Travelers can never be too comfortable in their backyard. Sometimes, just a stone’s throw away, is a seemingly similar sight with vastly different culture and natural beauty. Let’s immerse ourselves in the Northern corner of the region and discover Vietnam for all its hidden worth.
// THE VIEWS OF VIETNAM //
Southeast Asia is well liked for its tropical climate and idyllic beaches with its blue waters. While many of our Western counterparts have trod through the region, we as born-and-bred residents may have overlooked a few neighbors. Vietnam is saturated with ancient history and culture, a good part of which included foreign power invasions and political turbulence.
Today, Vietnam looks toward building a modern country with metropolitan cities as its economic driving force. The South China Sea, which skirts the country’s eastern shores, becomes a natural and persisting backdrop from which its stories may be told. This time, let’s journey through Vietnam by way of the water.
The Rocks That Tell Time
The legend goes that once upon a time, a dragon descended upon Vietnam’s northern coast, its great tail whipping the land to create valleys. As the legendary animal went under water, the sea level rose to fill up the crevices, hence only showing the peaks of the altered land. For this, the area has been named Halong, which means ‘where the dragon descends into the sea.’
Scientifically speaking, the rock formations are the result of thousands of years of element exposure. The ever-changing sea levels, wind, and rain shape the limestone masses into the majestic towers that they are today. Halong Bay lends a mystical aura to visitors, making the legend story come to life as one winds through its calm waters.
The site has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994, bringing its unique formation to the world’s attention. Tourists visit Halong Bay all year round, with peak periods between May and August.
It’s hard to not see Hoi An as being frozen in time in the best way possible. Architecturally abundant with Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples, and ancient tea warehouses, this former wealthy trading port town is quaint and mostly untouched by the 21st Century pollution and haphazard traffic. One might even say this place is a photographer’s heaven.
The variety of structures and their distinct styles tell of the different foreign influences that have come through. Today, Hoi An is one of the most popular tourist sites in Vietnam, and so becomes the area’s main income source. By preserving the town’s history, Hoi An continues to welcome visitors from all over the world to showcase its old-world charm with contemporary conveniences.
In contrast to Hoi An’s picturesque streets, Danang is a newly developing city just north of Vietnam’s cultural melting pot. Here in Danang, travelers come face to face with glitz, glamour, and bright lights, all of which are signs of a metropolitan city.
Once a French trading port, Danang is now a host to luxurious hotels, apartments, and restau-rants. The city is a stylish traveler’s paradise, complete with a growing number of nightlife entertainment options. Many visitors almost prefer Danang at nighttime than day, for the lights on the city’s infrastructure create a dazzling effect on the area.
Rock the Boat
Make your way to Can Tho in the southern part of Vietnam for an everyday feel of Southeast Asia’s agriculture industry. Nicknamed as the country’s rice basket, Can Tho is covered with rice fields as well as orchards and farms, thanks to its fertile soil. Because of this earthy abundance, it is no wonder that the city is also home to a village specializing in rice paper-making.
Make no mistake – Can Tho may be traditional in its niche industry, but is also metropolitan in its amenities and infrastructure. Hotels and restaurants are in abundance, with simple pleasures such as night markets to enjoy in the evening. In short, Can Tho is a blend of old and new, giving a true taste for a large, industrious Southeast Asian city in the 21st Century.
Originally appeared in the May-June print issue of PathWay magazine.