Lonely Planet’s Vietnam pages couldn’t speak more highly of this nation: “Welcome to a world where the colors are more vivid, where the landscapes are bolder, the coastline more dramatic, where the history is more compelling, where the tastes are more divine, where life is lived in the fast lane. This world is Vietnam, the latest Asian dragon to awake from its slumber.” Though Vietnam’s tourist infrastructure is still developing, travelers can enjoy most everything in the nation, from beautiful beaches — 2,000 miles of coastline! — such as those around Danang, to seemingly endless rolling rice fields, from hopping Western-oriented nightlife in Saigon to the nation’s many traditional festivals (look at the list on the left of the linked page to explore them one by one).

One might assume “the waking dragon,” weary of war and the foreign “tourists” who visited there over many decades in the 20th century to wage it, would scoff at Americans, both the scruffy independent travelers and the flashy capitalists seeking beach resort fun. One would especially guess Vietnamese would be wary of, or even downright hostile to, Vietnam War vets returning for a tour, or even just an American tourist out to explore. Wrong!

Westerners who personally survived the War, and even those whose interest is purely historic, will be get a flavor of the furor of the fighting by visiting several well-preserved War history sites, like the Củ Chi tunnels, the unfathomably narrow underground “city” from which the Vietnamese in the South fought the U.S., to the “Ho Chi Minh trail,” even to the village of My Lai, where the horrors of finally hit home for a generation of Americans (there is some grown-ups only information in this link about what happened in My Lai during the War).

Horrors of war or no, Vietnam is actually a great place to travel with your kids, at least according to Travel & Leisure magazine. The article’s highlights?

1. Cyclos:
“you can’t beat a spin in one of Vietnam’s pedicabs.”
2. Pagodas and Temples: “Southern shrines are wild and wondrous, those in the North more lacquered and somber.”
3. Pickup Soccer: “Vietnamese children spend their park time caught up in da bong (soccer), and they’ll be thrilled if your kids join them.”
4. Custom Tailors: “Let your junior fashionistas design their dream outfits.”

So if your idea of a great trip with your kids is to drag them on a pedicab tour of wondrously somber pagodas, only to end the the day irked at them when they get their tailor-made clothes muddy while playing da bong in a park, Vietnam is the country for you.

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