Does the word send shivers down your spine? Do you conjure up frightening images of war, bombs and cruelty?
There can be no-one who hasn’t heard of Vietnam and her troubles. Make your first call Saigon, now Ho Chi Min City, and take a look around the war museums and the Coo Chi Tunnels. Spare a moment to contemplate what this country and its people have gone through–its desperate past making its present beauty even more breathtaking. Then shake off your melancholy and enjoy the beautiful countryside and the peace and simplicity that Vietnam has to offer.
You will emerge from Saigon a little bit sad, but the hope of a new future, the frenzy of rebuilding the city and commercial investment is a warming thought. Out of the city, life is simple, water buffaloes plough the fields and peasants toil in the hot sun under their conical hats. The women are up at dawn, bartering at the fish market while the children, with bright, beaming smiles, sell postcards to the tourists.
I went to Vietnam in slight trepidation–“What was it all about?” But the strangest thing I came across was the food! The weather was hot and sticky, but the hotels were modern, French style opulence with hot showers and cool air conditioning. I felt a sympathy for Vietnam, struggling to get back on her feet, but the unspoilt beaches and crystal clear waters surpass the beaten-track beaches of other countries in the Far East.
In Hanoi we paid our respects to Uncle Ho. In a silent procession we filed past his tomb where he lay in state. The myriad of market streets and sophistication of Hanoi was a contrast to the hub-bub of Ho Chi Min and when we found a cafe which served English chocolate cake, we were in seventh heaven!
As I said, Vietnam was a surprise–an adventure and great fun. If you like something different, you’ll love Vietnam. You will feel the effect long after you leave.