There aren’t many countries that can make completely opposite impressions on me – to feel the energy, the rush and bustle on the streets, but at the same time to soak in the serenity and harmony present at each and every corner. Vietnam is one of those rare countries which have made feel excited and relaxed at the same time.
It is a country with rich culture, extraordinary landscapes, beautiful beaches and busy cities. It was a hard decision where to start first, once I had reached this unusual part of the world.
The interesting thing about Vietnamese cities is that, even though most of the population lives extremely frugally, everybody is carrying around their mobile phones and ride motorbikes. Traffic jams are a usual thing there, but I couldn’t find a single person who was annoyed by that. Even the taxi driver who drove me once showed genuine patience while we were stuck on the road, and smiled at me when I started squirming nervously on my seat.
If you are going around the city on foot, you should keep your wits about crossing the street, as it is really hectic. The secret is to walk at the same pace, so the drivers can go past you. Once you get a hold of that, you will enjoy the noise and the rush.
A must-visit Vietnamese town is definitely Hoi An, an adorable port protected by UNESCO. Its beauty is well-described by its nickname – “Venice of Vietnam”. I enjoyed French architecture, which remained from the colonial times, and canals intersecting this ancient little town, which is believed to be around 2000 years old.
Another town worth visiting is Hue, which used to be the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty, and is crowded with historical buildings and the amazing imperial citadel. Even the entrance of the city stunned me, as I was walking through the NgO Mon gate. Another building which made a big impression on me was the magnificent Thai Hoa Palace with its beautifully decorated hall.
The first thing that comes to my mind is Vietnamese beaches, for sure. Approximately 3000km of coast provides you with both popular and secluded beaches with white sand. You only need to choose according to your preference and enjoy snorkeling, sunbathing or the astonishing view.
However, equally impressive are the bays, such as Halong Bay, with its dramatic landscape of mountains and the clear sea, or the inner scenery consisting of unique vistas. I rented a motorbike and took my time looking at peaceful villages and untouched beauty. The sunsets over the mountains is something that also should not be missed.
Some of the food that I tried in Vietnam was out of this world. The Vietnamese markets, as well as city streets, are magical places, as they are full of different meat and fish, as well as numerous types of fruit and vegetables. The variety of choice just leaves you in disbelief. What surprised me positively was the fact that I couldn’t smell the fish, or any kind of meat, as it was being sold fresh. When it comes to fruit and vegetables, I didn’t hesitate to try everything that was new to me – and I didn’t regret it.
Tasting all kinds of drinks is a special kind of experience. I loved Vietnamese coffee, which is usually served with delicious sweetened condensed milk, and I would recommend anyone to try it. I was also delighted with lovely wine tours, where I was allowed to taste some extraordinary wines and have a chat with some of the winery owners. What is also great is that all that trying out new flavors is low-cost.
The people are always the heart of a country, and Vietnamese people are no exception. They are poor, but with a constant smile on their faces; always in a hurry, but still so serene and relaxed. A couple of phrases in Vietnam that I had managed to learn were always warmly welcomed. It is true that sometimes they will try to sell something at a higher price, but there is no need for anger, as there is also joy in trying to bargain. The point is to appreciate their generosity and optimistic view of the life, and try to learn something from them.
Each country is a story in itself. The story of Vietnam is intertwined with ancient history, marvelous nature, big-hearted people and a relaxed approach to life. A person just has to go with the flow there, soak in the atmosphere and experience the beauty of Vietnam.