If you still haven’t visited Vietnam, there are plenty of reasons why you should start planning it as your next destination. Being a mix of Chinese, Japanese, French and American influences, it is the home of colonial palaces, cooking classes that take visitors to local markets, the most bustling traffic, liveliest markets and most tranquil resorts. Vietnam offers a wide variety of sights that just might change your life. Here are just some of the best ways to get the most out of this breathtaking country.
The two-wheeled adventure
For those who crave the wind in their hair, endless roads and the sound of a revving engine, sightseeing by bike might be the ideal choice. Vietnam is a country known for its unbelievable amount of motorcycles and mopeds. Since taxes for imported cars are incredibly high, almost every household owns a two-wheller. City traffic can be absolutely crazy, so if you feel ready to test your driving skills, this is the option for you. However, driver caution is extremely advised, as traffic accidents are widely common.
However, if the city is not exactly what you need and you see yourself more of a cross-country type, that is also an alternative. Along the coastal regions, stunning shades of the Ho Chi Minh trail’s green landscape alone will make your journey worthwhile. Pit stops with local roadside food joints, small markets and village huts give you a unique insight into the out-of-town life. And seeing how imaginative Vietnamese drivers can get loading up smaller livestock or stacks of crops – and their families – onto the back of their mopeds is sure to bring a sigh of amazement and fear.
A tour worthy of Indiana Jones
If there is one place that could prove the existence of worlds beyond our comprehension, it is in the south of Vietnam, in the Quang Binh province. The seemingly pastoral landscapes hide a much darker secret below the surface – hundreds of caves and caverns, some large enough to even house a skyscraper. Tourist trails leading down to the belly of the earth provide sights straight out of a Jules Verne novel. If you decide on taking some Vietnam tours, make sure not to miss out on this one, as it takes you from mountain trekking, through cave complexes, to river rafting.
But what exactly awaits you in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? It is definitely not for the faint of heart. Son Doong, the largest cave in the area, and one of the largest in the world, requires professional trekking equipment. It is dark, but vibrant with life, luminous rivers, stalactite ridden ceilings and hundreds of tiny hunter spider eyes watching cautiously as your party walks by. With a good guide and jovial companions (and some rice wine after a long day’s trek), you will live the adventure to the fullest.
For the gastronomes
For those less thirsty for adventure, but hungrier for tastes and smells of local cuisine, Vietnam also offers a glimpse of its food empire. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly slow-paced kind of tour. Even the most restless tourists will certainly enjoy the cooldown of two to three days of nothing but long walks and fine food. Although Vietnamese food is present everywhere in the world nowadays, here you get to taste authentic ingredients, and in true Vietnamese manner – caramelized fish, spring rolls, pho soup, mouth-watering rice cakes in banana-leaf parcels, and so much more.
But perhaps even more fascinating than the food is the authentic wine. Before the French colonial forces arrived, standard grape wine was not an option. The harsh climate made the fruit too sour, and they opted for other exotic fruit-based wines, with delicious results. Their rice wine is also world-renown, but when going on a cuisine tour of Vietnam, one should very carefully decide when and where to visit. Many travelling blogs advise booking Vietnam tours that provide an expert guide who will know how to tailor the experience to your tastes.
There are multiple ways to explore Vietnam and enjoy the countless sights, smells and tastes it can offer. Of course, health, insurance and legalities take priority in planning these explorations, but there is another vital thing to keep in mind. Every journey has to leave its mark on your life. To ensure that, it is essential to break free and step out of the comfort zone, for the sake of experiencing something completely new. Decide to see Vietnam on a cross-country ride past fields and mountainsides, or plunge into the thousands-of-years-old caves, or just take in the sunset with the people closest to you, a glass of rice wine and seafood whose name you barely pronounce. Or, do all of those things in a single trip.
Like they say, “the world is your oyster” and there is so much to do to immerse yourself in a new culture and enrichen your life. Travel light, book smart, research thoroughly and enjoy wholly, because there is not a better thing than to come home with a broader mind and a photo album full of new memories.