Vietnam is a country that can polarize the opinion of it’s visitors. Some people love it, others loathe it. I, myself, have had a love-hate relationship with Vietnam over my three visits. I hated it on my first visit but fell in love on my second visit and on my third visit brought my young family. If you want to fall in love with this crazy country too, here are seven experiences you shouldn’t miss in Vietnam.
Cross the Street in Saigon
Seriously. Crossing the street in Saigon is not the same as crossing the street anywhere else on the planet. The streets are constantly thick with scooters. To get a cross you honestly just have to step from the curb, walk across and keep your pace consistent letting the traffic weave around you. In some strange way it just works. The drivers know how to anticipate the movements of pedestrians crossing the street. You’ll only get into trouble if you stop or change your pace causing motorists to swerve.
Cruise Through the Mekong Delta
Take a tour from Saigon to explore the Mekong Delta region. You’ll get to shop at the famous floating markets of the region, visit cottage industries making rice paper and coconut candy and just soak up the vibe of the river towns. It makes for a welcome antidote to the craziness of Saigon and should definitely be part of your Vietnam holiday.
Rent a Motorbike in Mui Ne
If you’re going to try your hand at riding a motorbike anywhere in Vietnam, make it in Mui Ne. It’s a relatively sleepy fishing village with a row of tourist resorts running along one road. There isn’t much in the way of public transport in town so renting a motorbike is the best way to get around. Once you’ve got the hang of it, ride your motorbike out to see the sand dunes.
Wallow in Mud in Nha Trang
Nha Trang gets a bit of a bad wrap from the backpacker set. The beach is lovely but it’s over developed and over commercialised. My absolute favourite thing about Nha Trang is the hot springs at Thap Ba. Where else can you wallow in your own private therapeutic mud pool, swim in hot spring water and get a relaxing massage for only a few dollars? It’s a little bit of a drive out from Nha Trang so arrange for your moto or taxi driver to wait or come back and collect you at a set time.
Get Tailor-Made Clothing in Hoi An
Having clothes tailor-made to your exact measurements is a real treat. Back home it would cost hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars to have a custom made suit, dress or coat. There are no shortage of tailor shops in Hoi An but the best of the best is Yaly Couture. The garments I had made in 2008 at Yaly are still in circulation in my wardrobe. Sadly, my blinged out custom “Nikes” bit the dust after only a few wears.
The easiest way to reach Hoi An is by flying Vietnam Airlines economy class into Danang and then taking a taxi or minibus onto Hoi An.
Go Trekking in Sapa
This mountainous region of Vietnam up by the Chinese border is very special indeed. Mountain mists roll in and out of the verdant rice terraces. Minority hill tribe people wander around in traditional dress. There are days and days worth of fantastic walks in and around Sapa. If you’re keen for longer treks, go with an organised tour. Or if you just want short walks, pick a trail and you’ll be met by smiling young women who guide tourists in exchange for purchasing their handicrafts.
Explore Halong Bay
Save the best until last! Halong Bay is the emerald in Vietnam’s crown. 2000 islands dot the green waters, supposedly representing a huge dragon’s body dipping above and below the surface. You can easily join a Halong Bay cruise from Hanoi on any budget. All tours include a night aboard a traditional Junk ship. If time permits, go for the two-night, three-day tour… all the magic happens on the second day which most tourists miss. You can cycle around islands, kayak through the waters and explore historical sights from the Vietnam war on Cat Ba Island.