Few countries in the world elicit such a passionate response among travellers as Vietnam. Blessed with beautiful landscapes, evocative monuments and great cultural diversity, the nation has emerged from decades of war to become one of the world’s most beguiling destinations. While the capital, Hanoi, retains the gentility of colonial times, go-ahead Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), in the south, showcases the nation’s more upbeat, modern face. Between the two lie a chain of former Imperial capitals, replete with ancient temples and palaces, as well as colonial ports and villas. Trips along the southern Mekong Delta or into the northern mountains of the Tonkinese Alps bring you face to face with a timeless vision of Vietnam, where buffalo plod along dirt tracks and women in conical straw non la hats work the rice fields. Poverty is far from absent here but is on the wane. Vietnam is now officially the fastest developing country in Asia. History lovers will enjoy the central city of Hue;the former capital is surrounded by greenery and lakes and bears the remains of much of the country’s history, and a few hours south is Hoi An –a charming UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site with beautiful beaches. For visitors, this dramatic transformation is most discernible in the country’s new beach resorts and bijoux historic towns. Travelling between them, you cannot fail to be impressed by the understated warmth and gentleness of the Vietnamese people themselves – a testament to this country’s astonishing capacity for rejuvenation. Should you prefer to relax, the east coast has an impressive selection of glorious beaches.