From its chaotic cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, stunning countryside, UNESCO sites such as Halong Bay and My Son and paradise-like beaches such as Phu Quoc, Vietnam is a great destination for a South East Asian adventure. There is a perfect mix of culture, history, relaxation and delicious food, you will not be disappointed. In fact, there is so much to do in Vietnam, that you may well find that you will have to come back again and again!
A Guest Post by Melissa of Thrifty Family Travels
Explore the local Markets in Ho Chi Minh City
Visiting the markets, particularly the local markets is a great way to get a glimpse into the lives of the local people. You will find many fantastic photo opportunities at these markets too with all the bright and interesting produce on display.
Visit the Binh Tay Markets in district 6 which is also the Ho Chi Minh City’s largest China town. The markets are packed with both fresh produce as well as trinket type goods. The most popular tourist markets are the Ben Thanh Markets where there are over 3000 stalls selling numerous souvenirs as well as fresh produce, drink, and meals.
Explore the Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton)
For the history buffs, a visit to the Hoa Lo Prison is a must. Initially, a prison used by the French colonists for political prisoners in Vietnam and was built by the French in 1896. Later Nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton by American POWs. There are many displays with texts going into great detail about the torturous and barbaric treatment endured. A gruesome relic is the ominous French guillotine, used to behead Vietnamese revolutionaries.
Most of the original prison has gone and the land it was once on contains a modern office building. Only a small part of the original jail remains and now houses a museum, so visitors can walk through some of the old jail cells.
Watch the Water Puppet Show in Hanoi
Watching a Water Puppet show allows you to admire the age-old art of Vietnamese puppetry. These famous puppet shows emphasize traditional Vietnamese legends and historical tales. The shows are in Vietnamese, but you will love seeing the beautifully made puppets and listening to the traditional music.
Spend a few days relaxing on the beaches on Phu Quoc Island
With the soft fine white sand and beaches fringed by coconut trees, the beaches on Phu Quoc Island are some of the best in the world, visually they are right out of a postcard.
Some beaches have warm, crystal clear and calm waters, whilst others have soft waves. Some beaches are so isolated that there is no one else there but you!
Join a Food Tour in Hanoi
The best way to get accustomed to Vietnamese food as well as becoming familiar with the Old Quarter in Hanoi is to join a Vietnamese food tour.
Many of the tour guides will provide you with a background on all the food, how it’s prepared, and answer your questions about Hanoi at the same time, and each stop offers something new with all the food tasting fantastic.
Take a Boat Ride down the Stunning Water Ways of Trang An
Trang An is known as the inland Halong Bay with its spectacular limestone cliffs coming out of the land surrounded by gorgeous waterways. You can choose to visit Trang An either via a day trip from Hanoi or by staying overnight in the town of Ninh Binh.
To explore the area, take the boat ride down the various waterways where you will be blown away by the spectacular scenery. You will pass beautiful limestone cliffs and even through them via a fantastic system of caves.
Take a day Trip to My Son
These UNESCO listed temples of My Son, are easily visited from a day trip from Hoi An. The My Son complex is in the vast Vietnam jungle and is a site with cultural and religious significance to the Vietnamese people.
Originally there were 68 individual structures, whereas now there are only 20 left standing. Whilst some structures are almost toppling over, others are in almost perfect original condition. The level of detail in some of these building is amazing!
Take a Day Trip to the Cui Chi Tunnels
This system of tunnels was built by the Viet Cong in the 1940s as protection from French air raids during the Indochina conflict. The tunnels were then later used during the Vietnam War where the tunnels were used as living quarters, hospitals, booby traps and storage facilities for the Viet Cong.
The Cui Chi Tunnels is a fascinating place to visit, with tunnels that extend for more than 250 kilometers and visitors can explore two sections. It is a tight fit to gain access to the tunnels and in some parts, you are required to crawl on all fours- so if you are claustrophobic you may not want to go into some tunnels.
Spend a few days at a Homestay in the Mekong Delta
Explore the exotic Mekong Delta by basing yourself at one of the homestays in a local village. I highly recommend a few days at the Nguyen Shack just outside of Can Tho.
The guys at the Nguyen Shack will take you on various tours around the Mekong Delta such as a visit to both the floating and land markets of Cai Rang, bike ride or boat ride around the local village and a food tour where you can try local delicacies like rat, crocodile, snake, and frog.
Spend the night on a Vietnamese Junk Boat in Halong Bay
If you are visiting Hanoi then you absolutely must take a few days to go and visit the stunning Halong Bay. It is one of the most scenic regions in Vietnam and is a must do for anyone visiting the country and unsurprisingly, is northern Vietnam’s number one tourism hub.
It is well known for the thousands of spectacular limestone cliffs emerging from its beautiful emerald green waters which are topped with tropical rainforests. The Bay is dotted with 1,600 limestone islands and islets and covers an area of over 1,500 sq km.
Halong Bay is best visited by a 1 or 2-night cruise. There are many different tours to choose, from party boats to more relaxing luxurious boats and everything in between. Most cruises follow a similar itinerary and include activities such as swimming, kayaking, squid fishing, tai chi, hiking, and cave exploring.