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Welcome to Vietnam...

Once, the name ''Vietnam'' signified not so much a country as a brutal jungle war or a spectacular failure of American power. In recent years, however, the lifting of Vietnamese government restrictions and the boom in budget travelling, have enabled more contemporary and relevant portraits of the country to gain currency in the West.

An understanding of history still goes a long way in Vietnam, since the country has a unique civilization and a highly cultured people, but nobody needs to swot to be entranced by the sublime scenery, the delicious cuisine and the opportunity to witness the invigorating, early days of Vietnam's renewed contact with the West.