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Vietnam is history-rich, and everyone that visits has more than enough to see and learn. Governments have worked hard to ensure most of the landmarks remain untouched, so future generations know what the country has been through.
A key part of Vietnamese history is the Vietnam war that was fought between 1954–75 and pitted North Vietnam and the Viet Cong against South Vietnam and the US. North Vietnam had just come out of the French rule that had been left when Japan pulled its forces after World War II. Both sides – North and South – wanted a unified nation, but they differed in the way they wanted it modeled. The North wanted a communist nation much like China and the Soviet Union, while the South favored a nation with closer ties to the West. Troops were sent in as allies took positions – China supported the North while the US backed the South.
This experience cost all countries involved dearly. In the end, over 3 million people died, close to 58,000 being the US military and over half of them, civilians from Vietnam -VT. South Vietnam lost between 200,000 and 250,000 soldiers. Too much was spent on resources, too, as read in practically every essay about the Vietnam War ever published. In 1973, the US recalled its forces, and two years later, the North fully took over the South. This effectively ended the period.
Due to this and other events, this Southeast Asia nation has numerous momentous events that make it a much-sought-after tourist destination. Here are some of the sites you must visit when in Vietnam.
Cu Chi Tunnels
The Communist guerrilla troops, also known as Viet Cong, had to come up with strategies to beat their opponents during this event that mirrored War II. They dug all these tunnels that they used to lay booby traps and communicate with civilians. They started digging these trenches in 1940, when the conflict was just heating up.
As fighting escalated, these tunnels grew into more than just hibernation grounds. There were entire villages, living quarters, hospitals, and even musical theatres to provide entertainment for those living there. When Saigon fell in 1975, the tunnel was turned into a memorial park for visitors seeking to know more about those times. You don’t want to miss this when you visit Minh City.
The body of Vietnam’s most popular leader, Ho Chi Minh, was laid to rest in this historic Chi City mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square. Though against his wishes, the leader’s remains were preserved in a glass case so his people would always have a place to go when they wanted to see him. Every year from October, the remains are transported to Russia for maintenance, and so the mausoleum remains closed during this period.
Visitors are expected to dress respectfully – no shorts, sleeveless shirts, or miniskirts are allowed here. They are to leave their phones and cameras at the entrance, and no queues are allowed since the park packs up quite fast.
Con Dao Islands
This archipelago of 16 small islets, most of them uninhabited, is a must-see when you visit VT. Evergreen trees on the white-sandy beaches make these islands ideal chill spots, and the fact that there is a scarce population only makes them more serene. The main town and island – Con Son – is also the only part of this archipelago that is inhabited. When you travel here, you are made aware of revolutionaries that the locals celebrate such as Vo Thi Sau, a woman who was executed by French rulers.
Apart from walking on the sandy beaches, you also get to enjoy sunbathing, swimming, and fresh seafood in Con Son.
The story of the five mountains that form the Marble Mountains goes like this; many years ago, a dragon stepped out of the waters on Non Nuoc Beach and laid an egg. Later, when this egg hatched, a beautiful girl emerged and left shells from the egg on the spot. They started growing and formed this marvel that you have to see when you visit here. You want to climb these mountains in the morning before it gets too hot and from the top, you will have the best views of My Khe Beach.
Ha Long Bay
This area that covers 1500sqkm and borders China is like something out of the movies. All of 1,600 limestone islands and islets dot this part of the land with so much biodiversity that you will be mesmerized by just being here. Thanks to its surrealness, Ha Long Bay has been featured in lots of movies. In 1994, this unique area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Thien Mu Pagoda in Hue
If you are keen on town architecture, then you will find lots of inspired buildings to feast your eyes on while here. This pagoda is one of those sites built and maintained for generations to see. This temple located on the hill of Ha Khe has been featured on several music videos and is, to date, one of the most beautiful religious places in VT. It has seven floors, each of which has a buddha statue. At the top floor is a golden buddha statue, and then there is the Phuoc Duyen tower at the very top. The name – Thien Mu Pagoda – means “a lady coming from heaven.”
Hoan Kiem Lake – Hanoi
A visit to Vietnam’s Hoan Kiem crowns your travels. At the center of the lake is the Ngoc Son Temple where locals go to escape the noise of the city. This temple that was built in honor of military leader Tran Hung Dao also pays homage to several other leaders of repute in VT. If you are looking for the ideal spot to just sit, relax, and watch the locals, no other place in the city offers this better than the lake.
So Much to See
It is almost impossible to exhaust the places you can and should see when here. With so many well-preserved sites, a history buff is spoilt for choice. There are few restrictions for tourists, and so many tour guides exist to show you the ropes.