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Travel Logs May 2015

Compulsive Traveler

Vietnam for Tourists, Not Troops

By Sandra Scott

Da Nang is becoming a premier beach destination with many high-end resorts. During the war it was one of the world’s busiest airports, parts of which now have grass sprouting from cracks in the concrete runway.

Vietnam is a country not a war. It is a popular destination with friendly people, fascinating things to see, and great food. Vietnam is finally governing itself. It had 1000 years of Chinese domination, 100 years of French colonialism, and about ten years of the American War (as it is called in Vietnam). More than half the population was born after the American War.

  1. Hanoi: The capital still has a bit of the old-day ambiance. Ho Chi Minh is preserved in a magnificent mausoleum. The Museum of Ethnology is a great place to learn about the diversity of the Vietnamese people. The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is home to an art form that originated in the rice fields. Those who remember the war days can visit the Hoa Lo Prison, called the “Hanoi Hilton” by Sen. John McCain and other prisoners of war.
  2. Halong Bay: Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a classic tourism trip in the north of Vietnam via a boat trip on the bay with its many fantastic karst formations and nearly 2000 islands. Trips are available from Hanoi and usually include an overnight ride on the bay with a visit to the national park and numerous caves.
  3. Hue: Hue, the walled imperial capital, had many of its buildings destroyed during the various wars but now many are in the process of being restored. The Imperial City has many gates including the famous forbidden Gate of the Noon. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearby are magnificent tombs of the emperors.
  4. Da Nang: Da Nang is becoming a premier beach destination with many high-end resorts. During the war it was one of the world’s busiest airports, parts of which now have grass sprouting from cracks in the concrete runway. Visit the Marble Mountains and Cham Pa Museum.
  5. Hoi An: Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring a lovely historic district. Walk across the beautiful Japanese bridge and learn how to cook Vietnamese food at the Red Bridge Cooking School.
  6. Dalat: Dubbed the “City of Eternal Spring,” Dalat is one of the few places that was not damaged during the war. It is an often-missed destination with a lovely lake, beautiful waterfalls, and the unique Crazy House.
  7. Saigon: Technically and politically Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is correct but both are in use. People should visit the War Remnants Museum. Some of the displays are one-sided but it drives home the brutality of war and its effect on civilians. The famed Chu Chi Tunnels are a popular day trip.
  8. Mekong Delta: The flat delta area is the rice basket of Vietnam. Tour the many waterways and buy fruit at the floating markets. Visit small, friendly fishing villages where people live in houses on stilts, and other villages where rice paper and snacks are still handmade.
  9. Mui Ne: The beach area is famed for kite surfing but there are other things to see and do including sliding down the sand dunes and visiting the largest reclining Buddha in Vietnam. Watch the sun come up over the South China Sea and see the unique round fishing boats head out to check and empty any catch in the fish nets.
  10. Tips: Americans need a visa which can be obtained from the Vietnam embassy. ATMs will issue money in local currency. English is commonly spoken in the tourist areas. Flights connecting major cities in the country can be booked online. Multi-lane highways are being constructed and bus service is good.

 

Sandra Scott travels the globe recording the top attractions at every destination.

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