This book begins in the ancient capital of Hanoi, a lovely city of parks and lakes, where the sublime Temple of Literature transports you back a thousand years and the French Quarter harks back to colonial days. Sights in the North include the magnificent Ha Long Bay and hilltribe villages tucked away in the jungle-covered mountains. In North-Central Vietnam, you touch a bit on the Vietnam War, with possible visits to Vietnamese tunnels and a drive along the DMZ. Hue, in Central Vietnam, is a charming historic village, site of a centuries'-old citadel and the fabled Nguyen tombs. In the surrounding area await the splendid Marble Mountains and Hoi An, another ancient village. In the Southern Central Highlands beckon several national parks, including Cat Tien, where Javan rhinoceros, Siamese crocodiles, and many different types of monkeys reside. You'll get a sense of how Vietnam's economy is booming when you get to Ho Chi Minh City, with its skyscraping hotels, bevies of zooming motor scooters, and Western-style goods in the boutiques. Here, too, is the sobering Museum of HCM City and Reunification Palace, where the South's fall to the North finally happened in 1975.
The last chapter explores the vast Mekong Delta, known for its enormous rice fields and plantations.