Vietnam: The land of miracles!
(Continuation from previous week)
Vietnam is known as an ideal destination for tourists of every budget. Despite the rise in prices and some economic difficulties, Vietnam's traveling costs are relatively lower than many other countries in the world. Restaurants and hotels have expanded and become more and more diversified in order to match with different categories of travelers, from luxury lovers to low-budget travelers. We had a chance to eat in an Indian restaurant - Ganesh!
This beautiful country saw a record number of international arrivals in 2016 - more than 10 million tourists and a 25 per cent increase over the previous year - and 2017 is already on track to surpass that.During the first six months of the year, Vietnam recorded more than 6 million international arrivals, 30 per cent increase over the same period a year earlier.
The government is investing more in tourism marketing and promotion, as part of a goal for the industry to account for 10 per cent of GDP in 2020, up from 6.6 per cent in 2016. The country is targeting 17-20 million international tourists and 82 million domestic tourists by 2020. The pace at which the government is moving towards development of this sector, it shouldn't be a surprise if the hospitality and property development sectors expandenough to cater to tourists so that they enjoy Vietnam's diverse attractions and rich culture.
Bai Chay beach: I stayed at the Halong Plaza hotel located under the Bai Chay bridge and next to the sea…so I enjoyed the awesome view of the bridge and the beach from my room.Bai Chay is a large, beautiful, artificial beach, closed to the coast of Ha Long Bay. The 100-meter-wide-sandy beach spans over 500 m. Early in the morning or in late afternoon, thousands of people liven up the atmosphere here.The tarmac road winds its way through the white sandy beach which is fast changing into one of the most captivating of this kind in Ha Long City. It comprises restaurants, water puppet and traditional music theater, HoangGia Park, water-skiing, and sea motorcycling. The Hoang Gia Park lines along the Ha Long road leading from the Bai Chay Tourist Wharf to the gate of the Ha Long Night Market.
National Museum of Vietnamese History: The museum located in HoanKiem district of Hanoi, provides tourists an overview about Vietnam's history through a number of artifacts, replicas, illustrative pictures and models. Meanwhile, the alongside "sculpture garden" which features many historical stone sculptures and shady paths is a good place to learn about history and relax. Besides, tourists can find picture books about Vietnam, antiques, traditional handicrafts in the gallery or souvenir shop located within the museum's precinct.Any tourist who is interested in the eventful four-thousand-year history of Vietnam should not miss out on the National Museum of Vietnamese History in Hanoi.
I also went to a couple of fruit and garment markets in Hanoi. It was amusing to see fruits similar to our country. The garment shops looked colorful and lively with smiling salespersons. A couple of members from my team accompanied me and we bought a lot of things and thoroughly enjoyed bargaining.
The Reunification Palace: The iconic Reunification Palace made its name in global history when in 1975 a tank belonging to the North Vietnamese Army crashed through its main gate - thus signifying the end of the Vietnam War.
The palace is like a time capsule frozen in 1975 with two of the original tanks used in the capture of the palace parked in the grounds. Originally the site of the Nordom Palace also known as the Governor's Palace its first role was as a home and workplace for the then French Governor of Cochinchina.
The Reunification Palace is a landmark not to be missed by any tourist visiting Ho Chi Minh City. Surrounded by lush tropical gardens, the palace hides secret rooms, antique furniture and a command bunker within its eerie corridors. The Reunification Palace is still in use to host occasions including APEC summits and national events of significant importance.
The War Remnants Museum: Formerly the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes, the War Remnants Museum is consistently popular with Western tourists. Few museums anywhere convey the brutal effects of war on its civilian victims so powerfully. Many of the atrocities documented here were well-publicized but rarely do Westerners hear the victims of US military action tell their own stories. While some displays are one-sided, many of the most disturbing photographs illustrating US atrocities are from US sources, including those of the infamous My Lai Massacre.
US armored vehicles, artillery pieces, bombs and infantry weapons are on display outside. One corner of the grounds is devoted to the notorious French and South Vietnamese prisons on PhuQuoc and Con Son Islands. Artefacts include that most iconic of French appliances, the guillotine, and the notoriously inhumane 'tiger cages' used to house Viet Cong (Vietnamese Communists - VC) prisoners.The ground floor of the museum is devoted to a collection of posters and photographs showing support for the antiwar movement internationally. This somewhat upbeat display provides a counterbalance to the horrors upstairs. Even those who supported the war are likely to be horrified by the photos of children affected by US bombing.
The Central Post Office: It is a beautifully preserved remnant of French colonial times and perhaps the grandest post office in all of Southeast Asia. Located next door to Notre Dame Cathedral, the two cultural sites can be visited together and offers visitors a chance to imagine life in Vietnam during the times of the Indochinese Empire. The building was designed by Gustave Eiffel - the renowned engineer who also designed the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower - and features arched windows and wooden shutters, just as it would have in its heyday in the late 19th Century.
The Tunnels of Cu Chi: This was the most heart rending…yet exciting experience for me. An immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie greatly of the country. In order to combat better-supplied American and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War, Communist guerrilla troops known as Viet Cong (VC) dug tens of thousands of miles of tunnels, including an extensive network running underneath the Cu Chi district northwest of Saigon. Soldiers used these underground routes to house troops, transport communications and supplies, lay booby traps and mount surprise attacks, after which they could disappear underground to safety.
The Guide also mentioned Ho Chi Minh Trails - which were deep underground trenches connecting villages / safe houses for Vietnamese. These were very narrow…..only to allow lean Vietnamese guerrillas and almost impossible for bulky American troops to even enter and crawl a few yards. To combat these guerrilla tactics, US and South Vietnamese forces trained soldiers known as Rat Brigade / 'Tunnel Rats' composed of mainly Philippines who had almost similar physical structures to navigate the tunnels in order to detect and destroy booby traps and enemy troop presence.
The leisure part of the visit, packed in between our business was indeed phenomenal! I would definitely rate Vietnam as a safe, hospitable and attractive destination. We were amazed at not seeing a single beggar during our stay. Another aspect worth noticing was, the people's practice of discipline. We hardly saw any Traffic police but the people were following the signals, speed limit and hence there were no acute traffic congestion.
Vietnam now has a significant place in my mind. It is no longer a name of a conflict, but a society and nation with all its complexity, its beauty, its history, its vibrancy, and its commitment for shining bright in the world map.Of course, the war will remain in history - which is indispensable as it helps us confront the ghosts and the demons that the tragedies of the past leave as their legacy to the present. It illuminates the blindness and cruelties that enable war. It therefore, equips us to imagine and to strive for PEACE.
Syeda Nazneen Ferdousi is Freelance Media Consultant