To tap her memory, Jesse Meadows speaks to Madame Nhung, the longest-running staff member in Vietnam’s most classic, colonial-era hotel. Photos by Julie Vola

The gateway to West Lake, from a certain John McCain through to pagodasand street food, Thanh Nien and Truc Bach Lake next door have a fascinating past. Words by Edward Dalton. Photos by Julie Vola

Bui Vien in Ho Chi Minh City was not always the travellers' hangout it is today. Zoe Osborne speaks to three people who remember the road as it once was. Photos by Bao Zoan

Vietnam is abundant with history — 4,000 years’ worth. Yet, with the transformation of this country from sleepy, upstart backwater to modern middle-income economy, much of the recent past is being lost. As Thomas Jefferson once said: “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” He wasn’t referring to Vietnam, but he might well have been.

To the east of the Cambodian border in southern Vietnam is Kien Giang Province; a stretch of coastline filled with magnificent rock faces, beaches created by the silt flowing out of The Mekong, and caves to explore, many marked with scars from past wars.

Leaving Ho Chi Minh City is a trip of its own — between finding our way out, and the traffic, it takes us more than an hour to get out of the city.

The bus rips its way along the winding road, narrowly missing its ghost-like cousins as they spin past through the mist. It is as though the forest is hungry.

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