Vietnam, a name too long associated with the horrors of war, has finally won its last battle - to capture the imagination of the travelling public. Elegant Hanoi now vies with its dynamic sister, Ho Chi Minh City (still called Saigon by the locals), for the attention of visitors drawn by the eclectic mix of old and new. In both cities the streets are jam-packed with motorbikes and scooters, often carrying whole families, and the markets are chaotically busy.
Elsewhere, the scenes are timeless. Early morning on the Mekong Delta brings the daily floating markets where fruit and vegetables are peddled. Everywhere the green patchwork of rice paddies stretches into the distance, broken only by the silhouette of water buffalo and conical-hatted farm workers bending down to tend the young plants.
The soaring mountains in the north of the country tower over tiny villages where life continues much as it has done for centuries, with traditional costumes still proudly worn. Old French hill stations survive throughout the country offering welcome respite from the heat of the plains below.
The ancient former imperial capital, Hué, takes visitors back to a time of concubines and eunuchs. In every town, young women wearing the simple but feminine national dress, the "ao dai", weave their way through the traffic at the controls of a motorbike.
Only in Vietnam could the past and the present be encapsulated so perfectly!