The Vietnamese love to compare the shape of their country with a carrying pole (or yoke), the ancient system of carrying objects using a piece of wood balancing on your shoulders. The two main deltas in the shape of crow’s feet are the basket: to the north, the Red River, to the south, the Mekong. Another easily recognisable symbol of the country is the conical hat, taking us back to a land of hard labour and agriculture, not to mention the countryside studded with lush green paddy fields and coffee plantations. Heading down the backbone of Vietnam, from north to south, you’ll discover a land of contrasts.
There are the mountains populated by ethnic minorities, who come together for the vibrant, colorful local markets. Then there’s Hanoi, the colonial capital, with its lakes and historical museums. This ancient city is only a hundred kilometres away from the breathtaking landscape of Ha Long Bay, which inhabits the collective imagination with its rocks rising up out of the sea. The old imperial capital of Hanoi celebrates culture and enchants visitors with its perfume river. Further south, the seaside resort of Nha Trang offers visitors the chance for a break away from it all, before you get to Ho Chi Minh. Formerly known as Saigon, this city celebrates capitalism in the Land of the Dragon, a nation undergoing massive changes and in the midst of an economic boom. While there may be many different sides to this fascinating county, there are some common denominators: the joyous ballet of the bicycles, the electricity cables hanging down in a messy jumble and the fantastic stalls selling delicious street food. Different regions have different specialities, but throughout Vietnam, you can be sure of a warm welcome flavored with the delicate fragrances of this South-East Asian jewel.
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