To really get under the skin of Vietnam during your visit, here are some suggestions of what to read, watch, eat, drink and listen to.
Vietnamese food is generally fresh, healthy, cheap and utterly delicious - it is considered to be some of the best in South East Asia. The city of Hoi An is famous for its vast choice of excellent restaurants and pretty river setting. Try Nem Ran (Vietnamese spring rolls), traditional Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup) or Vietnamese crispy pancakes.
Read the Quiet American by Graham Green for an insight into Saigon in 1952. Sparring with Charlie: Motor biking down the Ho Chi Minh Trail by Christopher Hunt, is a light-hearted travelogue about modern Vietnam that takes you off the tourist trail and into some less-traveled parts of the country.
Watch Indochine, a French film set in colonial French Indochina during the 1930s, starring Catherine Deneuve and Vincent Perez. Three seasons, a triple winner at the Sundance Film Festival. Tells the story of a Vietnam vet who returns to the country to find his daughter.
Listen to some traditional Vietnamese music, historically influenced by China and India, resulting in a highly original style. ‘Nhã nhạc’ is the most well known form of imperial court music, and was played between the 13th and 19th centuries at annual ceremonies and special events including coronations, funerals and official receptions, by highly trained and skilled court musicians. It is now acknowledged by UNESCO who added it to their ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ list.
You’ll find fresh fruit juices available everywhere in Vietnam, with some quintessentially Asian flavor combinations such as lemongrass and ginger. If you’re passing through Hanoi, take time out to try a frothy Vietnamese beer called Bia Hoi.
See the amazing Festival of Lights in Hoi An, a monthly ritual held throughout the year during which the town reverts to all natural lighting, all electric lights are turned off and cars are not allowed to drive the roads. The streets are also decorated with beautiful paper lanterns whilst nostalgic participants read poetry and enjoy music.
Experience world-class scuba diving amongst the reefs of the Con Dao Archipelago in the south. Get up close the limestone pinnacles of Halong Bay in a kayak, mountain bike the hills of northern Vietnam, or trek to the summit of Vietnam's highest peak, Mount Fansipan.
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