Vietnam, such an amazing country that, unfortunately, doesn’t get the fame it deserves. With many people coming back dissapointed, feeling a bit overwhelmed with scams, it tends to scare off many others to go. But there is a big secret about Vietnam, about how to avoid the scams : Plan less, take your time.
You see Vietnam is a relatively relaxed country (on the contrary of what you may think after looking at the traffic) and many people enjoy their experience once they have had the time to take a step back, relax, and understand a bit more the country.
Filled with history, the background of Vietnam is hard but interesting. But there is not only all those war stories that make Vietnam. What makes this country beautiful is its nature and its people. Step into it and be ready to be charmed.
So what should be the 5 things that will rock your world ? That will help you never forget the beauty of Vietnam?
Cruise on Halong Bay
Yes, you’ve seen it everywhere, it’s expensive yes but it’s worth it. Cruising in one of the most beautiful scene in the world is an experience you can’t forget. Don’t fall for a dodgy cruise that will ruin your entire time, make some research, read peoples advice online but don’t book with somebody there, the biggest scam in Vietnam must be here, you’ll pay for what seems like a cheap price and get a terrible boat that will ruin your experience.
The experience is usually the same once in Halong : cruising around, discovering the « Surprise Cave », Kayaking, enjoying the sunset and the sunrise, you can even go squid fishing. But don’t skip on this one or don’t budget too low for your cruise, that’s our advice !
If you try to budget it down you might end up in a scam or your boat might just be old and the cruise won’t take the extra effort to give you a great experience.
How long should you plan there : 3 days 2 nights is a perfect amount of time. If you are adding Cat Ba Island to the experience then 2 days 1 night should be enough.
Discover the caves in Phong Nha Ke Bang National park
Have you heard of Son Doong ? Probably, it’s the biggest cave in the world and is located in that exact park ! Unfortunately at the time of writing this article only a few tourists can a access this cave and prices are very very high. But don’t be discouraged, it doesn’t mean you can’t actually enjoy others. Paradise Cave, Phong Nha Cave, those are some of the beautiful and impressive sites you can discover in that park. Give yourself a couple of days and just enjoy the area. Nature can be impressive and those caves are a brillant example of that !
If you make it to Phong Nha you might want to stay around and have a look at the many caves surrounding the area and enjoy the other activities. The park is beautiful and is worth your time too. Want to know more about it? Read our article about the caves.
How long should you plan there : We would recommend a minimum of 3 days. It gives you time to visit a few caves and indulge your surroundings. If you want to do some treks though then you will need longer.
Trek in Sapa and join one of the markets
Sapa, a town in the mountain in the North of Vietnam is a beautiful town with rice terraces and many tribes living in the surroundings. It’s the perfect town to opt for a classical 2 days trek and it’s also the place to go and enjoy one of the most beautiful market of the country: the Bac Ha Market. Full of colours, H’mongs come to do their shopping, trade animals, food… You will be in the heart of the population there. Yes there will probably be many tourist but this, somehow, doesn’t change a thing, life keeps going whatever surrounds you.
The town itself could easily remind people of a French settlement in the mountains: hot wine in winter, tartiflette, hot chocolate, if you come in winter you will find something to warm you up. Want to know more about Sapa? Read our guide.
How long should you plan there : We love to travel slowly so we’d recommend a week minimum but if it’s not possible then go for 5 days. You will get the time to do a 3 days trek in the countryside and 2 more days to rent a motorbike and explore your surroundings.
Enjoy Hoi An’s old town at night
Of course Hoi An is gorgeous, it’s not a UNESCO site for no reason, the old town has so much character to it, but while nights comes down and the thousand of lanterns illuminate in the street… That’s when Hoi An is the most beautiful! All those colours gives to the city something old and something terribly romantic. If you want to make the experience even better hire one of the little boats and go releasing some lanterns on the water. It’s super touristy yes but who cares? This is also amazingly romantic and beautiful! And while in Hoi An why not get a suit done by one of the many tailors there? Or try a bar crowl for only $1?
Hoi An can be a romantic retreat or the perfect time for a bit of relaxation on the nearby beach. We love this place and it’s one of those you shouldn’t miss in Vietnam. We’d recommend Reaching Out, a fabulous tea shop in town.
How long should you plan there : 3 days minimum seems like a good plan in Hoi An. You get a chance to stroll in town for a days, go to the beach for another one and explore the countryside for your last day. If you want something tailored take that in account while planning your stay!
Take an Easyrider tour From Hue to Hoi An.
Vietnam is a lot about motorbikes. If you’ve seen the Top Gear special, then you know also what we mean: a tour of the country without trying it out is a bit of a shame. But if you don’t drive, if you are a bit scared, do not worry! Hoi An and Hue have Easy Riders at your disposal that will be happy to take you through the famous Ho Chi Minh trail up to P’rao (Lao Border) and back down. 2 days on the road, hot springs, waterfalls, gorgeous landscape, meeting some minorities and an historic road, what could be better? You’ll also have the chance to discover My Son, another heritage of the country on the way. So give it a try, it’s not too expensive and it’s an adventure you will remember!
Except if it’s rainy… If it’s rainy you might get a bit scared so wait for a sunny day to enjoy the adventure. We give you a bit of info about Easyriders in this article.
How long should you plan there : 2 days. Those tours are usually for only 2 days but you can make them last longer. You can easily ask for longer to your tour guide.
Of course apart from those 5 things there is many things you should do, visit. We loved Dalat, enjoyed the Water Puppet theatre in Hanoï & the Jade Emperor Pagoda in Saigon but just take your time, limit your visits and let yourself go for a bit. Vietnam is a shy country, you need to push yourself to try to know it better to then see it opening slowly. Time is your ally, don’t rush, live your experiences to the fullest!
Have you been to Vietnam or are you planning to go there? Let us know about your experience in the comments!
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For more information you can read our articles and see our pictures:
Halong Bay: Photos
Hoi An: Photos