Vietnam (Lonely Planet Vietnam)

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9781740593557: Vietnam (Lonely Planet Vietnam)
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This edition covers recommended places to stay, gives the scoop on Vietnam's gastronomic delights and how to eat them, and offers special sections on the best of Vietnam, including the Tet festival and Halong Bay.

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With its stunning scenery, rich culture, friendly people, fantastic food, and variety of entertainment, Vietnam is the place to go. Lonely Planet's guide presents a plethora of options: highland trekking, boating down the Mekong Delta, sailing Halong Bay, lazing on palm-fringed beaches, visiting hill tribes, exploring Hanoi's Old Quarter, or swinging in Saigon. With knowledgeable information on Vietnamese food, water puppets, shopping, recreation, and hotels for all budgets, Robert Storey and Daniel Robinson allow you to tailor the trip you want.

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Vietnam has a unique and rich civilization, spectacular scenery and highly cultured, cordial people. While there is no doubt its long history of war continues to weigh heavily on the consciousness of all who can remember, the Vietnam of today is a country at peace.

Red tape kept foreign tourists and investors out for nearly two decades, but visiting has become considerably easier in recent years and the tourist floodgates have opened wide. Already, the relatively short period of economic liberalization and openness has brought dramatic changes.

Most visitors to Vietnam are overwhelmed by the sublime beauty of the country's natural setting. The Red River Delta in the north, the Mekong Delta in the south and almost the entire coastal strip are a patchwork of brilliant-green rice paddies tended by peasant women in conical hats. Vietnam's 3451km coastline includes countless unspoiled beaches and a number of stunning lagoons; some sections are shaded by coconut palms and casuarinas, others bounded by seemingly endless expanses of sand dunes or the rugged spurs of the Truong Son Mountain Range.

Between the two deltas, the coast lining the South China Sea gives way to soaring mountains - the slopes of some are cloaked with rich forests. West of the coast, the refreshingly cool plateaus of the central highlands are dotted with waterfalls. To the north you'll not only find stunning mountain scenery but also Vietnam's most prominent hill-tribe communities.

Visitors to Vietnam will have their senses thrilled by all its sights, sounds, tastes and smells. There's nothing quite like grabbing a delicious lunch of local delicacies at a food stall deep inside a marketplace, surrounded by tropical-fruit vendors as well as legions of curious youngsters. Or sitting by a waterfall in the central highlands, sipping soda water with lemon juice and watching honeymooning couples in their "Sunday finest." Or being invited by a Buddhist monk to a pagoda to attend prayers, conducted according to Mahayana rites, with chanting, drums and gongs.

Fiercely protective of their independence and sovereignty, the Vietnamese are also graciously welcoming of foreigners who come as guests rather than conquerors. Today the Vietnamese are, almost without exception, extremely friendly to Western visitors (including Americans), and supportive of more contact with the outside world. Visitors to Vietnam play an important role in conveying the value and potential for international friendship and business.

The astonishing pace of development in East Asia has made many countries in the region considerably more polluted and expensive, and less enchanting than they used to be. The rice paddies have given way to industrial estates belching out black smoke; bicycles have been replaced by tour buses; and thatched huts have been bulldozed to make way for office towers and five-star hotels.

Although Vietnam has not yet reached the level of rampant development found in the region, capitalism is no longer a four-letter word here and private business has mushroomed, adding an atmosphere of hustle and bustle to Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and other cities whose resurgent dynamism is reviving the Vietnamese economy. Meanwhile, cities and towns throughout Vietnam are, like the boom towns of old, experiencing rapid alteration as infrastructure development paves the way with new streets, hospitals and attitudes.

Visitors to Vietnam will be intrigued by its dynamic melding of traditional culture, its French-colonial past and communist legacy, and its current transition as a modern Asian power. While conical hats and rice paddies abound, the Vietnam of today is also where you'll find hip city cafes and nightclubs, a thriving art scene and a decided zest for the future.

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