Visiting Vietnam is not a spectator sport, it's an adventure!
A trip to Vietnam will literally change how you look at life. Whether you
come for a week or a month, you will be cheated, cajoled, and harassed,
but you will also be welcomed, celebrated, and made to feel like family.
You will experience intense emotions from pure joy to profound sadness.
Vietnam will grab hold of your heart and won't let go.
The US State Department describes Vietnam as a poor, agrarian country. While certainly accurate, that description doesn't begin to convey the incredible pride and genuine warmth of its people, the richness of its culture, the depth of its tradition and the diversity of its landscape. These are the reasons to come to Vietnam.
From the densely-populated canals and rivers comprising the Mekong Delta to the magnificent limestone peaks rising out of Halong Bay, Vietnam offers a variety of geographies and climates to entice the visitor. There is an abundance of flaura and fauna for nature lovers and spectacular vistas for photographers.
Wherever you go, you will be welcomed by the Vietnamese. Proud, warm and outgoing, they are eager for contact with foreigners, especially Westerners. You will be greeted with smiles, waves and shouts of "hello!" I've been given flowers by children on the beach, invited to play badminton by strangers, entertained in the homes of villagers and invited to dine with the families of Vietnamese friends.
I've learned to accept this attention and hospitality and to return it in kind. I'm always amazed at how few Vietnamese people have ever tried Western cuisine. I frequently stay in small hotels and guest houses and thank the staff by buying a pizza. Their looks of bewilderment as I show them how to eat it and the smiles on their faces as they try it for the first time are beyond words.
An avid photographer, I always ask for addresses of the people I photograph and send them their pictures. For many, it is the only one they have.
I try to return every hello. A few words of Vietnamese invariably return even more smiles, handshakes and children holding your hand.
While some museums and cultural sites are poorly-preserved by Western standards, the millenia-old culture and traditions can be experienced first hand. Traditional dress, Ao Dai and Ao Ba Ba, is still worn by many people, particularly in the countryside. Villagers carry produce and supplies using quang ganh, two baskets suspended from a pole and carried over one shoulder. The stereotypical conical hats, non bai tho, are widely worn throughout Vietnam. Farming in the Mekong and Red River Deltas is still done using traditional methods of irrigation and plowing that have to be seen to be believed!
Traveling to Vietnam is an experience you won't soon forget. While places like Thailand and Malaysia are unlikely to change much over the next couple of years, Vietnam will likely continue developing at a breakneck pace. I don't know if it will be better or worse, but one thing is for sure, it will be different. So what are you waiting for? See you in Vietnam!
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