From the rice-cultivating tropical lowlands, to the rich-soiled, coffee-producing highlands, Vietnam offers a unique and varied travel experience.
22% of Vietnam’s 87 million people live in the Mekong Delta, the fertile rice-basket of the country. It’s this region that grows the majority of Vietnam’s rice and makes Vietnam the leader in global rice exports, producing more rice than South Korea and Japan combined.
Life in the Mekong Delta is deeply connected to water. The lowlands are continually sliced by rivers and streams filled with boats. Taking a trip of any length here often requires taking multiple ferries, and passing through floating towns where merchants travel house to house by boat selling their soups, clothes and household items.
Moving northeast, towards Da Lat, the landscape quickly changes as the seemingly never-ending plains of the Mekong are replaced by a rising topography. Da Lat, founded by the French as a vacation town, lies in the misty highlands. Here, mist often covers the peaks and valleys, earning it the name “City of Eternal Spring.” The temperature here stays between 60 – 77 degrees year round, making it ideal for agriculture. Renowned for its orchids, roses, fruits and vegetables and surrounded by pine trees, it’s somewhat akin to what one finds in Northern California. This mountain range will continue into China but moving toward the coast, one will find the gem, Ha Long Bay.
Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is perhaps the crown jewel of Vietnam’s beauty. The bay features thousands of limestone islands which take various sizes and shapes, each topped with tropical vegetation. Many of these islands feature unique caves which house not only massive stalagmites and stalactites, but also a collection of 19th century graffiti from French tourists. Located within the maze of islands are 4 floating fishing villages where tourists can view marine life, buy crafts and most importantly see this community of floating houses, schools and shops.
With many distinct climates and cultures, Vietnam is a stunning place. It’s easy to appreciate the country’s rice paddies, rivers, misty peaks and wondrous caves. But when visiting, be sure to take note of the intimate relationships people have with their environment. Their ingenuity has harnessed the natural landscape to produce the staples necessary for Vietnam’s growing economy and tourist sector.
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