The National: Five reasons for travelers to visit Vietnam now
Update: Mar 25, 2022
According to The National (UAE), after a two-year hiatus of the Covid-19 pandemic, the South-East Asian nation welcomes vaccinated visitors from mid-March, and there are five compelling reasons for travelers to visit the country.

The long history

A foreign traveler is learning to make To he folk toy in Duong Lam ancient village. Photo: Khanh Huy

For Ronan O’Connell, the staff-writer of The National, the image of an elderly Vietnamese woman in her conical hat riding her bike passing through the gate of the one-thousand-year-old Duong Lam village has impressed him the most during his last trip to the country.

According to him, Vietnam’s cities have modernized at the pace of a sprint over the past 20 years. But tourists need not venture too far beyond the urban sprawl to savor traditional communities.

“Only 60 kilometers west of the capital, Hanoi, Duong Lam’s weathered streets are decorated by historic temples, shrines, and assembly halls that have been designated as national cultural assets,” he wrote

“It remains primarily a farming village, encircled by fields of rice, groundnuts, sweet potato and spinach. Duong Lam has no extraordinary sights - no giant pagodas or teeming markets. What it offers is simpler: an insight into Vietnam’s peaceful rural communities, where traditional customs flourish,” he added.

Ronan also suggests travelers watch locals weaving scarecrows from straw, acting out ancient fables during festivals, or steering water buffalo through farmland.

The surf-friendly waters

With a long coastline and numerous beautiful beaches, Vietnam is a new destination for tourists who love surfing and other beach sports. Photo: Bong Hong

More than 40 years ago, Apocalypse Now’s surfing scene turned Vietnam into an unlikely new destination for tourists interested in riding waves. One particular strip of sand is still famous thanks to that movie, according to The National.

My Khe beach as it is known locally was the setting for that extraordinary anti-American War scene, where two surfers rode waves while villages were bombed in the background.

This majestic location on Vietnam’s central coast is blissfully peaceful. Waves roll off the East Sea onto the long oceanfront of Danang, the country’s third largest city. The coastline is now embellished by many seaside resorts catering to domestic tourists and foreign surfers keen to ride the area’s consistent waves.

The underground river

The Ca (or Oldest) cave is a popular tourist destination in North Vietnam and part of the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo: VOVTV

For travelers who love to explore the world of the underground, the cave system under the enormous karst mountain of Tam Coc- Bich Dong in Ninh Binh Province is an ideal destination. “Curving through a valley embellished by farmland and hemmed by peaks, the Ngo Dong River passes through each cave, with tourists able to complete this mesmerizing boat journey during day trips to Hanoi, 100 kilometers to the north,” Ronan described the caves in Tam Coc.

He also advised tourists on longer rides to continue upriver to Bich Dong Pagoda. The ancient temple clings to the mountainside and affords remarkable, sprawling views of the valley.

The traditional crafts

The craft of making a conical hat in Chuong Village, in Phuong Trung Commune, Thanh Oai District, some 30km away from Hanoi’s centre

During his time in Vietnam, Ronan O'Connell knitted a conical hat with his own hands under the guidance of a veteran Vietnamese artisan. He was surprised to find out that the Non la has been worn by Vietnamese for more than 1,000 years.

“Although they are now made in factories, it is still possible to learn the original method of their creation from experienced artisans who hold tourist workshops in Hanoi,” he suggested.

As far as he knows, there are dozens of workshops in Hanoi that offer a step-by-step guide to pursuits such as Vietnamese calligraphy, watercolor painting, and ceremonial mask molding.

In Ho Chi Minh City, meanwhile, he was able to learn the basics of shaping Vietnamese earthenware in a ceramics studio that’s open to tourists.

The ethnic minorities villages

The Sapa Town in Lao Cai Province stands at the head of a deep valley of magnificent rice terraces that are still farmed today.Photo: Traveloka

According to Ronan from The National, Sapa town is an isolated, picturesque and wonderfully tranquil destination for travelers who love to discover mountainous life in Vietnam. Located some 250km northwest of Hanoi, the tiny town features tiered rice paddies and wonderful ancient villages where Vietnamese ethnic minorities live. “Sapa is tailor-made for washing away two years of pandemic-induced stress and anxiety,” he wrote.

While the town of Sapa itself is quite touristy, he suggested travelers follow any of the paths into its countryside and they will soon reach delightful villages where the H'Mong, Tay, Red Dao and Giay people have resided in this wild region for centuries. These Vietnamese ethnic minorities continue to live off the land while wearing colorful and intricately decorated clothes unique to their tribes, he added.

Jenna Duong

Hanoi Times - March 23, 2022