the unforgettable ruins of Angkor Wat.

Vietnam is a delightful mix of old and new. Take Hanoi in the North with its rabbit warren streets filled with everything from ancient markets to Haute Couture, often side by side. Use the international travellers language of arm gestures and laughter in the old quarter or brave a cyclo ride in a city filled with thousands of motorbikes.

Boat into the World Heritage Unesco site of Halong Bay in its North East with over 3000 limestone islands rising dramatically from the ocean and it’s inlets dotted with floating fishing villages. Interact with the locals and get up close and personal with the strange marine life farmed there.

Take a train ride and visit the graceful cultures of the Sapa hilltribes only moments from the Chinese border. Stop into Hue and Hoi An, both fragrant delights in the coastal middle surrounded by paddy fields and Herb paddocks. Watch the locals fish for carp in flooded paddy fields, stroll lantern lit ancient streets and explore secret walled gardens.

Learn to Kite surf, surf, sail or opt to lie on white sand beaches at Nha Trang, the sunset strip of South East Asia. Continue South to HCMC, the country’s largest city. Take a sobering tour of the Remnants War Museum or head to the nearby Cu Chi tunnels and marvel at the labyrinth of underground tunnels. Spread across districts along the banks of the Mighty Mekong, HCMC is a liberal city showcased by its fashionable youth and westernised cafes. Take a day cruise on the Mekong, an overnight or even a 7 night itinerary taking you across the border to Cambodia and all the way to the carefully preserved and stunning ruins of Angkor Wat.

All of this lies in a country further enhanced by its people. Bright smiles and easy laughter meet you at every turn. A resilient people only too eager to open their homes and hearts and share their multifaceted culture with all.

I would encourage everyone to take a visit and experience the warmth and vibrancy that Vietnam has to offer. I know I will again.

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