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VIETNAM

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Delta Delights The Mekong Delta is pancake-flat, a lush but waterlogged landscape of checkerboard rice paddies and houses on stilts. Along the wide, muddy rivers - Cuu Long, the Nine Dragons - which form the mouths of the Mekong, floating markets delight the eye with a profusion of detail, an incessant activity. Full text

Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh Come to Hanoi, the only true Ho Chi Minh city and fall into line for a glimpse of Uncle Ho, mummified for posterity; or join the ghosts of by-gone mandarins to light an incense stick at the shrine of Confucius, a far more ancient sage, in the Temple of Literature.

Know one, teach one Meet Jimmy Pham, a Vietnamese-born Australian who decided to do something for the street kids of Vietnam and has set up a restaurant in Hanoi to train and employ them.

Saigon: Memories are made of this  Memories die hard in the elegant city renamed Ho Chi Minh. Uncle Ho, presides over the square facing the gingerbread French town hall and the red flag flies above the dictator’s palace which the tanks gate-crashed in April 1975.

White nights with the White Thai Unlike their mother, Ba Vuong's five daughters never need submit to the ordeal of teeth blackening. The White Thai matriarch seems sanguine about the hardships of the past as she tallies the dollars flowing in from foreign guests who sleep over in her solidly-built longhouse, surrounded by emerald rice paddies in hill country southwest of Hanoi.

If visitors take for granted Ba Vuong's flush toilets and showers - mandated by the government - they do relish the nightly folk dance performance by the young women of the village troupe, richly costumed in black, white and royal blue. A night spent under a mosquito net offers a welcome contrast from the air-conditioned chill of urban lodgings, even if the cotton mattress does little to soften a floor of split bamboo - and the cocks start crowing before dawn.

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