There is something touching and fascinating in every corner of Vietnam, a country with a history going back thousands of years but a land that has often been wounded. Vietnam is the melancholy sweetness wafting over the waters of the Mekong Delta, moving through tunnels of powerful yet graceful vegetation and surrounded by the comings and goings of traditional wooden boats that seem to float in a place where time stands still.
An awareness of the past is transformed into pure vitality in the bustle of bicycles and mopeds in the metropolises, each of which precious in its own way. The most populous is Ho Chi Minh City – ancient Saigon – named in honour of the national hero and dotted with pagodas, skyscrapers, and charming cafés. In Hanoi, the French colonial past is interlaced with the present. And then there is the stunning splendour of Hoi An, a pearl of temples and bridges illuminated by flickering lanterns suspended over the water.
The Vietnam of today is ready to welcome visitors, accompanying them through astonishing natural scenarios. One of the most beautiful is the enchanting Ha Long Bay, where the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin are dotted with thousands of islands. But this is only the beginning, because what dominates the geography of this land is variety: plateaus, mountains, vast cultivated fields stretching in every direction, with a range of climates going from temperate to equatorial.
But Vietnam is also – and above all – its people: cultured and civilized, and capable of surprising refinement. They are the repositories of exquisite crafts like ceramics, silk, and lacquer, and of a delicate, inventive, and rightly renowned cuisine of rice, spices, tropical fruit, soy, and fish, veined with the scent of lemongrass.