Soaking up the culture during Vietnam holidays  

Vietnam is a land of diverse experiences and changing landscapes. Its location at the tip of the Far East portion of mainland Asia has meant that it has seen more than its fair share of civilizations crossing its land mass. This melting pot characteristic has given rise to an incredibly rich historical heritage. So, for those visiting Vietnam who are looking for a bit more than visits to its renowned floating markets, what are the cultural highlights?
When many visitors first consider visiting the Far East, Vietnam is not always the first choice. Perhaps there are lingering thoughts of all those war films that once featured Vietnam as their backdrop. However, the conflicts that once afflicted this beautiful Asian country occurred decades ago. Since the end of hostilities way back in the 1970s, Vietnam has become one of the most prosperous nations in this corner of the globe. When visiting Vietnam, it is possible to get a hint of what the civil war was like by paying a visit to the Cu Chi tunnels.
Lighting in a suburb of Ho Chi Minh City, this subterranean lair stretches for some 300 miles underneath dense jungle. Surprising though it may seem, this tunnel system is actually one of the country's most impressive tourist draws. By clambering down into this hidden world, it is possible to experience what life was like for the forces of the National Liberation Front, who used this hideaway as a secret position for waging guerilla warfare against the occupying American forces and their government allies.
It is possible to see former kitchens, bedrooms, communal areas where children were educated, and even the printing presses where propaganda literature was created, right under the noses of the enemy. Tours to the underground tunnel system are operated from Ho Chi Minh City all year round.
Du Hang Pagoda (on lonelyplanet.com)
While Vietnam certainly has no shortage of pagodas, the Du Hang is one of the most interesting. Dating as far back as the 18th century, this vast temple is renowned for its amazing interior decoration. You'll spend quite some time just taking in the incredible detail of its ornate patterns and ancient furnishings.
Hanoi History Museum
If you are looking to gain a snapshot of Vietnam's rich historical development, then Hanoi's History Museum is a recommended starting point. It contains numerous relics of the country's prehistoric and historic evolution, including many displays dedicated to its earliest civilizations, right through to the Dong Son period. Key to understanding the potent nature of Vietnam's national identity are its struggles against colonial aggressors, particularly the Chinese, and then the French. There is also a diverse range of exhibits which are dedicated to the rise and triumph of the communists, particularly during the American War.
Just outside Hanoi is the National Preserve of Cuc Phuong. Located deep inside the Vietnamese countryside, this area is characterized by primeval forests. Cuc Phuong is known as a large area of tropical vegetation, riddled with caves and exotic subterranean grottoes. As well as a landscape of rich natural history, successive human visitors have left their mark here over the centuries.
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