When most people think of Vietnam, it is not tourism that first comes to mind. Images might surface of a war torn country of steaming jungles and wilderness, but this is only a small part of the picture. Education is highly valued in Vietnam, and much of the culture has been influenced by China, with which she shares a border on the north. This country is long and thin, with the eastern coast along the Chinese Sea.Beautiful VietnamVietnam is a country of incredible beauty with acres of jewel-green rice patties along the coastal strip and the Red River and Mekong Deltas in the north and south respectively. Along the coast itself, you will find beautiful sandy beaches to delight in and the waters of the sea to explore to your heart’s content if that is what you desire. If you prefer the mountains, then head inland for dense forest and mountains that seem to reach up to brush the sky itself. The natural beauty of Vietnam is becoming more and more accessible to outsiders as this traditional country opens her borders to outsiders and only now begins to welcome her western cousins into the charming landscapes of her people. For a truly lovely look at this amazing country, be sure to visit Ba Be National Park. This amazing park is over fifty-five thousand acres of steamy tropical rainforest land, and filled to the brim with beautiful flora and fauna. Hike along the trails to explore sparkling waterfalls and rushing rivers as they carve their ways through the deep valleys of the park. Don’t forget about the towering peaks of the park which play host to the lakes and caves that also dot the park. A person could spend an entire lifetime exploring the beauty of this region and still not cover even half of it, especially when you take into account the time it takes to stop and stare in wonder at least a dozen times a day. Events to SeeSome of the biggest festivals of Vietnam are religious festivals, which follow a lunar calendar. Special prayers are held at Vietnamese pagodas when the moon is full each month, and also when it is the merest sliver in the skies. In addition, the Tet festival, one of the most important of the year, is held in late January or early February, with rites and festivities lasting two weeks to celebrate the lunar new year. The Holiday of the Dead in April is held to honor relatives who have passed from this life. Another festival in the Vietnamese calendar is Summer Solstice Day, which falls in June and features the burning of human effigies to satisfy the need for souls to serve in their Death God’s army. Wandering Souls Day is held on the fifteenth day of the seventh moon (which falls in August) and is the next largest of the year, similar to our original Halloween’s original intent in honoring the dead and leaving food and gifts out for the forgotten souls to partake of. As you can likely see, the culture of Vietnam is rich and varied with interesting similarities to Chinese tradition due to the cultural exchanges with this close neighbor and other cultural exchanges, especially with other countries with socialist leanings. Explore the arts and traditions of the country, and find a guide who speaks English (there are quite a few) to teach you all about the area of Vietnam that you choose to visit. You will find your time well spent, and your visit to Vietnam well worth any trouble taken to get there.