The hidden gems of Vietnam

Published:  02:29 Monday - December 17, 2012

Vietnam is one of the most mysterious and exotic countries in Southeast Asia. Bordered by Cambodia, China and Laos, Vietnam is a richly cultural country, boasting a diverse and impressive landscape, fascinating cities and a rich heritage. Australians who want to venture off the beaten path can take flights to Hanoi to explore this jewel of Southeast Asia.

A land of contrasts

Like many Asian countries, Vietnam is defined by the stark contrasts that exist between its rural and urban areas. Much of the Vietnamese countryside is stunningly beautiful and remarkably serene, while the bustling cities thrive with the lifeblood of commerce and the energy of progress.

Whether Aussie tourists choose to wander into rural Vietnam or explore the lively urban centres, a world of cultural discovery awaits them.

Idyllic rural beauty
Agriculture is vital to the rural people of Vietnam, and this is especially evident in Sa Pa, located in the Lao Cai province in the northwest. Here, carefully landscaped rice paddies have been created among the rolling hillsides, and the views from many of the towns and villages of the region are truly spectacular.

Sitting at an elevation of 1,650 metres, the town of Sa Pa is overshadowed by the impressive peaks of the Hoang Lien Son mountains. Hikers will find endless trails winding across the rugged landscape, and the views of Fan Si Pan, the tallest mountain in the region, are breathtaking.

 

Stunning coastal scenery
As the easternmost country of the Indochina Peninsula, Vietnam boasts many hundreds of kilometres of coastline, providing Australian tourists with ample opportunities to enjoy the beach. For an unforgettable seaside getaway, travellers should journey to Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh province to the northeast, one of the seven new wonders of nature.

This spectacularly beautiful region is famous for the thousands of limestone karsts that are scattered throughout the bay's inlets and rivers. According to local legend, a kindly dragon created the karsts by crashing headlong into the rocks of the mainland in order to protect the region from marauding invaders along the coast. Today, the iconic rock formations attract thousands of visitors every year, and a leisurely river cruise is the perfect way for guests to enjoy the stunning scenery of this idyllic bay.

Past meets present
While the people of Vietnam have a long tradition of agriculture and living off the land, it is in the country's thriving cities that history meets progress. This is particularly evident in the capital of Hanoi. This bustling metropolis has a storied past, having first been settled more than 3,000 years ago.

Hanoi has seen many conflicts during its history, including epic clashes between the Vietnamese and Chinese armies, and the French colonists who laid siege to the city during the 19th century.

Today, Hanoi is an important financial and trading hub, and Australian travellers spending time in this fascinating city will see evidence of Hanoi's spiritual and cultural traditions everywhere. In particular, the Old Quarter, which sits on the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake, is home to many ancient structures and important historical buildings.

Here, visitors can tour sites such as the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda and part of the enormous Citadel of Hanoi, a historic structure that was first erected more than 900 years ago.

Whether they choose to wander the streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter or explore the terraced fields of the verdant Vietnamese countryside, Australian travellers are sure to remember Vietnam as one of the most fascinating destinations they will have ever visited.

Source: brafton

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