As another year of travels comes to a close, I reflect on where I’ve been, where I’d like to revisit, and of course, where I would like to go. After many years of this year end process, I have come to realize that regardless of the fact that I check off some of my must see destinations each year, I continue to grow my must see list. This year, like others before, the must see list is longer than it was at the beginning of the year. So, if this happens to you, it is a sure sign that you are a travel addict like myself. So far, I haven’t found a cure; so, I continue to travel.

With all that being said, I had a wonderful 2012 with visits to the Abacos, four months in Alaska, the Grand Canyon, and great adventures flying, hot air ballooning, kayaking, and sailing, I was not able to make it to Southeast Asia. With a desire to make this region one of my next travels, I asked a fellow peer and travel writer, David Elliott, to create a post about his experiences in Vietnam.  Take it away David!

Vietnam is one of the most beautiful and exciting destinations in SE Asia. From the hectic industrial south of the Mekong Delta and the commercial metropolis of Saigon to the rice fields of the interior, the sandy beaches of the central region and the stately colonial architecture of northern Hanoi, this is a country to savour. To experience fully the wonderful natural beauty and take in the rich cultural highlights of this Asian gem, guided tours in Vietnam are recommended for the first-time visitor.

Winding lazily in an S-shape along the eastern edge of the Indochina peninsula, Vietnam is packed with exotic attractions from the ancient days of empire down to modern conflicts. As the country continues to enthusiastically embrace foreign visitors you’ll find an overpoweringly warm welcome here and appreciate that there’s far more to Vietnam than an infamous 20th century war.

The Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh in the northern capital of Hanoi and the underground network of tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south are reminders of recent conflicts and keep the past alive as surely as do the ruins and royal tombs that lie scattered across the country. The powder-white sandy beaches, serene lakes and distant mountains endow Vietnam with staggeringly beautiful scenery and attract nature lovers looking for rest and relaxation as well as high culture in the form of temples, pagodas and palaces in the cities and countryside.

A balanced tour of Vietnam would ideally take in also the unique French heritage in Hanoi. Here, stately boulevards lend a real European feel to the city, enhanced by the mansions of the old colonial rulers. Take a cruise out on beautiful Halong Bay before heading for a tour of the Royal Tombs in Hue and then taking in the Cu Chi Tunnels in Saigon down in the south.

One of the highlights of any trip to Vietnam is a cruise in the stunning Mekong Delta in the south of the country. Small traditional craft will take you through the myriad of canals or across the water to see a way of life that has barely changed in hundreds of years. Bigger vessels ply the waters upriver on slow, meandering trips that take you right through the gently beating heart of the Vietnamese countryside, where farmers work the rice fields and time seems to stand still.

Apart from high culture and ancient traditions, Vietnam has some of SE Asia’s most stunning beaches, and some time out from the culture trail at a resort like Nha Trang is just the thing for refreshing body and soul. This was redeveloped with a vengeance in the mid-1990s and is now on a par with the likes of Cancun in Mexico and Phuket in Thailand. Foreign visitors and also many Vietnamese now flock here for boat trips, sunbathing and tours of the nearby historic sites.

There’s so much to see and do in Vietnam that one visit is hardly enough to do it anything like justice, and you’ll inevitably find yourself coming back for more helpings.

 ** Featured post written by David Elliott, a freelance writer, who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.