Welcome to another world, a world where the colours are more vivid, the culture is richer, and the history more compelling. This is the world of Vietnam, the latest Asian dragon to awake from its slumber. Nature has blessed Vietnam with a bountiful harvest. With soaring peaks like Hoang Lien mountains and a killer coastline, with beaches like Quy Nhon and Nha Trang, Vietnam is simply stunning. Blanketed from head to toe with a patchwork of emerald-green rice paddies, timelessly tended by peasant women in conical hats, this time the brochures don't lie.
The rumble of a million motorbikes, the cries of hawkers and the buzz of business transactions are as ever-present as the tinkle of the past in the pagodas, and the swish of the scythe. Modern Asia meets medieval Asia and, in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, the two become one. For culinary adventurers, Vietnam is a treasure trove of more than 500 different dishes. It's a wonderful world of pungent herbs and secret spices. Dip delicate spring rolls in nuoc mam, a fish sauce that is as compulsory as ketchup for the Vietnamese. Or play 'down-in-one' with xeo (rice wine), the whisky of the mountains.