Vietnam is known to the world for Vietnam War, Miss Saigon, and for being one of the top rice producers in the world. It is also one of the most frequently visited countries in Southeast Asia. Aside from being affordable, Vietnam also offers rich culture, striking landscapes, and delicious food.Vietnam’s beaches are also magnificent and its famous caphetrung (egg coffee) is a taste of heaven!
To help you make sure that you’ll have a great time, here are ten things about what to do, what to see, and where to go in Vietnam on your vacation:
1. Ha Long Bay
Hailed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and is literally translated as “descending dragon”, Ha Long Bay is northern Vietnam’s number one tourism hub. This is always number one on Vietnam’s Tourist Places list.
Ha Long Bay is made up of thousands of islands, islets, and towering limestone pillars surrounded by crystal clear emerald waters. It gives the perfect postcard view and is a gift to everyone who is in need of vitamin sea or beach therapy. You can get to Ha Long Bay via car or bus from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, but if budget is not a concern, helicopters are available for a faster and shorter ride. There are a lot of resorts in the bigger islands, but sleeping on board a boat or cruise ships are gaining popularity here and are highly recommended by regular visitors.
Ha Long Bay offers a lot of water sports and activities too; snorkeling, kayaking, and diving are among these. If you just want to swim and relax, the famous Cat Ba is your go-to island. Trekking and cycling are also popular in some islands in Ha Long Bay.
2. Sand Dunes
The sand dunes in Mui Ne have the perfect view of the horizon for sunrise and sunset gazing, but of course, the view is only fifty percent of the reason why tourists include this in their Vietnam travel plans. Sand boarding is popular here. In the middle of the dunes, you would see men and women in their non la (leaf hat) waiting for tourists to rent their boards.
ATVs are also available so you can roam around the dunes easily. Sunsets in the dunes are breathtaking, but some tourists prefer to avail the sunrise tour offered by the resort since it could get too warm in the afternoon. Early mornings also mean few crowds, so you will not have to worry much about photo bombers that may ruin your photos.
3. Hang Son Doong
Hang Son Doong (cave of the mountain river) is the largest cave in Vietnam; it stands 200m high, 150m wide and 5km long. This cave is so huge it even has its own jungle, river, and climate. Locals have been avoiding this cave for years because of the eerie sound coming from it which was caused by just the wind and the river inside the cave. It was explored by a group from British Cave Research Association in 2009-2010; not so long after, they started opening it to the public.
This is also not so popular among tourists because of the lengths and measures one has to go through to be here. If you are up for an extreme trekking and caving and wants to experience the feeling of being transported to another time and place, this may be perfect for you. There are a couple of agencies now who can arrange the tour for you. Also, you have to be physically prepared before you set off since the trek could take days. This reminds me a lot of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, minus the prehistoric creatures, of course. Reaching the cave is not easy, but it is worth it. It promises to give the experience of a lifetime.
4. Vinpearl Nha Trang Resort
This is Vietnam’s version of Disneyland and Ocean Park in one. Vinpearl is perfect for families and group of friends who are looking for fun or extreme rides. Located in the old Hon Treisland in Nha Trang, a cable car or a boat is necessary to reach the park. The ten to fifteen-minute cable car ride gives you the breathtaking view of the city and the ocean.
Aside from the rides and animal shows, Vinpearl is also a waterpark which is perfect for anyone who is looking to cool off. The park gets a bit crowded on summertime, but it is so huge it can accommodate large number of guests. For visitors travelling with kids, the water slides and wave pools are a huge hit. Fireworks and fountain shows are also available in the evenings.
5. Sa Pa Rice Terraces
Sa Pa is a quaint town in Vietnam situated near the Chinese border.It is known for its paddy rice terraces. Vietnam is among the top five countries that are major suppliers of rice all over the world.
If you are ever curious of how and where rice came from, a trip to this little town can be really informative and entertaining. The breathtaking view itself is worth the trip. You will also get the chance to meet the people from the mountain villages and be exposed to their traditional culture.
6. Phong Dien Floating Market
What’s a trip without some shopping, right? Phong Dien Floating Market is the most flourishing floating markets in Mekong River Delta specifically located in Can Tho, which is the heart of the delta. Here you can find abundant and diverse goods that would interest both locals and tourists. Locals frequent this market for food supplies and household items.
The bestsellers for tourists include spices, arts and crafts, and coffee. Vietnamese love their coffee as much as they love their nouc mam(fish sauce). Their flavored and spicy salt is also a must-try. Prepare to carry loads after visiting this floating market since there are a lot of items here that you never knew you needed or wanted. According to the locals, almost everything that can be bought in land is also available here. Even if you are not planning on buying anything, you can ask one of the vendors to let you hop on their boats so you can take a photo or just simply enjoy the experience.
7. Tran Phu Beach, Nha Trang
Nha Trang has a lot of beautiful beaches, but Tran Phu is the most popular since it is the most accessible. It gives off a Miami vibe with its beach on the side and the entire bustling city on the other.
This is a perfect setting for sunbathing, cocktail sipping, and even a little bit of dozing off. Tran Phu provides a total relaxation. Nha Trang is also popular for its abundance of seafood. The restaurants along the streets have live fishes, crabs, shrimp, and clams waiting to be cooked.
8. Cu Chi Tunnels
This next attraction is a lot different from the previous ones. Cu Chi Tunnels hold a huge part of Vietnamese history. This was used by the country’s soldiers during the Vietnam War not only as hiding spots, but also as routes for supplies and communications. They also used the tunnels as living quarters.
If you have claustrophobia, this may not be one of the things to see in Vietnam that you would be interested in; however, if you don’t have any problems with enclosed and narrow places, you may want to give this a visit. This gives us a glimpse of the life of those who lived before us and may help us appreciate what we have right now. Also, it looks really fun trying to fit in a super tiny hole that goes underground.
9. War Remnants Museum
The museum showcases the terrible effects of the war- both the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War. This place is one of those that tourists really have to see in Vietnam. The museum does not run out of guests no matter what time of the year it is.
Based on records, almost half a million visitors come here every year. Being here is like being in a setting of a war movie, except that everything being displayed has been used in an actual war. Bombs and infantry weapon, as well as armored vehicles, are being displayed outside the museum. Experimental weapons and photographs about anything that happened during the war are being displayed inside. The place could stir up a lot of emotions.
10. Po Nagar Cham Towers
Vietnam has a multitude of temples, towers, and prayer houses all over the country. One of the temples that attract most people aside from the local worshippers would be the Po Nagar Tower in Nha Trang. According to history, this temple tower was built way before 781, but up to this day, this is still being actively used for worship by Vietnamese, Cham, and Chinese Buddhists.
These are just ten of the hundred different things you can do all over Vietnam. If you would like to explore more, you can rent a motorcycle and drive like the locals. Pro-tip: It helps to keep screen captures of things that you might need often since there are areas where locals only speak Vietnamese and nothing else. You don’t have to worry though since Vietnamese are generally warm and friendly folks.