Let’s say you want an off-the-beaten-path destination, a country where you’ll find an adventure without a lot of hand-holding. Vietnam may very well be your jam. But, wait, you’d rather find a developed country where visitors will feel comfortably taken care of? Again, I’d like to recommend my good friend and colleague Vietnam.
And therein lies the appeal of this spindly southeast Asian country that unspools more than 2,000 miles of coastline. My partner and I chose it for a big trip, figuring we’d get to try stellar pho, maybe crash some jungles and beaches and jungly beaches. We arrived to find more beauty and complexity than we bargained for. It’s officially communist, yet overrun by what feels like unfettered capitalism. It’s packed -- 92 million people stacked in a land area the size of New Mexico -- yet somehow still serene. And if anything, the food was even better than we’d imagined.
Tourists have definitely picked up the scent. The number of foreign arrivals to Vietnam has averaged double-digit growth for the past decade, with 2017 projected to be the biggest year for visitors yet. It’s a mixed blessing. Many of the thousands of tourist boats that traverse Ha Long Bay each day dump untreated sewage into its beautiful waters. Starbucks locations are out-muscling traditional Vietnamese cafes.
It’s not as overrun as other regional destinations like Thailand, yet. But with incredible cuisine -- and stunning scenery like this -- that’s not likely to last.