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Vietnam Travel Guide - The Non Fiction Author

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Chapter 1:

Why You Will Fall in Love With Vietnam

Where in the world can you find snake wine, war souvenirs, steaming bowls of pho and iced coffee right next to each other? You guessed it, Vietnam, Southeast Asia’s up and coming coastal beauty. Vietnam’s white sandy beaches are enough to rival those in Thailand and it is quickly becoming the next hot destination for backpackers and luxury travelers alike.

But Vietnam is so much more than its exquisite beaches, dense forests and meandering deltas. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are vibrant and thriving metropolises with millions of young people creating innovative cuisine and art alongside ancient marketplaces. The sights, smells and sounds will enthrall you and overwhelm you but they will also leave you wanting more. There are pagodas and a multitude of religious sites throughout the country representing many religions over the centuries. There is no way to summarize what Vietnam is so you will have to experience it to understand the changes that started decades ago and are still going today.

For many Americans and westerners the name Vietnam brings up memories of the Vietnam War, though younger generations will have heard of it only secondhand and in history classes. While there are some remnants of the conflict most of the country has rebuilt and continued to move forward so that it is hardy recognizable to what it used to be in 1975.

Today Vietnam has many attractions in the northern, central and southern regions. If you want to go shopping then check out Hoi An on the coast. For a wild nightlife then follow the backpackers to Nha Trang, or to Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. To see the surreal beauty of Ha Long Bay then hop on a boat and prepare to be amazed.

Geographically it is a long and thin country but it occupies almost the same area as Germany. The land is very hilly and full of forests. The north is made up of the highlands with the largest mountain standing at 10,312 feet high. Southern Vietnam has a share of mountains in the Annamite range but it is also home to the Mekong Delta, a flatland with rice paddies near every canal and waterway.

Most visitors arrive in either Hanoi in the north or fly into Ho Chi Minh City in the south. From there they make their way to the opposite city jumping on buses, trains and planes to get around. Upon landing in one of the cities you will immediately notice the traffic and driving customs are uniquely chaotic at best and can take some getting used to. But with a little practice you will be crossing the street like a local and you will be ready to hit the street food stands.

From Hanoi you can get a bus over to Ha Long Bay and spend a day, night or more on the water with local entertainment and new friends on your boat. There are also many villages in the mountains that are worth visiting if you have a few extra days or a week to explore the region thoroughly.

As you head down the coast you will encounter Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam which still has many palaces and temples to see from that time period. A little further down the coast you will cross into Hoi An, a modern and charming seaside city, with its winding alleyways that call out to those who dare to get lost.

Next of the big destinations is Nha Trang with a lively nightlife and plenty of resorts up and down the beach. Mui Ne is similarly adorned with boat rides and sand dunes which are an ideal location to watch the sun rise or set.

Ho Chi Minh City in the south is in rapid transition, a behemoth in the making as the city grows in both size and depth, as well as wealth. Here you can walk past French colonial style buildings next to concrete office buildings while cyclo drivers weave around Honda SUVs in the streets. In the past few years the government launched an economic program called đổi mới which has introduced more capitalism into the traditionally communist system. Despite the continual growth at nearly 10% each year there are still many issues with the services in major cities like consistent electricity. For example blackouts have become so commonplace that many shops have a backup generator.

The majority of the people in Vietnam are ethnically Vietnamese, or Kinh, though there are minority populations of Chinese in Ho Chi Minh, Khmer Krom in the lowlands by Cambodia, and villages of Hmong, Muong, and Dao in the mountains. Over 80% of Vietnamese are Buddhist, mostly Mahayana, and there are a few groups practicing Catholicism, Cao Dai and Islam.

Since Vietnam was a part of China for more than a thousand years there are many parts of its society that bare strong influence from the Chinese Confucianism. Vietnamese culture focuses on humanity and harmony, valuing family and community very highly. Today the Vietnamese culture has been heavily influenced by the government controlled media, which since the 1990s has been more open to global culture and media from the rest of Asia and western world.

The largest holiday by far is Tet, the Lunar New Year, which falls between late January and March. The year of the Monkey will begin on February 8, 2016, the year of the Rooster will start January 28, 2017, and the year of the Dog on February 16, 2018. If you visit during this time you will notice an abundance of decorations going up in the weeks before the actual day. A few days before the cities will start to empty as people head back to their home towns and villages to be with their families for the new year. On the first day of the year the streets will be quiet and shops will be closed for three days, with the exception of those catering to tourists. This can be a great time to visit to enjoy the public festivities in the major cities but public transportation will be jam packed before and after the holiday so you will have to book tickets and hotel rooms well ahead of time.

Food is at the very core of many Vietnamese holidays and indeed the culture so to get a real glimpse into the Vietnamese life then pull up a chair at one of the street side restaurants and eat in the middle of the sidewalk with the locals. Each region has its signature dishes and flavors so you won’t get bored of eating here. You can also find some regional influences like the pan-Asian cuisine in many restaurants in the major cities but the best and freshest food will be the local specialties, though if you have a hankering for pad Thai or a burger you will certainly be able to find some. Due to the French occupation you will find a wide range of coffee, baguettes and pastries in coffee shops in every village around the country. When the sun goes down the bars and the fresh beers come out, made daily. You can relax with a beer in hand and watch the world turn for a moment.

Chapter 2:

Tips To Make The Most Out of This Guide

This guide contains a broad range of information to aid you as your plan your trip to Vietnam. Each section has valuable information on how to make the most out of your holiday with insider tips and background information on Vietnam all in one digestible guide. There are so many destinations in Vietnam that it can be difficult to decide which ones are right for you. This guide will help you narrow down what you want to see and