Ah Vietnam, the land of Pho and Banh Mi. Oh what wouldn’t I give to have a comforting bowl of Pho right about now. The complex burst of flavours from the broth and silky smooth rice noodles that just slides down.
Interestingly, Thailand, particularly its capital of Bangkok, somehow seems to be more attractive to Singaporeans and is solidly above Vietnam as the more travelled-to destination. And who can blame us? Shopping is in our blood.
Now, part of the draw of Vietnam is its rich colonial history, largely attributed to the sizeable French influence during the mid-19th Century. From the usage of baguettes in Banh Mi to the imposing French colonial architecture that can be seen all across the country,
If it is a cultural foray that you are yearning for your next trip, there’s no better place than Vietnam. From the upstart Ho Chi Minh City to the cultural capital of Hanoi and sleepy towns like Hoi An, Vietnam offers a host of different experiences from one region to the next.
Tack on the fantastical natural landscapes that will be sure to make your jaw drop, here are some photos of Vietnam’s best to inspire to travel a little bit further, both in distance and comfort zone.
Where Modernity Meets Tradition
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Stroll through the city streets, and you’ll see women donning the Non La (Vietnamese conical leaf hat) carrying baskets of fresh produce walking around. The Non La is a traditional symbol which has its lore tied to the history of rice growing in Vietnam. The time-honoured traditions of the country quietly trudge on, oblivious to the myriad of changes around it.
Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, more so the former, is spearheading the transformation of Vietnam into a modernised city of towering skyscrapers right before our eyes. Rapid modernisation has no doubt brought much needed economic development and tourism to Vietnam.
That, however, hasn’t resulted in a purge of traditions from Vietnamese society. One of the interesting sights you’ll see in and around Vietnam is the juxtaposition of a fast modernising society holding steady to its time-honoured traditions. Expect to see trains shuttling to and fro right across from people cycling on dirt tracks surrounded by the tropical rainforest.
French Colonial Architecture
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The French influence imprinted throughout Vietnamese society as a result of a period of French colonialism is most easily seen through the remnants of French architecture that is still standing tall to this day in the different regions of Vietnam.
The People’s Committee House is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most iconic silhouette. Originally built from 1902 to 1908 for the then city of Saigon, it was named the Saigon City Hall. Though you aren’t able to enter it, its French architectural facade reminds us of its colonial past.
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With respect to Vietnam’s colonial history, it was actually in the city of Danang where the French originally began building their colony. Commissioned in 1923 by then priest Louis Vallet, a bright pink cathedral stands prominent along Tran Phu Street. Such French colonial architecture has become an institutional look of Vietnam.
Diverse Religious Landscape
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Of course with the French’s rule during the mid-19th century, it’s impact upon Vietnamese society would extend to more than just architecture. As with many European colonists during the time, aside from creating new trade routes and access to various spices, the spreading of Christianity and Catholicism was a high priority.
It’s hence not a surprise to see churches around, and coupled with Buddhist temples are that quite significant, Vietnam presents an intriguing mix of various religions which make for great exploration and photo ops of all the different religious buildings tucked in an amongst the city’s skyline.
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Tantalising Street Food
If you travel for food (what other reason should there really be?), Vietnam is a street food haven. Exploring on foot and trying out all the different street food Vietnam has to offer is a cultural experience on its own.
Strip away fancy tables and service, and what you get and all that matters is the dish in front of you where your experience of the meal is more or less judged solely on the taste. From delicious Pho and Banh Mi, not forgetting the Vietnamese sweet desserts that are a world of their own.
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And if you have a chance, give Cao lầu a try which is a bowl of noodles unique and signature of the Hoi An region. With udon-like noodles, strips of barbecue pork, some bean sprouts and lettuce for crunch, and you’ve got a bowl of pure delight.
Stunning Natural Beauty
Now this, this is something that Vietnam offers that is arguably unparalleled amongst neighbours. The natural landscapes that surrounds the many cities and towns of Vietnam can be jaw-droppingly beautiful.
From the ever famous Halong Bay to the relatively unknown provinces of Danang and Ninh Binh, the stunning mountainscapes will leave you wanting more. With boat tours that can take you to the foot of mountains and into caves, a trip to Vietnam would have to encompass experiencing all the vast mountains and nature that the entire country has to offer.
The next time you’re planning for a short trip and Vietnam’s on the final list, choose Vietnam and immerse yourself in a culturally enriching escape.