Winding its way through 6 countries, over an incredible 4,350 km, the mighty Mekong River is the lifeline of South East Asia and the sprawling Mekong Delta forms the heartland of southern Vietnam. Cruising the scenic waterways, flanked by lush rice paddies and mangrove swamps, is a popular pastime for visitors, offering not just breathtaking scenery, but a glimpse at the age-old traditions of the delta people, many of whom still live in stilt-houses by the waterfront, use water buffalo to plow the fields and trade homegrown goods at the ubiquitous floating markets.
Marooned 15km off the shore of Hoi An on Vietnam’s southeast coast, the idyllic Cham Islands (Cu Lao Cham) are among the country’s most prized natural assets, a cluster of 8 small isles, blanketed with pristine beaches, rocky peaks and lush forest. Declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve back in 2009, the protected area is renowned for its eco credentials, with a ban on plastic bags being brought to the island, strict fishing restrictions and forming an important part of Hoi An’s proposed Eco City developments.
Vietnam’s largest city is a dizzying metropolis, sprawling over more than 2,000 square-kilometers, and its traffic-jammed streets are a blur of taxis, cyclos and motorbikes, making DIY sightseeing a daunting task for visitors. Thankfully, despite the apparent chaos, it’s actually cheap and easy to get around in Ho Chi Minh City, and there are plenty of options to get you from a to b. Here’s a quick guide.
Both a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the seven New Wonders of Nature, the mist-shrouded cliffs and emerald green waters of Halong Bay make it one of Vietnam’s most photographed natural landscapes. Just a few hours east of Hanoi and dotted with more than 1,900 islands, it’s an unmissable spot for a day or multi-day tour, and there are a number of ways to discover Halong Bay. Here are a few ideas.
Vietnamese cuisine is world renowned for its fragrant flavors and unique dishes, and whether you’re slurping a bowl of pho (noodle soup), tucking into fresh seafood dowsed in ubiquitous nuoc mam sauce, or bravely sampling delicacies like balut (duck embryo) or snake meat, eating out in Vietnam is sure to be an adventure. Taking a cooking class is a great choice for those looking to discover Vietnam’s culinary secrets and recreate their favorite dishes at home, and there are food tours and cooking schools held all around the country. To help you find the perfect fit, here’s a rundown of the best cooking classes in Vietnam.
It might be just 15 minutes by ferry from the Old Town of Hoi An, but landing on Cam Kim Island feels like being transported into a different time. It’s a welcome change of pace from the busy tourist center, with its expanse of rice paddies and corn fields tended by local workers in their conical hats and ploughs pulled by water buffalo.
From must-do activities like cruising around Halong Bay or crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels, to brag-worthy feats like drinking snake wine or scuba diving in the South China Sea; here are 40 unforgettable experiences to have in Vietnam. See how many you can check off on your trip.
One day in Hanoi isn’t nearly enough, but with nearby attractions like the Perfume Pagoda, the Red River Delta and the UNESCO-listed Halong Bay to explore, and many visitors heading south to Hoi An or Ho Chi Minh City, the vibrant capital is often relegated to a day tour. Teeming with historic sites, colonial architecture and glitzy shopping malls, the capital can be overwhelming for first time visitors and while it’s cheap and easy to get around on your own, booking a sightseeing tour of Hanoi will save time and take the hassle out of your trip.
Hue was the capital city of the Nguyen dynasty, the last line of emperors before the Vietnamese struggles for independence in the wars of the 20th century. Initially, I thought Hue would be an easy do-it-yourself sort of destination. If you are only visiting the Citadel and the market, that may be the case. But visits to at least the best of Hue’s Imperial Tombs of the Nguyen dynasty emperors are absolute musts, and they all lie scattered outside the city. A cruise on the Perfume River is also recommended, and a perfect way to get to the famous riverside Thien Mu Pagoda, also outside the city. The benefits of a professional guide’s narration and a private driver go without saying, so I combined them all on the Hue City Sightseeing Tour with Perfume River Cruise.
With a favorable exchange rate and an abundance of attractions for mere pocket change, even budget travelers can afford to splash out in Vietnam, but whether you’re trying to stretch out your funds or just don’t want to draw out more cash before your flight home, there are also plenty of free things to do in Ho Chi Minh city. Here are a few ideas.