Last updated: 11:46 AM ET, Thu March 17 2016

5 Things To Know About Modern-Day Vietnam

Tour Operator | Insider Journeys | Lisa Iannucci | March 17, 2016

5 Things To Know About Modern-Day Vietnam

PHOTO: The Vietnamese countryside (Courtesy Insider Journeys)

Vietnam is known for its rich history, Buddhist pagodas and bustling cities.

What you may not know is that it’s also known for its beaches, rivers, parks and other picturesque sites.

Let Insider Journeys take you to this amazing Southeast Asian country and, if you go, here are five things you should know about modern-day Vietnam.

It’s about the scenic beauty: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so behold the beauty that is Vietnam. Take a boat trip down the Mekong, the world’s 12th longest river, famous for Can Tho’s Cai Rang Floating Market, which is wear shoppers come to buy goods. Spend an overnight there, so you can enjoy going on the boats.

Explore Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site that includes a limestone zone and the world’s largest cave, Hang Son Doong. Near the Chinese borders is Ha Long Bay, which features around 3,000 islands. Insider Journeys offers tours of all of these locations, including Halong Bay, which means ‘where the dragon descends into the sea.’ With its emerald waters and limestone islands, the Bay is best viewed in the soft light of dawn from the deck of a junk boat on a cruise around these iconic rock formations.

It’s about the people: An Insider Journeys trip to Sapa, set in the stunning mountains of Northern Vietnam, is an excursion into the lives of the ethnic minority villagers that thrive in the unique conditions that life high in the mountains brings. A six-day excursion into the Ta Van valley are highlighted by a stay at the Topas Ecolodge which highlights the natural environment.

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It’s about Hanoi: Travel into Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, known for its centuries-old architecture. At its heart is the chaotic Old Quarter, where you can see a traditional water puppet show and walk through the Dong Xuan Market.

It’s about the temples: There are many Buddhist temples and pagodas around the country where you can immerse yourself in the religion and beliefs of the locals. You also can’t miss The Xá L?i Pagoda, the largest in H? Chí Minh City, Vietnam, built in 1956 and is the headquarters of Buddhism in South Vietnam. My Son Hindu sanctuary is a must-see in Hoi Ani.

It’s about the food:  Sample the food of the country, at the street vendors. Hoi An also has a great market and there are cafes by the roads where you can try Vietnamese noodles and other indulgences.  Insider Journeys offers culinary tours where you can experience a cooking lesson at the Hanoi Cooking Center, drink some of Vietnam's beer 'bia hoi', and take a World Heritage-listed Halong Bay, including a seafood feast on board.

It’s still about the past:  Enjoying modern day Vietnam doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take time to look back at the country’s history. Tour the Cu Chi Tunnels, which were dug by soldiers and used for ammunition storage and living quarters. Visit The War Remnants Museum, which conveys the brutality of war and its civilian victims. It has information on the antiwar movement as well as the more graphic display of the effects of war, such as artillery pieces, bombs and infantry weapons, the guillotine, and the inhumane ‘tiger cages’ used to house Viet Cong prisoners. 

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