Five reasons to visit Vietnam

Road hogs

Once home to a million bicycles, cities such as Hanoi now move to an altogether different rhythm, that of the motorbike. While crossing a frantically busy city road in Vietnam may seem like a bad idea, it’s actually a lot safer than you think. So park those western sensibilities and be bold: the key is to mirror the traffic, slow and steady with no sudden movements, and drivers will weave around you with surprising patience and ease. Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually quite exciting.

Going underground

Situated a short drive from Ho Chi Minh City beneath a quiet and nondescript wood lie the infamous Cu Chi tunnels. Throughout the Vietnam War this remarkable network of claustrophobic tunnels was home to Viet Cong forces, and contained everything from living quarters and armouries to kitchens and even a hospital. Intricate, ingeniously-designed and a complete mystery to the American army stationed above.

Dragons of Halong Bay

Blessed with a rich vein of myths and legends, one of Vietnam’s best-known folktales centres on the otherworldly rock formations of Halong Bay. Legend has it that these jungle-crested pillars are dragon tails formed in an epic battle between Vietnamese forefathers and fierce northern invaders. Home to monkeys, tropical birds and even antelope, the shady grottos, forested peaks and secluded beaches of Halong make for a serene and peaceful escape on an overnight cruise.

Go west

Affectionately known as ‘Uncle Ho’, the Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh died back in 1969. But that hasn’t stopped him making an annual pilgrimage to Russia for a wax and polish. Every year between September and December the embalmed remains of Vietnam’s legendary revolutionary are taken to Moscow for ‘maintenance’. For the rest of the year, you can see his body on show at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi.

Street food slurp

Cultural differences between Southeast Asia and the West never seem greater than when we sit down to eat. According to the Vietnamese the key to getting the best out of your food is to give it a good slurp. That’s right. Noodles, spicy fish soup… give them a good old slurp. Contrary to every fibre of your being, this won’t send your fellow diners screaming to the hills but will merely show how much you’re enjoying your food.