Vietnam is a small country located on the Indochina Peninsula along with countries Laos and Cambodia. The country was colonized for many years. For 500 years, Chinese took over, then by the French and the Americans and freedom was only achieved in the 1970s.
In spite of Vietnam’s history of war, foreign occupation and colonization, the Viet people are welcoming and friendly. It’s a great place to get to off the beaten track and explore traditional life. Feast your eyes with dramatic and vivid countryside or if you want a sheer relaxation find a secluded spot.
For those who want to travel to Vietnam, the Government recently approved new visa policy. To encourage people to travel, e-visas are granted to foreign visitors and exempting visitors from five Western European countries – the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
- 1 13 Must See Places while Traveling Vietnam
- 2 Foods to try in Vietnam
- 3 Things to Do
- 4 When to Visit Vietnam
13 Must See Places while Traveling Vietnam
When in Hanoi, travel to its Old Quarter, which is Hanoi’s historic heart and commercial center. It is a web of tiny alleys, filled with tiny bars and lots of street food areas.
Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature is a great example of traditional Vietnamese architecture. It has a temple dedicated to Confucius built in 1070 and which later became a university for the education of the mandarins.
Hoan Kiem Lake
A well-known attraction in Hanoi is the Hoan Kiem Lake. The lake serves as a vital part of Hanoi citizens’ life in many areas. Locals and tourists usually gather here in New Year ’s Eve to see fireworks and celebrate.
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Couples often choose the lake as venue for wedding photo shoots. In the mornings, people arrive here to jog and exercise. Hoan Kiem Lake can be visited any time of year and is a tourist favorite because of its beautiful and natural architecture that brings a peaceful beauty in the vibrant and crowded city of Vietnam.
The Perfume Pagoda is a complex of Buddhist temples built into the limestone mountain chain of Huong Tich.
Chua Trong temple
Illuminated by natural and candlelight, the cave and Chua Trong temple are stunning, and the scenic views from the cable car are breathtaking, making this one of the most picturesque places to visit in Vietnam.
War Remnants MuseumWar Remnants Museum gives visitors a glimpse of Vietnam’s tragic war period. The war between America and Vietnam that carried on for 30 years are well documented in photos, exhibits of tanks, planes, war machines, and written incidences of all that transpired between the armies of two countries.
You’ll most likely find yourself shedding a tear though, that’s how “heavy” the emotional effect on visitors the museum gives.
Cu Chi Tunnels
If you wonder how it’s like to live during the Vietnam War, Cu Chi Tunnels is your best place to go. Located in the outskirts of Saigon or Ho Chi Minh city in the southern part of Vietnam, the tourist spot lets visitors go inside the tunnels and discover how the soldiers created smart strategies, and their life during the war.
A tour guide will show some interesting information about the persistence of Viet Cong soldiers and tactics during the battle.
The Reunification Palace is where North Vietnam declared triumph over the Americans. During the war, the palace was used as a meeting place and many war tactics were discussed in these halls and rooms.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Hue, the capital city during the Nguyen Dynasty is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is strategically located on the banks of the river Song Huong, the Perfume River. It served as the capital city until 1945.
A factor to Hoi An being a UNESCO World Heritage Site is having a well-preserved ancient town. Walk in the town and you will be able to appreciate the influences of the French, Chinese, and Americans over the years.
Ha Long Bay
In the north-eastern side of Vietnam is Ha Long Bay. Another Vietnam spot favorite for backpackers, Halong Bay prides itself for having clear emerald waters and many limestone islands, islets, and rocks.
Hill Station Sapa
Situated in north-western Vietnam is a famous hill station Sapa. In 1922, the French set it up as a hill station with villas and estates. Although these villas do not stand today, there are still a few remnants of the past, like the Catholic church. A favorite of mountaineers, the breathtaking landscape of Hoang Lien Son mountain range is also in this area.
Ban Gioc Waterfall
A small city in the Quang Ninh Province of north Vietnam, this is a border city with China. It is slowly emerging to be the industrial hub of the country. Some tourist attractions include the historical caves, Ban Gioc Waterfall, and, of course, the wonderful scenery around Cao Bang.
Foods to try in VietnamOne of the top things to do in Vietnam is trying the fantastic soups like pho which are often eaten for breakfast. Smell that gets you first then captures your soul. Pho is a rice noodles in a slowly cooked beef broth, served with bean sprouts and thinly sliced beef that cooks with the heat of the soup.
Get a taste of simple but tasty grilled banana with sticky rice and coconut milk, nuts, fruits and noodle dishes. A cold beer in Vietnam is crisp very much affordable costing less than $1.
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Things to Do
- Shopping is one of the top things to do in Vietnam. Lots of multinational brands have their factories in Vietnam that manufactures clothes, shoes, handbags. With many rich and nice items with sensible prices and promotions throughout the year, Saigon Square is becoming a “shopping paradise”, not only for young people but also many international visitors. It is better for a foreign traveler to learn a few Vietnamese words when shopping in Vietnam, such as “Cai nay bao nhieu?”
- Attend the Water Puppet show. An interesting and unique concept, the puppet shows in Vietnam is performed over a liquid stage. It presents puppet being moved from under the water, in a show that explains the main ideas of Vietnam’s cultural beliefs.
- One of the nicest things to do in Vietnam is taking the night train. Some of the best spots to tour in Vietnam are actually usually reached via trains, which are mostly for tourists, but they are a nice experience anyways. A train is available everyday and travels the entire distance from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minch. The longest journey you take will probably be between Hanoi and Hoi An which is a 17 hour overnight ride. Train rides are unique and enjoyable, especially as you can open the windows on the train to take photos as you speed past busy road crossings, quiet coastal villages and towns you’ve never heard of.
- Eat out in the street and markets as the country has a plateful of goodness to offer. Not only as it is more affordable than dining in restaurants, it is also because the food is truly authentic and delicious! Vietnamese Banh Mi and iced coffee are just some French inspired delights that became a part of Vietnam’s culinary and cultural fabric while it was under French colonial rule, from 1887 to 1954. From crunchy baguettes to crème caramel, discover how the French influenced Vietnamese Cuisine. You can have a full meal for less than $2 USD. The key to finding a good place is checking its audience. A good mixture of locals and tourists, women and children, and more than anything else food being continuously cooked are indicators that the food is good and safe to eat.
- Hop on a motorcycle. Vietnam is a nation that moves on two wheels as it’s the most favored mode of transport for the 90 million people that call Vietnam home
- Light a lantern in Hoi An. Paper lanterns are available on the main bridge or anywhere along the river, light them and set them to sail down the river. The prettiest town in Vietnam, Hoi An is so full of color that it can be difficult to believe it’s all for real.
- Face your fear and enter one of the underground tunnels in Cu Chi Tunnel, a fascinating complex of tunnels used during the war. Spend a few minutes in the pitch dark drawing and discover the extent the Viet Cong went to stage secret attacks and remain hidden.
- Travel the Mekong Delta in a traditional boat. Tours passing through the Mekong Delta typically include traveling on a large ferry to reach the smaller islands and then traveling by smaller dugout canoe to meander through the narrow, overgrown canals
- Go Quad Biking in Mui Ne. The sand dunes of Mui Ne are so beautiful, far different from the rolling green hills and farmlands to be found in the rest of the country.
- Cruise Ha Long Bay on a junk boat. Cruise into one of the most beautiful bays in the world, and admire the picturesque views.
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What to Bring
It is highly recommended to travel with a backpack than a luggage as walking up and down the stairs when there often isn’t an elevator in sight is easier. Weather in Vietnam is generally pleasant, but it can get a little humid at times. Pack a variety of clothes depending on the region you’re planning to visit. Hue can sometimes be chilly at night while you’ll live mostly in swimwear in Da Nang.
Do take note that Vietnamese culture is still conservative, so refrain from wearing sexy outfits like super short-shorts, mid-riff baring outfits, and very low-cut tops. Don’t forget to pack your hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Also bring a pair of comfy footwear like sandals as you’ll spend a lot of time walking. If you’re heading to coastal areas then pack for swimwear, kaftans and any other beach appropriate gear.
When to Visit VietnamVietnam is connected to the rest of South East Asia by various budget airlines and one of the best things to do in Vietnam is getting a cheap flight to get there. There are several international airports: the main ones are Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The most popular time to visit Vietnam is during the spring season, February through to April, and autumn season, August through to October.
This is the months Vietnam’s weather is warm and pleasant, without being too cold or hot. There’s also less chance of rain at these times of the year. If you plan to travel the destinations in the northern part of Vietnam, like Sapa and Hanoi perhaps go from October to December. If you plan on visiting destinations along the coastline, such as Hue and Nha Trang, look to visit from January to July. For destinations in the southern part of Vietnam, like Ho Chi Minh, November to February is your best bet.
Vietnam’s Growing Tourism
Recent data from the United Nations show Vietnam gaining the 6th spot among the world’s 10 fastest growing travel destinations in the first months of 2017 and first in Asia. With economic growth topping 6 percent annually for more than 15 years, it’s no surprise that Vietnam’s cities are flourishing as never before.
Vietnam is serious about growing and developing tourism. Initiatives are put into place such as providing better access to tourist attractions like Sapa with a new highway, the new metro rapid transit network Ho Chi Minh as well as working on prioritizing more green space in the city. Local establishments like cafes and restaurants continue to support the country’s tourism business, while the presence of international hotel chains continues to help promote the destination.
Vietnam hopes to attract 17 to 20 million foreign tourists and 82 million domestic tourists by 2020.