Oh Vietnam. There is no singular way to describe how awesome you are. From exquisite natural landscapes to UNESCO ancient cities to vibrant urban jungles, it’s brimming with reasons why you should totally go there.
01. Be charmed by the ancient city of Hoi An
A traveler’s favourite, Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage site with a delightful ambience. Wander the narrow lanes, and the nooks and crannies of this place by foot. Walk along the riverside lined with mango-yellow buildings, and imagine the time when it was once a bustling major port.
Exploring the city will reveal Japanese, French and Chinese influences in their architecture. If you think it is beautiful in the day, wait til night time when the streets come alive with lanterns.
02. Catch the sunrise / sunset from Mui Ne’s sand dunes
No, really. This is in Vietnam. Pinky swear. So, happy sliding down the dunes! Besides rediscovering the child in you, Mui Ne is also well-known for their water sports. Surfing, sailing, and kayaking can be done there! Kite flying is pretty popular too.
Tip: Always keep your belongings with you at the dune, and take note of the season when the wind would be awesome for surfing and other sports.
03. Travel through the Hải Vân Pass on a motorcycle
With a dreamy name that means “Ocean Cloud Pass”, it literally means that you may pass through a cloud. The road is incredibly scenic, passing by the ocean and the long stretch of the beach. However, the road bends are sharp and sudden. If you lack the skills to ride a motorcycle, there are options to hire people while you ride pillion.
04. Pho the love of food
Part of the joy of traveling to different cultures is being able to sample their local omnomnoms. Well, good news! Thanks to the local ethnic Cham Muslims/strict Buddhists/vegan tourists, halal/vegan/vegetarian restaurants serving authentic dishes are relatively easy to find in main cities and tourist areas!
That said, don’t miss the national dish of Vietnam; Pho. Pronounced ‘furh’, it’s a noodle soup, served with a generous plate of fresh veggies/herbs. The intermingling of aromatic spices and ginger in a bone based broth is just perfect.
Tip: To start off your culinary journey, give Pho Muslim in Ho Chi Minh City a visit. A stone’s throw away from the Jamiul Islamiyah Mosque (also called the Nancy Mosque), you can complete your prayers too! One gleeful fact; this is only one of the 12 mosques in Ho Chi Minh City.
Opening Hours: From 6am – 11am and from 4pm to 10pm. Serves pho for breakfast and bun bo hue for dinner.
Address: Hem 505, TK 25/18 Tran Hung Dao, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
Directions: Go to the alley behind the mosque. Look for HCMC Police HQ and walk across the road. It’s along that stretch.
05. It’s a shopaholics haven!
Shopaholics, rejoice! Whether you love local woodcrafts or embroidery or coffee or watches and so on, there will be something to satisfy your heart. Walking through the shopping areas of Vietnam, you’d be bombarded with ideas for gifts, mementos and things you didn’t know you need.
On another note, Eid is coming!
Measure yourself out for an elegant ao dai or a dapper suit in this country as they are well-known for their fabrics and custom tailored clothings. If you have a favourite piece of clothing that you could wear errrrday but it’s wearing out, bring it over! Skillful tailors would be able to copy it exactly, to the fabric of your choosing. All these could often be done in a couple of days, unless if you want something avant garde ala Alexander McQueen.
Tip: Remember to bargain in markets, because it’s part of the fun, and avoid low-balling! Also, spend time to research on tailors, and be aware that some unscrupulous shops copy the names of reputable shops.
06. Soak up the old seat of power in imperial citadel, Hue
Built in the 19th century under the rule of the Chinese, its design was inspired by The Forbidden City in China. A former Vietnamese imperial seat, it was shelled during the Vietnam War and bullet holes can still be seen on the walls.
07. A playground for history buffs
Vietnam has seen its heavy share of attacks, invasions and colonial occupation for several centuries. The War Remnants Museum allows a glimpse into the war through Vietnamese perspective. We’ll give you a spoiler – It’s heartbreaking, and necessary to know. Hiding in the Cu Chi Tunnels were how the soldiers lived during that time. Crawl into the Cu Chi Tunnel if you dare! (Also a great spot to slip in if someone is mad at you, as it has totally been proven by history that it’s the best hiding place ever.)
Another notable place to check out is Dien Bien Phu, where the French forces were defeated, which became the end of French military influence in Asia.
08. Get caffeinated in the best way
There’s nothing like quenching your thirst and heat with a super delicious iced coffee from a street stall, or to kickstart your day with a hot steaming cup of cà phê . After a whole day of sightseeing, sometimes all you want to do is to chill and watch life go by from the cafe you’re in.
While cafes are in abundance, you’d never know when the call for coffee comes; your bum may be planted on a plastic stool by the roadside.
09. Work it out, Cat Ba style!
Okay, maybe you shouldn’t have eaten that mango glutinous pudding doused in dreamy coconut sauce. All four of them. Before lunchtime. Tsk. For shame! No fret, we’ve got a solution for you.
What better way than to burn off the calories with some good ol’ climbing, with an exquisite karst landscape surrounding you!
Tip: Safety is king! If you’re inexperienced, always find proper guides. Bring a change of clothes and climb without your electronics…Because you might get wet.
10. Stunning North Vietnam
North Vietnam is a mountainous terrain. Home to the Dong Van Karst Plateau, one of the most populous karst formations in the world, you can see endless mountains disappearing into the mist.
Sparsely inhabited by friendly ethnic minorities, it’s also the part of Vietnam that steals your breath away and holds it hostage. If you think that these photos are gorgeous, it’s our obligation to tell you a truth; it’s 234342985x better in real life.