Verdant patchworks of rice paddies and pointed conical hats - these are some of the international images of Vietnam. But there are other scenes to be found too, ones of spectacular natural beauty, fascinating ethnic culture, imperial history and timeless traditional villages, idyllic beaches and dynamic cities.
Vietnam stretches along the east coast of the Indochinese Peninsula and is likened by its people to a long bamboo pole hung with two baskets of rice, represented by the two fertile regions at either end of the country. Between the lush Red River Delta and the highlands in the north, known for their magnificent scenery and colourful hill tribes, and the agricultural plains and floating markets of the Mekong Delta in the south, lie miles of white sandy beaches, towering mountains, rivers and dense forests, and the thousands of bizarre rock and cave formations on the islands of Halong Bay.
Ancient temples and colourful pagodas are scattered throughout the urban centres, while among them stand hotels of modern luxury, and the development of tourism infrastructure is a booming business. Vietnam is a perfect balance between ancient times and the here and now, a country that reveres its past heroes, and people who welcome visitors to their country with open arms and friendly smiles.