For those wishing to experience a taste of the Far East, or if visiting several countries on a longer trip, there are Vietnam tours that can show you a flavour of this amazing country however long you may have.
This country has weathered many wars and has been through colonialism and communism and is now waking, like the many dragons of its folklore, into the capitalist world of tourism.
There are stunning mountain ranges, endless paddy fields, beautiful and dramatic coastlines and incredible cities. Tours can show you the best of each of these, or concentrate on the more adventurous or sublime, whichever you choose to see.
In the north you have the city of Hanoi, where ancient market places and temples mix with French colonial boulevards to create an amazing mixture for your senses. Must sees are the synchronised Tai Chi at dawn on the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake, the Water Puppet Theatre and Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
Also in the north in direct contrast to the vibrant capital is Halong Bay a mystical expanse of sea where thousands of limestone stacks and islands seem to float on the water. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place of unbelievable beauty, where you can take a boat and drift through the islands, visiting the incredible caves with amazing stalactites and stalagmites and view mysterious underground lakes.
In the centre of the country lies Vietnam’s former imperial capital Hue. Surrounded by green mountains and bisected by the Perfume River the city is the resting place of many kings and a trip along the river to visit the tombs is a highlight, as are the Imperial Citadel and the exotic Dong Ba Market. The coast here is breathtaking and a stop at Lang Co beach is recommended.
Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City in the south is a metropolis with thousands of motorbikes buzzing past skyscrapers, designer boutiques and chic restaurants, where you can also see ancient pagodas, ramshackle markets selling far eastern treasures of silk and spices. Must sees here are the War Remnants and History museums and the 18th century Buddhist Giac Lam Pagoda with its gilded statues and colourful wall panels.
Also in the south of the country the Mekong Delta is where rice fields of Vietnam are crisscrossed with the brown canals and streams fed by the river. As well as rice there are fish farms here and other produce such as fruit and coconut are grown. The atmosphere is easygoing and gentle and a great contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city. Within this area lies the island of Phu Quoc with gorgeous white sand beaches and great diving making it a perfect idyllic rest stop for the end of any tour.
Vietnam is still developing its tourist industry and while the main cities have hotels and spas to rival any in the world, there is still a chance to bump along unmade mountain roads to be a house-guest in a traditional home and sample the real Vietnam hospitality.
Linda Endersby spent 19 years in the airline industry enabling her to visit many beautiful places across the world. As well as writing about the places she loves, weekends as a bookseller offer her fabulous opportunities to research future destinations.