Despite its long and fascinating history, the most defining even for modern Vietnam has undoubtedly been the war that ravaged its beautiful shores during the seventies. Recovering has not been easy, but while the country still bears the battle scars it has risen, phoenix-like from the ashes of destruction to embrace western tourism as its primary industry and rally back to become on of Southeast Asia’s most attractive destinations. While Bali’s Jimbaran hotels might boast luxury, and Thailand’s beaches might host crazy parties, nowhere compares to Vietnam’s mix of old and new, or its mix of East and West. It is a country that clings fiercely to its past without being afraid to embrace the future, and it is this contrast that makes it so intoxicating for the traveller.


With a history that spans millennia, Vietnam has been occupied both by the Chinese and then, later, during World War II, by the French. Later still the Americans arrived for the Vietnam War, and in spite of the huge influences each of these cultures has had on the country (or perhaps because of them), it retains a unique personality that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.


Vietnamese culture is vibrant, colourful, friendly and eternally optimistic, in spite of the turmoil it has been put through. The Vietnamese fit into the East Asian cultural sphere, and unlike their western counterparts, value family and community far more than the individual. As a result, Vietnamese families and villages are incredibly tight-knit, with the most important cultural ceremonies being those that reinforce those bonds. In terms of religion, Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism are all popular, although Catholicism has a place in contemporary Vietnam as well. These religions have shaped much of the architecture and way of life, and there is a spiritual freedom and awareness in Vietnam that is difficult to find in the west.


Whether you’re marveling at awe-inspiring temples, trekking through jungles, paying your respects at memorials from the Vietnam War or haggling in local markets, Vietnam will not disappoint. Halong Bay is the picture of exotic beauty, with its majestic rock formations rising from the sea, draped in lush vegetation. Hanoi is a thriving modern city with traditional roots, and Ho Chi Min city is a hotbed of history and culture. No matter how long you spend in Vietnam, it will never be enough, so the best you can do is try to soak up as much of the country as possible. We recommend staying in a range of while you’re there, changing up western establishments with local, traditional accommodation, to fully experience local customs, culture and traditions.


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