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It has everything from beautiful beaches to historical landmarks to lovely locals and it’s the one holiday destination which is still cheap as chips! Check out Vietnam plus some of Editor Melissa’s holiday snaps.

If there is one country in Southeast Asia that everyone has heard about long before they discover the region, it’s Vietnam. Of course, such infamy wasn’t always for the right reasons, but there is a new Vietnam and it’s one of the most intoxicating places on earth. Loose yourself in the magic of this beautiful country through extracts form Lonely Planet’s Vietnam guide.

Nature has blessed Vietnam with a bountiful harvest. From the soaring mountains of the far north to the carpet of emerald-green rice paddies in the south, Vietnam is little short of stunning. The curvaceous coastline is defined by endless beaches, lovely lagoons and hidden coves. Inland, peasant women in conical hats still tend to their fields, children ride buffalo along country paths, and minority people scratch out a living from impossible gradients.

Vietnam is a kaleidoscope of vivid colours and subtle shades, of exotic sights and curious sounds, of compelling history and contrasting cultures. If it has a soundtrack, it’s the buzz of a million motorbikes, the cries of street hawkers plying their wares and the tinkle of pagodas drawing the faithful to prayer. Here, the modern and medieval collide. The big cities are strikingly sophisticated, with gourmet restaurants and designer boutiques, but turn a random corner and find yourself travelling back in time.

The Vietnamese have vitality as tangible as the traffic on the street. Vietnam is in top gear. Try and catch it before it reinvents itself as another Malaysia or Thailand. For now, it remains one of the most enriching, enlivening and enticing countries on earth.

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This is an edited extract form Vietnam 10th Edition, by Nick Ray © Lonely Planet Publications, 2009, $40.99

Check out these snaps from editor Melissa’s trip to Vietnam two years ago.