What would you think once hearing people mention the country of Vietnam? Do the thrilling war scenes keep flashing on your mind? Yeah, so sad but true. There are many Hollywood movies about the Vietnam War. Let us mention some like Rescue Dawn, Platoon, The Deer Hunter and We Were Soldiers. You may imagine how the real situation at that time where people of Vietnamese had to fight for their lives during the war.
Vietnam today is no more the same. It has turned to be a nice and peaceful country located in the eastern Indochina Peninsula. A quite strategic geographical site with the long coastline and a number of attractions. It is bordered with China on the north, Laos and Cambodia on the west, Gulf of Tonkin and East Sea on the east and then Thailand Gulf on the south. Completed with the tropical climate, Vietnam is blessed with beautiful nature where you will find majestic mountains and white sandy beaches.
So, are you ready to check out the beauty of Vietnam and what this country actually has? It is time to find as much as information you need before travelling around this country.
Adventurous Activities to Do In Vietnam
There are many great places in Vietnam. You won’t only able to enjoy the beauty, but also challenge yourself with various outdoor activities.
Mui Ne is the best spot to enjoy the extreme sport of sandboarding. The best time to surf and roll down is in the morning. You can go to the summit of sand dunes right after the sunrise and have some fun.
2. Conquer Mount Fansipan
Mount Fansipan is the highest summit in Indochina. It is about 3,143 meters of height. Can you feel the fear? At least it takes 3 days to conquer this peak. Make sure you are in fit condition because the trip to the summit will be a serious battle with the biting winds, rough terrain and steep climbs.
Have you ever tried canyoning before? It is such a complex water sport because mixing some skills including abseiling, swimming, hiking, sliding and jumping down waterfalls. If you are interested to start learning, you can go to Dalat.
Vietnam has many great places just for kayaking. Among of them, you must not miss the stunning Ha Long Bay. There are hundreds of limestone islands which create an amazing landscape. It is enough to be the proof why Ha Long Bay listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You do not have to buy a kayak, fortunately. Just rent one and paddle between islands. Find out how many secluded beaches and hidden caves that you can see.
5. Riding a motorbike from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi or Vice Versa
Can you ride a motorbike? Well, it is the best transportation mode when you expect for an ultimate freedom. You can explore the country just like the locals and enjoy the breathtaking scenery along the way. If you have no confidence to travel all alone, you can join a group tour.
6. Explore a marble mountain, temple and cave
Have you ever explored a marble mountain before? This may sound just so and so. But, what if you find yourself standing on the edge of the sheer cliff or walking through a never-ending pitch black cave? It is the true adventure when you really get close to nature.
7. Scuba diving
The geographical location of Vietnam allows this country owns many natural resources including the beautiful beaches and other water-based attractions. You will also find a lot of diving sites. Some have not even been discovered. What if you take this chance to try the untouched water? Even if you are not a professional scuba diver, you can go with a trainer to see the living animals under the water.
8. Cliff jumping
Still, want some workout during your vacation? It is time for cliff jumping. A recommended place to do this adventurous activity is Ba Ho Falls in Nha Trang.
9. Mountain biking
If you love the peaceful atmosphere of the countrysides, you can go for mountain biking. You can join a tour or find DIY routes to find a perfect spot as the finish line. Take a day out on the bike or challenge yourself with the 14-day trip from Hanoi to Saigon.
Kitesurfing is another true sports challenge for surfers. ride the waves and perform extreme acrobatics on the water. If you really know how to do like a professional kitesurfer, why do not you just give it a try?
Do you know that the largest cave in the world is in Vietnam? It is the legendary hang Son Doong. It is very large so Boeing B747 can fly through. However, you are not allowed to explore this cave alone. You must join a group tour managed by the only official operator.
Top Landscape in Vietnam to Explore
If your favourite activity when spending time for holidays, especially with family is sightseeing, Vietnam has plenty of places to amaze your eyes. You will see the mountains, beaches, tropical forest and other amazing landscapes worth to explore on every visit. not only spending the time to wander around, but you can also have a chance to get along with locals and learn their humble daily lifestyles.
1. Ha Long Bay
More than 1,600 limestone islands create the beautiful Ha Long Bay and list it as one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Not only about the beauty, but there is also plenty of biodiversities which make this place is a must-to-visit landscape in Vietnam.
2. Son Doong Cave
Have you ever imagined how it feels to build a tent in a very large cave? Discovered firstly in 1991 by a local named Ho Khanh, this cave was then explored back by British cavers lead by Howard Limbert in 2009. Situated within Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, this cave has 9km of length which is two times bigger than Deer Cave in Malaysia.
3. Con Dao Islands
Want to feel like owning an island? well, Con Dao Islands can offer you 16 islets that are uninhabited. Each of them has large beaches with the evergreen trees. The main one was used as a French-run prison for Vietnamese. But do not worry. It is now known more like a great spot for various water activities including swimming, snorkelling and diving.
4. Sand Dunes of Mue Ne
It is where you can try sandboarding. This picturesque spot is also popular for kite flying and quad-biking. There is no need to go to Egypt to have a feeling like exploring Sahara. Just remember to drink a lot of water to not get dehydrated.
5. Fansipan Mountain (Sapa)
Fansipan Mountain offers a cooler atmosphere. However, it takes serious hiking skill and the good level of fitness to reach the summit. Hiking may take three or five days, depending on how fast you can conquer the hill tribe hamlets and dense forest trails.
6. Cuc Phuong National Park
Thousands of endangered flora and fauna species are living in peace at Cuc Phuong National park in Ninh Binh Province. Not only seeing how diverse the species are, but you will also be challenged with dozens of hiking trails in the forest. still, you can also visit the traditional houses of ethnic Muong, waterwheels, bamboo rafts and rice terraces.
7. Tram Chim National Park
For bird-watching lovers and wildlife photographers, the best spot to visit is Tram Chim National Park in Dong Thap Province. There are more than 60,000 birds flying to this park every year, between late December and early May. You can see them from the boat. During the off-season, there are also many fun activities to do like fishing, cycling and rice harvesting.
8. Thac Bac Waterfalls
Also called as Silver Falls, the water cascading from the peak of Lo Sui Tong Mountain looks like a white dragon from a distance. To enter the waterfall area, you must pay for VND 20,000. There, you will find the forest to hike through, rock pools to swim in and relaxing surrounding to enjoy.
9. Mekong Delta
The famous Mekong Delta is undoubted. There are some river canals flowing through, known as the River of the Nine Dragons. Along the delta flow, there are riverside villages, Buddhist shrines, floating markets, fish farms and rice plantations. Taking a day trip exploring Mekong Delta will be a great adventure itself.
10. Ba Vi National Park
Three-peaked mountain juts into the sky is the main attraction of Ba Vi National Park which is about 58 kilometres away from Hanoi downtown to the west. The mountain also has Bach Ho Temple built in 11th century on its highest summit. From there, you can get a view of the surrounding countryside.
Vietnam Best Shopping Sites for Shopaholics
Vietnam is not only famous for its diverse culture and beautiful landscapes. It is also a haven for shopaholics, especially those who love shopping in unique cultures. Are you ready to make a list?
1. Street Night Market
Street Night market hosts about 4000 shops built under the sky full of stars. You will find many items here, including clothing, fashion accessories, household appliances and souvenirs. There are also many choices of food to taste.
2. Quang Ba Flower Market
Do you love creating your own flower bouquet? Why do not you check out Quang Ba Flower Market? It is where you will find fresh flowers including daisies, roses, orchids, cherry blossoms and sunflowers. They are so beautiful so you can feel cherished in the eyes and soul.
3. Dong Xuan Market
Dong Xuan Market consists of two stories. You will meet friendly shopkeepers offering a lot of stuff including clothing, fashion accessories, vegetables and even seafood and meat.
4. Bat Trang Pottery Village
Pottery products always become one of the exceptional gifts when you travel to Asia. you can simply choose ones that look good or spend a little more time creating your own custom piece under the potter’s guidance.
5. Hang Gai and Hang Bac Street
The stalls along these streets provide a lot of Do Paper (rice paper) products. You can by many things like watercolour and folk paintings, greeting cards, table lamps and bamboo-bound notebooks. If you need a recommendation, you can visit Hanoi Moment shop which is air-conditioned. About two or three blocks from Hang Gai, there are also stores specialized in selling silk and embroidery.
6. Ben Thanh Market
When opening within the day, shopkeepers sell various arrays of beans, including coffee beans. But when the sunset, the market will offer different stuff like clothing, apparel and souvenirs. Both local and foreign tourists love visiting Ben Thanh Market because they can get products at relatively cheap prices.
7. Bin Tay Market or Cholon Chinatown Market
Who does not want to get stuff at wholesale prices? You can buy as many as you want without breaking the bank. And the best place to go is Bin Tay Market where you will find 876 stores providing food and spice products. There are also clothes, household items, and crafts as well.
8. An Dong Market
An Dong Market is an indoor shopping centre which is famous for its abundant collection of fabrics and clothing. Shopaholics really have to spend time here, exploring each floor to find various souvenirs like animal figures, carved incense burners and tea sets. The parking area itself can load about 500 cars at once.
9. Dong Khoi Street
If you are an art lover, you must walk down the Dong Khoi Street. It is the best site to buy the copies of well-known paintings as well as the unique and authentic masterpieces. Importantly, you can have them at very reasonable prices.
10. Saigon Square
This shopper’s paradise is the place to hunt for branded items at affordable prices. It is clean and chic, creating the comfortable experience of shopping, especially the fashionable clothing during the crowded weekends.
11. Cai Rang Floating Market
Give a try to buy stuff at a famous floating market in the Delta region. it is a must if you are bored with the land markets. See if you can make the best bargains on the boats.
Traditional Cultures of Vietnam
Not only influenced by Chinese culture, but Vietnam also has a fascinating culture, as the result of multiple changes in its history. There are many things that you will find in this country, known as a mysterious land in Southeast Asia. But at least, you can start the learning from the following famous traditional cultures:
1. Rickshaw (a traditional transportation mode)
This vehicle has two or three wheels. It looks like becak in Indonesia if you have ever seen one. it is believed that rickshaw was invented by an American missionary to carry his invalid wife. More specifically known as cyclo, this vehicle was seen around the French colonial time and got popular as a transportation mode.
Rickshaw is now popular to serve tourists exploring Vietnam. You sit on the front side, while the driver will be on the rear, pedalling and still being very passionate telling you such stories and cultures of his country along the slow-motion trip.
There are some tips when taking the rickshaw:
- This vehicle should take one person for a time, two are still possible.
- Negotiate the charges before you get into the cabin. Start with a third of the offered price then haggle to about half of it. If the driver disagrees, pretend to walk away looking for another driver, so he will call you back with the negotiated price.
- Take a rickshaw WTO to explore Hanoi’s Old Quarter to get closer to the local Vietnamese life.
2. Floating market
Floating markets can be found at the Mekong Delta which has been there during the reign of Nguyen Dynasty on the 19th century. Traders load fresh goods by boats and do the bargains with buyers on the water. This is a very unique scene among travellers. The sellers will present samples hung on a lateral bar to let potential buyers know what they sell.
If you want to see or even try shopping at a floating market, you can go to Can Tho – Cai Rang market. It is a great place to have some breakfast because it starts at 5 am and will get crowded at 6 am. Then, you can also go to Tien Gaing – Cai Be market to buy fruits, vegetables and seafood.
3. Water puppetry
Have you ever watched a puppet show before? Well, Vietnam has a unique variation where the puppets are played on a waist-deep pool. It gives a look like the puppets are moving on the water themselves.
The common stories of this puppet show our daily lives, legends and historical heroes. Not only the story-telling singing, but you can also enjoy the sound of traditional instruments played as the background music. To watch this show, you should take your kids with and share a great time with the whole family. The show usually takes place close to Hoan Kiem Lake, the Hanoi Water Puppet Theater.
4. Silk painting
Nguyen Phan Chanh is the one who starts using silk as the painting background, while it was once done on the homemade rice paper. This form of art became popular in the country because of the softness and vibrant colours. The artists use the watercolour, dye or ink to paint on a silk. The common pictures painted are the countryside lives and natural landscapes. To buy this piece of art, you can visit fine art galleries and shops in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
5. Vietnamese New Year
Also called the Tet, this day is the most important festival during Lunar New Year. Locals will have various kinds of celebration from the ancestor worship, making special food for New Year and writing a couplet. There are also more other traditional activities including visiting friends or relatives’ houses on the first day of Tet.
Vietnam Health Care for Tourists
Vietnam is considered one of the safest countries to visit. However, dealing with the medical needs will be still overwhelming, especially if you have no idea where to go or how to get help. That is why you must prepare your trips well including the healthcare guidance in Vietnam.
1. Have travel insurance
Wherever you go, health insurance is a must today. Incidents can happy anywhere and anytime. Besides that, you also need to consider how much to pay for getting the needed medical help. There is no such free lunch, especially if you are a tourist.
It is true that the public hospital charges more affordable. But to get the better quality medical facilities from the private providers, you will have to pay more. Having health insurance allows you to save a lot. Be sure you have a comprehensive plan that covers the essential needs during the trip.
Just like in other countries, there are two kinds of hospitals in Vietnam, public and private. Each of them has its own pros and cons. You can choose by considering the following:
Public hospitals are usually underfunded have limited equipment. They are always crowded by locals because of the cheap fares. Those who are subsided by the government can even get the medical help for free. Well, it is a good choice for the Vietnamese but not for tourists.
Not all public hospitals have English speaking staff and doctors which mean a great deal miscommunication can just happen. Are you going to waste the time for this? Besides that, they are probably not able to accept all international health insurances.
Alternatively, you can opt to private owned hospitals, for example in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City. They have multi-language speaking staffs which also have been trained overseas. So, getting the immediate health care will be much faster because there is no problem in communication. Moreover, the equipment has met the international standards, assuring patients for excellent services.
The downside of private international medical services is the high price. That is why only rich Vietnamese people who come for visit. but, you can still get help from your health insurance coverage.
For emergency public service number in Vietnam, you can call 115. However, the ambulances may come a little bit slow while the paramedics do not always speak English. To anticipate this situation, you can directly contact the nearest private hospital. If you do not have the number, you can go there by taxi to get there as quickly as possible.
Need assistance for a minor problem? You can simply go to a local pharmacy. The best idea is visiting one located in a big city, because the staff may be able to speak English. Importantly, you have to check out the detail of medications, especially the date. It is also better to have the prescription with you to avoid buying the wrong medicines.
Entertainment in Vietnam
Have much time left to spend on leisure? Here are things you can do:
You can rent a bicycle to explore the city alone. There is no need to wander around looking for a bike rental because some hotels have this service. Do not forget to check the vehicle condition before starting to pedal.
2. Cooking classes
If you take a vacation in Vietnam arranged by a tour agency, you may find a cooking class listed as one of the activities. However, you may need to look for the information for the independent trip. Find out if the hotel you stay offering shared or private cookery classes.
3. Beaches and watersports
On the central and southern side of Vietnam, there is about 3500km length of coastline where you can find many good beaches. There are also good islands to explore like Phu Quoc and Con Dao. Not only sunbathing or swimming, but you can also do many water sports, including diving and kite surfing.
4. Water puppets
You can watch water puppets in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Originally performed in the Red River Delta, this puppet show has been there since the 11th century.
5. Hanoi opera
As an alternative to the puppet water show, you can opt to Hanoi Opera located on the southern edge of the Old Quarter. There are classical music, dance and opera performed in the evenings.
6. AO Show
This is a mix of dance, acrobatics and a circus performance in the Saigon Opera House. To watch the show, you need to first book tickets in advance from its official site.
7. Night markets
If you are bored with puppet or opera show, you can explore the night markets. It is a great way to let your eyes open by seeing various products sold by the local vendors. You can also hunt excellent street food to end up your hunger at night.
Vietnam is a communist country, and officially an atheist state. However, not all of Vietnamese are atheists. Many also have a belief in a combination of three religions, i.e. Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Besides that, there are also customs and practices of spirit worship and ancestor veneration just like other Chinese countries.
1. The three main religions
When talking about the religion, in Vietnam is known as Tam Giao which is the combination of three main religions, i.e. Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Locals visit Buddhist pagodas not to perform Buddhism only but the combination of those three religions.
The reign of European countries in Vietnam in the past also brought influences in the religion spread in this country. There are also missionaries from the 15ch century onwards, making effort to spread the Christian and Catholic religions.
3. New Religions: Cao Dai and Hoa Hao
Those two are relatively new religions in Vietnam with the basic concentration mainly in the rural areas of the southern delta region. There are still considered as sects but have already been followed by many Vietnamese people.
Vietnam Transportation tips to get around
Depending on where you want to go and how much time you need, you have many choices of transportation to get around Vietnam. It is still even possible to just take a cyclo for a short distance trip. Take for example when you want to visit a local market. Or you may want to experience a more adventurous trip on a motorbike. Just choose the best transportation mode that suits your time, budget, flexibility and sense of adventure.
1. By plane
There are over 20 airports you can find in Vietnam. It means you can still opt for an aeroplane to visit one place to another in the country.
Mostly, the international flights will land in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. There is also international carriers land in Danang and Nha Trang. It means you have some alternatives of starting point before exploring Vietnam. If it is going to be a long trip, taking a plane is more recommended. It has fixed schedules and is very practical.
2. By train
Not only explored by planes, but Vietnam is also served by 1,600 miles of rails. The main line is the Reunification Express, which runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Along the rails, there are many well-known tourism spots like Hue, Danang and Nha Trang. Thought it can be a nice journey, but it will take you on the train for 40 hours.
The Vietnamese trains have some classifications of classes. if you have enough money, you should take the highest level to get the best services and facilities. Alternatively, you can book a privately operated car. There are some companies like Victoria Hotels, Sapaly Train and Fanxipan that can offer more comfortable transportation services.
3. By bus
If you are not in a rush, you can travel around the cities by bus. You may need to learn the local language as well if you want to take a public bus. This can be a bit overwhelming unless you go with a professional English speaking guide. Alternatively, you can book a privately operated bus offered by a tour agency. By this way, you may be able to travel with a group of other tourists.
4. By boat
Remember the Mekong River? This river is also a popular route to get around Vietnam. There are many private companies offering cruise tour, giving you a chance to enjoy the trip in the most convenient way. Do your research carefully in order to get the best prices from a reputable travel company.
5. Renting a car
Want to explore Vietnam more peacefully? You can just rent a car and driver. If you go with the whole family, it is the best transportation mode to take. The driver himself is also a professional one which will also be your best guide along the way.
So, are you ready to pack your travel bags? Well, the best time to visit Vietnam is during the spring season, occurring from February to April and autumn season, which starts from August to October. It is when the temperature is relatively moderate and the rainfall lighter. Even so, there are also many places you can visit regardless the season like Sapa, Hanoi, and Saigon.