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Sunday, December 27, 2009

VIETNAM

Vietnam is an utter assault on the senses; it is at once dizzying, frenetic and fascinating. Yet it is lovable. The Vietnamese are friendly and endlessly generous, and travelling the country is nothing but a delight. The cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are both chaotic and captivating: the capital Hanoi is the focus for arts in Vietnam and has been since its foundation in the year 1010, while Ho Chi Minh, still referred to as Saigon, is the business hub, but no less interesting. The imperial city of Hue offers a well-preserved insight in to Vietnam's proud past.

Bustling street life

Life in urban Vietnam is conducted on the streets. In
bia hois (pavement pubs) men sup ice-cold beer and nibble on boiled quails eggs. Odours from makeshift food stalls fill the nostrils: see steaming pho, a noodle soup with various unidentifiable chunks of meat, or grilled chicken feet. Along nearly all the moped-clogged streets produce is sold. Tubs wriggle with live sturgeon, crabs and frogs (still a delicacy from French colonial days), baskets are top heavy with colourful and bizarre fruit, and every possible piece of a pig is on sale.

Traditional country ways
Rural Vietnam is entirely different. Just a short distance from the cities, water buffalo wallow in green rice paddies and elegant women wearing traditional conical headwear cycle along dusty paths. Vietnam's remarkable geography, from the lush Mekong Delta in the south to the remote Sapa valleys in the north, demonstrates a traditional way of life.

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