20 Awesome Things to Do in Vietnam!
Wonderfully diverse, impossibly beautiful and home to incredible food, Vietnam is a destination full of surprises. From trekking in the mountains to visiting ancient temples; exploring abandoned water parks to motorbiking ocean roads, Vietnam has everything, everywhere, all at once. I spent one pretty action packed month in Vietnam back in January, and want to share with you some of my favourite Vietnamese experiences. So, without further ado, here are 20 awesome things to do in Vietnam:
1. Cruise Halong Bay in a Junk Boat
Halong Bay is quite simply a sensational place. Glistening emerald waters and towering limestone karst islands, the bay seemingly goes on forever. I thought it would be jam-packed full of boats due to its high tourist numbers, but due to the immense size of the bay, it was very easy to find yourself completely alone here. Most of the tour companies offering cruises of Halong Bay do so in a junk boat, which is an ancient Chinese style sailing ship.
2. Visit a Minority Village
There are many ethnic minority villages scattered around Vietnam, particularly in the north in places such as Sa Pa and Mai Chau. Often, you can opt to do home-stays in these villages, whereby you spend a night or two living with a Vietnamese family. I really recommend you do this. It’s a great way to learn about the local culture; how they live, how they cook their food and the history of their village.
3. Kayak in Cat Ba National Park
Cat Ba National Park is an absolutely stunning area of Halong Bay, where you’ll find many caves through which you can kayak.
4. Party at Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel
Renowned as probably the most mental party hostel in all of Southeast Asia, Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel is the place to be if you love to drink, party and drink some more. It feels more like a nightclub than a hostel, and is definitely not the place to stay if you need your beauty sleep. It makes for a crazy night out; I walked in by myself and within 10 seconds was already dragged over to play ring of fire with a group of Aussies.
5. Go Trekking in Sa Pa
Situated in Northern Vietnam are the astoundingly picturesque Hoang Lien Son mountains. And within these mountains sits a little town called Sa Pa, which acts as a base for those wanting to trek in the mountains. This area is famed for its gorgeous rice terraces and fascinating hill tribes, and I urge you to go on a multi day trek to explore the beauty of these mountains.
6. Attend a Vietnamese Cooking Class
Anyone who knows me will know I am a terrible cook. Not only am I terrible at cooking, I also hate it. However, a cooking class is a whole other ball game, and is a lot of fun! Myself and two Canadian girls I’d been travelling with decided to sign up for a cooking class in Hanoi, and were taken to the local market to purchase the food before going back to a Vietnamese lady’s home. She was a wonderful lady who showed us how to cook spring rolls, noodles and other Vietnamese food. It was a great morning and we got to eat everything afterwards!
7. Watch a Water Puppet Show in Hanoi
Many people had told me I simply must go to see the water puppet show at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre by the lake in Hanoi. Water puppet shows are an ancient Vietnamese tradition dating back to the 11th century, where stories are told through music and the use of puppets as characters. Make sure you book tickets at least a day in advance as the show usually sells out.
8. Go for a Boat Ride in Tam Coc
Tam Coc is a beautiful area in north Vietnam where the Ngo Dong river flows. From here, you can opt for a boat ride down the river, passing by striking mountains and rowing through pitch black caves. Vietnamese ladies wait with their boats at the pier, and row you down the river at a peaceful, relaxing pace. Many have said that Tam Coc is like Halong Bay, but on land, and I have to agree. It was very dark and misty when I was there, and this added an enticing, mysterious atmosphere to the mountains.
9. Explore the Abandoned Water Park outside of Hue
Abandoned since 2004, this ominous, mysterious water park is for the adventurous. It contains rusting water slides, an algae infested lazy river, and, taking centre stage, a huge metal dragon who sits in the middle of the lake.
10. Explore Hue’s Imperial City
This historical complex is jam packed full of beautiful architecture and temples. Spend a few hours exploring this stunning citadel.
11. Motorbike the Hai Van Pass
Made famous by Top Gear, the Hai Van Pass is a picturesque ocean road in central Vietnam. Many tourists use the Hai Van Pass to travel from Hoi An to Hue by motorbike. I really recommend you do this – it was probably the highlight of my time in Vietnam. If you don’t feel confident driving a motorbike, you can hire an Easy Rider, who will drive the bike for you.
12. Hike up The Marble Mountains in Da Nang
The Marble Mountains are a group of 5 hills situated in the city of Da Nang. The hills contain caves, temples and Buddhist sanctuaries, and are really beautiful to explore. The 5 mountains supposedly represent the 5 elements of water, fire, earth, wood and gold.
13. Explore the My Son Temples
The My Son temples are situated an hour or so out of Hoi An, and are a cluster of ruined Hindu temples built somewhere between the 4th and 14th centuries. The temples were constructed to worship the Hindu God Shiva. The site also contains craters from bombings during the Vietnam war, which were interesting to see. This complex can get very busy so try to get there early in the morning.
14. See the Lanterns in Hoi An
Ah, Hoi An. This gorgeous little town is so worth the visit. The streets are lined with lanterns, cute little cafes, markets and boats. I really recommend you visit Hoi An’s Ancient Town at night, so you can see all the lanterns lit up – it really is a beautiful sight.
15. Explore Waterfalls in Da Lat
I really loved the city of Da Lat. There was so much to see within the city itself and in the countryside around it, but the waterfalls in particular were really great! The one below is called Elephant Waterfall.
16. Go for a Boat Ride along The Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is a vast maze of rivers spawning across Southern Vietnam. Here you’ll find islands, floating markets and villages surrounded by rice fields. You can take a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City to the Delta, or opt for multi day excursions – my time in Vietnam was running out due to my visa expiring, so I went for a day trip. We were gently rowed by a man in a conical woven hat through the quiet waterways of the Delta, and it truly felt like Vietnam in a nutshell.
17. Visit the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh
The Vietnam war lasted from 1955-1975, resulting in over 850,000 deaths and 604,000 wounded. The War Remnants Museum gives a complete history of the war, including machinery, weapons and photographs, as well as an exhibition on Agent Orange and the effects it has on Vietnam still to this day. It’s a very harrowing visit, but one that I think is important.
18. Visit a Coffee Plantation
Vietnam makes some great coffee. During my time in Da Lat, I headed out to the countryside to check out a coffee plantation called Me Linh Coffee Garden. There are quite a few plantations around Vietnam, but this one had an open seating area offering a gorgeous view of the landscape below.
19. Hang out on the beach in Phu Quoc
Phu Quoc has some really pretty beaches. We visited one in particular called “Starfish Beach” where, if you wade into the sea up to about the middle of your thigh, you’ll see hundreds of little starfish sitting at the bottom of the water. Phu Quoc is very expensive compared to the rest of Vietnam, but its a great place to unwind for a few days.
20. Eat your body weight in Pho
Pho is everywhere in Vietnam. Pho is a Vietnamese soup consisting of noodles, spices and vegetables, and is absolutely wonderful. I must have eaten Pho at least once a day – you can pick it up at street vendors for as little as 60p in some places!
Are you planning a trip to Vietnam? If so, what are you hoping to see and do there?
Check out Lauren’s blog at https://www.laurenstraveldiary.com/things-to-do-in-vietnam/