Most visitors to Vietnam are impressed by the great beauty of the country’s natural settings: the Red River Delta in the North, the Mekong Delta in the South and almost the entire coastal strip is a patchwork of brilliant green rice paddies tended by women in conical hats.
There are some great beaches along the coast, while inland there are soaring mountains, some cloaked by dense misty forests. Up in the mountains the rice terraces hug the steep mountain sides and many different ethnic minority peoples in traditional costume work the fields and throng to the local market towns to sell their handcrafts and produce. Vietnam offers a unique opportunity to see a country of unspoiled charm and rare natural beauty, which has only recently been open to the outside world. Currently it is country of rapid change and the interface between the old and the new throws up many challenges to those who choose to move here.
Hanoi, the capital city, has shaken of its once wary attitude to newcomers to become one of the most beguiling cities in South East Asia. It personifies the spirit of traditional Vietnam in its temples, monuments and pockets of ancient culture along the narrow lanes of the Old Quarter, yet at the same time reflects the rapid changes that are sweeping the country with its Hanoian yuppies sipping cappuccinos and chatting on their cell phones. Its three and a half million people enjoy a city which is dotted with lakes of all sizes, divided by shaded boulevards and lush public parks, still has a great deal of classic French colonial architecture, has a multitude of coffee shops and a surprisingly cosmopolitan range of shopping, bars and restaurants. It is a relatively small city, and enjoys all the benefits that brings.
It also enjoys a variety of season. Northern Vietnam has two very different seasons. During the winter months, November to March, the cold air from China brings the temperatures down to around 15 degrees Celsius with high humidity. The sky is mostly grey and a mist like drizzle can hang in the air for days particularly later in the season. The summer months are very hot and rains can be heavy. Typhoons are not uncommon at this time of the year. September, October and November are usually the most pleasant months, with lots of Autumn leaves and gentle breezes.
Everyone tires of living in a city now and again and it’s great to live somewhere where access to other beautiful places is easy. Ba Be and Ba Vi are national parks quite close to the city as is Ha Long Bay, a spectacular area of coast line which has been placed on the World heritage List because of its spectacular limestone outcroppings and islands, is just a few hours away. A little further away is Sa Pa, a popular hill station and a great place to base yourself to explore the stunning surrounding mountains and local culture. During the winter months you can always chase the sun down to Ho Chi Minh City which is less than two hours flight away. The small island of Phu Quoc is forty minutes by air from HCMC and is one of the most peaceful places you could wish for.
Hanoi is a great place to live, with cheap prices still for most commodities, a wide range of shopping options, places to eat and an abundance of places to stop for a drink. It is currently one of the places “to be” in South East Asia.