Vietnam’s attractions should speak for themselves. It is a mesmerizing country, full of history and with its own story to tell. Diverse influences seen in its architecture, cuisine and philosophy alongside astoundingly beautiful scenery made for a captivating experience for visitors. Eccentric, tranquil, exhilarating and laidback – here’s 5 reasons why you should visit Vietnam.
Historically, Vietnam’s history has been turbulent with remnants of the Chinese, French and American occupations much in evidence – from popular food and drinks to the grand Colonial architecture found in cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh.
From the atmospheric town of Hoi-An, a major trading post in the 16th and 17th centuries, where eclectic styles of French Colonial, wooden Chinese chophouse and Japanese Pagoda provide a unique ambience to the graphic War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s history is all around, and you won’t have to travel far to see it.
Ha Long Bay is undoubtedly Vietnam’s most recognizable natural attraction – with its thousands of limestone isles and karsts jutting out from the water – a breathtaking sight it provides many a photographic opportunity. It is one of two UNESCO Natural World Heritage sites in the country – the other being the caves and grottos of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park.
Vietnam offers a variety of dramatic scenery, from the mountainous peak areas around Sapa, a hill station in the northwest of the country, where stunning rice terraces cling precariously on hillsides to idyllic, isolated islands and their pristine beaches. There is a tourist circuit, but it is a road less well-traveled than some other Asian countries.
Vietnamese food is as eclectic as its history – the French baguette and coffee shop as omnipresent as street food vendors. You’ll find some of the best places to eat under the colorful awnings on the sidewalks and at any hour of the day you’ll see people congregating here to enjoy flavorsome food and each other’s company.
The Vietnamese are gregarious and active. You’ll find the parks teaming with group activities, especially at dusk and dawn – whether it’s aerobics, Tai Chi or ballroom dancing, as well as solitary walkers and joggers.
Bartering is the norm here so don’t be afraid to hone your negotiating skills – it is expected. Vietnamese people are generally friendly, but smiling and learning to say a few Vietnamese phrases will go a long way and will be much appreciated.
If you’re on a budget Vietnam offers a lot – or at least you can get a lot more bang for your bucks than you can at home. Eat like the Vietnamese and a steaming bowl of noodles for breakfast will set you back around $1 US (UK £0.70; Euro €0.88; Aus $1.29) and a Western breakfast around $2.50 (UK £1.75; Euro €2.20; Aus $3.22).
Accommodation costs are around $20 (UK £14.00; Euro €18.00; Aus $25.00) a night for a double room in a mid-range hotel. You can, of course, spend a lot less or a lot more and with plenty of options to choose from you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect place to stay.
Some tourists are even taking advantage of low-priced dental services while they are here, taking the opportunity to get a check-up, emergency treatment or even cosmetic dentistry at a fraction of the price they’d pay at home. It’s worth your while factoring it in if you do have a dental issue you’d like to resolve, especially when you consider a visit to a Hanoi dentist can cost you up to 80% less than it would at home – a considerable saving if your treatment runs into the hundreds or thousands. The same is also true of visiting a Ho Chi Minh dentist too, and while you’ll find good quality dentists throughout the country, you won’t go far wrong if you get your dental work done in one of these two cities.
Vietnam is full of surprises, and whether your interests are mountain biking, scuba diving, wildlife- watching or shopping you’ll discover you can do it all here.