Going to Vietnam changed my life. Before our taxi blasted its way through the traffic-clogged streets of Ho Chi Minh City, my sensory perception of the universe was on a muted wavelength. Much like doing psilocybin mushrooms (I can only imagine), Vietnam heightened my senses: colors were brighter, noises louder, smells and tastes more pungent. It sounds cliche, but the country was on a wavelength completely different to the chilled-out vibes of the California coast I've lived on for the last twelve years.
Vietnam was not an easy country to travel: the visa is pricey, tourist infrastructure is lacking, and the language is completely different from English, except it uses the Roman alphabet.
But Vietnam is more than that. Vietnam is a beautiful, complex, and fascinating place with millions of people working, eating, building, making art, etc. The food culture is one of the greatest on the planet, and the coffee is something else entirely.
While Vietnam might not be offering the greatest architectural sights on earth, especially compared to its temple heavy neighbors of Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos, Vietnam offers natural beauty: Ha Long Bay, Phong Nha KeBang Caves, and the sand dunes of the central coast.
Because Vietnam is a long narrow country on a north-south axis, the climate and environment varies from north to south. The central highland city of Da Lat offers a cool respite from the stifling heat of the Mekong delta, Ho Chi Minh City, and the mugginess of Hue.
Hue, once the imperial capital of Vietnam, is a must for any history buff or architect junkie.
If you're into seeing Vietnam Disney-style with handicrafts, greasy street food, and a lot of white people, then head over to Hoi An, a short bus ride from DaNang, the once bombed-out city on the coast.
DaNang with its ardent dedication to neon and riverfront walk was one of my favorite cities.