15 Countries You Should Visit Before You Die


Why to go when you’re young: Vietnam’s rugged terrain isn’t for the delicate — but no country in Southeast Asia can match its history and enchanting landscape.

Where to head first: Start in Ho Chi Minh City, the enchanting former capital of South Vietnam, and spirit your rented motor scooter past colonial French buildings and colorful food stalls.

A cynic will tell you that Vietnam is loud, chaotic, congested, and full of aggressive touts who will swarm you as soon as they spot you as a tourist. This is all true. What they might not add, though, is this: Vietnam has more to offer than any other Southeast Asian country. Just don’t wait until you’re too old and creaky to handle the hustle. From Ho Chi Minh City, for instance, an ace day trip is the Cu Chi tunnels, where you can crawl through the claustrophobic spaces where the Viet Cong lived, worked, and fought American soldiers. From Da Lat, a chilled-out hill station town located to the north, you can hook up with a member of the Easy Rider motorcycle gang for an unforgettable trip on two wheels through Vietnam’s stunning central highlands.

Need a break from sleeping in tents? Decamp to Hoi An, a coastal village with pristine beaches and an army of tailors able to spin you a suit or dress for a tenth of what you’d pay back home. Finally, hop on board the Reunification Express for the slow train journey to Hanoi, Vietnam’s charming capital, where you can conclude your trip with three days of sailing the beautiful Halong Bay, during which you can eat fish on a boat jutting through limestone karst mountains. Years later, you’ll reflect on the journey and remember that Thailand and its luxury hotels will always be there — but your capacity to experience the best of Vietnam may not.