Lush rice fields at the bottom of stunningly gorgeous highlands, colourful water markets on the streams of the Mekong Delta and the endless bustling city life of Hanoi, where anything from school children to fridges and huge piles of vegetables are transported on the back of countless motorcycles.
The combined length of the country’s land boundaries is 4,639 km (2,883 mi), and its coastline is 3,444 km (2,140 mi) long. At its narrowest point, the country is as little as 50 kilometres (31 mi) across, though it widens to around 600 kilometres (370 mi) in the north.
*Ho Chi Minh City – commonly known as Saigon (Vietnamese: Sài Gòn) or by the abbreviations HCMC or HCM, is the largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).
*Hoi An (map) – formerly known as Fai-Fo or Faifoo, noted since 1999 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Old Town Hội An, the city’s historic district, is recognized as an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century, its buildings and street plan reflecting a blend of indigenous and foreign influences.
*Dalat (map) — hub of the highlands. Dalat looks somewhat like a cross between Vietnam and rural France. Many of its hotels and houses are built in a European/French style.
*Sa Pa (map) – District is in Lào Cai Province, northwest Vietnam, 380 km northwest of *Hanoi close to the border with China. Sa Pa is a quiet mountain town and home to a great diversity of ethnic minority peoples. The scenery of the Sa Pa region in large part reflects the relationship between the minority people and nature. This is seen especially in the paddy fields carpeting the rolling lower slopes of the Hoàng Liên Mountains.
*Ha Long Bay (map) — The bay is famous for its scenic ocean karst topography and is often included on lists of natural wonders of the world, including the UNESCO World Heritage list.
*Kon Tum / Kontum (map) – What nevertheless puts it on the map of interesting places in Vietnam are the surrounding minority villages, including settlements of the Sedang, Bahnar, Jarai, Gieh Trieng and Rengao ethnic groups.
*Phu Quoc island (map), off of the southwestern coast, is accessible to tourists from all countries without a visa for stays up to 30 days. Phu Quoc International Airport.
Some best picks in terms of natural wonders can be found in the country’s national parks. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park (wikivoyage, map), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is famous for its natural caves and grottos, with underground rivers and cave beaches as well as stunning stalagmites and stalactites. For wildlife, try Cuc Phuong National Park (wikivoyage, map).
Hotels can be noisy, particularly when local families are staying. Vietnamese is one of the world’s more vocal languages, and local tourists are happy to give full vent to it from 6AM onward with scant regard for fellow guests.