Sail among the thousands of limestone islands of Ha Long Bay and across the Perfume River, stroll by peaceful pagodas and Buddhist monasteries, watch colorful floating markets of the Mekong River Delta and enjoy a private cooking class. Discover the many aspects of the French colonial Hanoi and the vibrant city of Saigon.
The Ancient Vietnam
The history of Vietnam covers a period of more than 2,700 years. By far Vietnam's most important historical international relationship has been with China. Vietnam's prehistory includes a legend about a kingdom known as Van Lang (2787–2858 BC) that included what is now China's Guangxi Region and Guangdon Province, as well as the northern part of Vietnam. Later, successive dynasties based in China ruled Vietnam directly for most of the period from 207 BC until 938 when Vietnam regained its independence. Vietnam remained a tributary state to its larger neighbor China for much of its history but repelled invasions by the Chinese...
The Lunar New Year
Tet Nguyen Dan (often referred to simply as Tet) is the Lunar New Year, perhaps the most important holiday of the year. The New Year does not fall on the same date every year, although it is always in January or February. The official holiday lasts three days, but it is often celebrated for a full seven days. In many ways, the Tet "holiday season" is not unlike the December "holiday season" in North America. Tet Nguyen Dan literally means "first morning of the first day of the new period." It is believed that the course of these few days determines the events of the coming year.
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is one of the most popular draws for visitors to Vietnam as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its natural beauty. The bay is made up of thousands of limestone islands, many of them named for their distinct shapes, such as Voi (elephant) and Khi (monkey). These islands are home to diverse flora and fauna, including bantams, monkeys, antelopes, and lizards; the bay itself supports 200 species of fish and 450 species of mollusks. Four fishing villages also support around 1,600 people living on floating houses, while two of the larger islands, Tuan Chau and Cat Ba, house permanent residents as well as hotels and beaches.
The Rice of Life
Rice is the dietary staple in Vietnam, consumed with each meal. The common practice is to prepare several dishes that are placed on a tray or on a table, with family members sitting around it. Everybody has a small bowl filled with rice, and take food from the serving trays, placing it in their bowl. Then such combination of rice and other foods is eaten from the bowls with chopsticks. Vietnamese often accompany these main dishes with leafy vegetables and small bowls of salty sauces in which they dip their food. Popular dishes include sauteed vegetables, tofu, a seafood-based broth with vegetables called canh, and a variety of pork, fish, or meat dishes.