Tuesday, 7 August 2018

My top 10 must visits in Vietnam


I've just got back from the trip of a lifetime in Vietnam - somewhere I've wanted to visit for years. To read full details about my trip, including who I travelled with and any recommendations, keep an eye out for my blog post coming later this week. 


I was lucky enough to travel between the North and the South of Vietnam and visited a lot of different places during my trip. It was hard to narrow it down to just 10 places/activities but here goes.

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1

Ham Rong Mountain, Sa Pa



This is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited, not just in Vietnam but probably in the whole world. Before I visited Vietnam, save for Ha Long Bay, I kind of thought that Vietnam was filled with pretty cities (I wasn't wrong) but there is so much green land too. The countryside is absolutely stunning. The flowers are so vibrant and just stand out everywhere you go.

 

When in Sa Pa, in the North of Vietnam, I was recommended to visit Ham Rong Mountain. Just a five minute walk from my hotel, in the centre of Sa Pa, Ham Rong consists of a majority of green areas all on the way up to the top of the mountain view point. It is such a beautiful breath of fresh air and is the perfect place to take a breather from the city.

 
 

I would recommend this all day everyday to anyone visiting Sa Pa. It is a beautiful way to spend your time - especially if the weather is nice!


2

Water Puppet Show, Hanoi



When I was first told about the water puppet show I really wasn't sure what to expect but I really enjoyed it. This was such a good show.

The water puppets portrayed local cultures and historic events such as fishing or even the war. It had a real comedy value at times and was perfect for both adults and children. The local people sang and played instruments that accompanied each puppet show.

This was really interesting and gave an insight into the local culture. I would definitely recommend this to anyone in Hanoi - it is a lovely way to spend an hour and a nice break from the heat! 



3

Ha Long Bay



Ha Long Bay, one of the most famous and popular areas in Vietnam. This is an amazing place to visit to take a break from the busy days spent sightseeing or travelling and simply relax, while taking in the breathtaking scenery.

However, if you decide you want to explore the islands, there are a number of things that you can do. Firstly, opt to stay overnight on a cruise boat and enjoy a fresh seafood dinner while watching the sunset.

 

I was pleasantly surprised by the boat. In fact, really surprised. I expected it to be quite basic but it was lovely. We had a large dining room with our own bar and enjoyed amazing food and cocktails. I couldn't have enjoyed this experience more.

Choose to see the bay close up by spending a few hours kayaking.


Take some time out by exploring local caves. The caves were so dark so make sure that you have a torch with you - you'll need it! I would definitely recommend visiting the caves, even if only briefly. We came across some hidden lookouts that were out of this world.


To read more about my Ha Long Bay stay, keep an eye out for a blog post coming soon!



4

Hai Van Pass



The Hai Van Pass is a mountain pass between Hue and Hoi An. If you're a Top Gear fan, then you may have seen this on their Vietnam special where they rode along this pass on motorbikes.

We drove through the Hai Van Pass and stopped off to take in the incredible views.

 

The mountainous views were beautiful - the pictures really do not do them justice. I would definitely recommend this for anyone visiting Vietnam. If you're driving through, definitely take some time out and walk around to take in the views. You can even enjoy an ice cream or cold drink from local market stalls.



5

War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City



One of the main reasons that I wanted to go to Vietnam was to learn more about the history, particularly surrounding the war with the US. It was a given that I was going to visit the War Remnants Museum, one of the main ways to get a more in depth understanding.

I was blown away by what I saw and learnt. Obviously I knew the basics of the war from studying it but I didn't realise just how brutal the American soldiers were and how many innocent Vietnamese people were affected by the chemicals used by the Americans, including pregnant women and children. Obviously I'm not stupid and I know that there were two sides to the story but it still, in my opinion, does not condone the atrocities committed by the US soldiers.

The museum had three floors full of information. Outside were recovered tanks, jets and boats used by the US soldiers in the war which was really interesting to see. I spent around an hour and a half here but I would recommend blocking out around 3 hours to see everything in full and not feel rushed. It is a must see but be prepared as it is hard to read some of the information.



6

Trekking & Homestay, Sa Pa



If you only do one thing in the North of Vietnam, you must do this.

You start in the centre of Sa Pa and hike into the local villages, where you commence the day with a local lunch and stay with a local family. I won't lie to you, the hike wasn't easy. It was around 12km so 8 miles and it was extremely hot/humid. 

(I think my face says a lot here)

However, the views make it worth every second and struggle! I'm definitely not a regular hiker but I actually really enjoyed the day - even some of the uphill climbs! 

You have the opportunity to stop several times throughout the hike, to take in the views and grab a drink from local stalls set up by the villagers.


After the hike and local lunch, I was taken back to the family home by the son on his motorbike. Cue the (awful) candid photo...


I've never been on a motorbike before and it was a lot less scary than I anticipated.

The views from the family home were pretty amazing. 

 
 

To read more about my homestay experiences, keep an eye out for my blog post coming soon.

 




7

Old Quarter, Hoi An



Hoi An is by far one of my favourite places in Vietnam; definitely my favourite city. One of the things I loved was that, although it was a city, it still had such a traditional feel to it.

To enter the Old Town, you need to buy a ticket which costs 120,000 VND (around £4). The ticket lasts for 10 days and enables you to not only enter all restaurants, bars, cafes and shops but also 5 attractions of your choice. The ticket is well worth having.

One thing I loved about the Old Quarter was all of the beautiful lanterns and flowers surrounding the narrow streets and the amount of shops, cafes and restaurants in such a small area.

 
 

I just found it so cosy and pretty. I would go back there tomorrow if I could!

The city is even more beautiful by night.

 

Take a boat trip along the river and take in the lit up city by night, ending the trip by lighting your own lantern.


Pictures do not even do this place justice. I would highly recommend visiting Hoi An for between a few days and one week. Relax in little cafes, see the sights, enjoy amazing Vietnamese cuisine or cross the river and have a drink (or five) in one of the riverside bars.



8

Mekong Delta



Mekong Delta is definitely a must see so I was surprised to hear that not a lot of travellers visit here. Accessed by boat, these beautiful little islands are filled with Vietnamese culture.

There is so much to do and see here. I would definitely ensure you have a full day spare to spend walking around this beautiful place.

 

Mekong is filled with beautiful fruit trees and forest walkways which provided so many photo opportunities...

Aside from this, you can visit a number of interesting sights. Firstly, visit the Bee Farm & try the freshly made honey. If you're brave enough, hold the plaque of bees and try the fresh honey with your finger.

*I definitely wasn't brave enough*

If you're like me and don't fancy risking being stung, sit at the tables and try the honey tea and fresh walnut sweets. There is also the opportunity to buy jars of honey and fresh skincare, Royal Jelly.

 

Try freshly picked fruit from the local trees, including fresh bananas, lychees and pineapple.


Visit Alluvia Chocolatiers and learn how they make fresh chocolate. Feel free to try the different flavours and even buy a bar (or two) if you like it!

 

Visit the Coconut Candy Farm and learn how the local people make sweets from fresh coconuts. Even try your hand at making some yourself and of course, try some!

 

Or relax on a boat trip along the river with a fresh coconut juice.


Whatever you decide to do here, it is definitely a must see!



9

Heli Bar, Ho Chi Minh City



I'll be honest, Ho Chi Minh really didn't impress me one bit. In fact, after visiting all of the other amazing places I felt a bit underwhelmed when I got here. However, the visit to the Heli Bar definitely changed my view of the city.

Located in the Bitexco Financial Tower, this stunning bar provides 360 degree views of the city. We visited just before sunset and let me tell you, Ho Chi Minh at sunset from a height is a view you don't want to miss. Similarly, the darker it got, the more beautiful the city looked. Every building lit up with bright, vibrant colours, reflecting the atmosphere at night.


Although I wouldn't recommend staying too long in Ho Chi Minh, I feel it is somewhere you have to visit. Formerly Saigon, this capital city holds a lot of history and of course, the Heli Bar lets you see the views in style.




10

Bicycle/Motorbike Tour, Hoi An



Opt to see the countryside either by bike or by motorbike.

This is such a lovely way to spend a morning or afternoon and it really enables you to see more of Hoi An. Initially Hoi An seems to be - albeit a fairly quiet city - but a city nevertheless. However, this trip shows much more to Hoi An and allows you to see the beautiful countryside areas.


Visit Vietnam's 'Happy Couple', recognised as the happiest couple in Vietnam. This couple have been married since 1949! Sadly, Nguyen had suffered a leg injury and was therefore unable to meet us but we met Le and he definitely lived up to the title. At over 90 years old, Le did not stop smiling the whole time we were there, despite not being able to speak a word of English.


While you're there opt to visit the Happy Couple's land, try some of the fresh fruit and veg and try a spot of traditional gardening!

 
 

Take a boat trip along the river in a bamboo boat and receive some traditional jewellery made out of coconut leaves!

 

Take a break from the motorbike and be at one with nature. It was so amazing (but scary) to see a cow this close.

This was such a nice day and I would recommend this to anyone visiting Hoi An.

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So there you have my top 10 must see sights when visiting Vietnam. It was so hard to choose just 10 things as I visited so many amazing places. If you've visited Vietnam, I'd love to hear your favourite things to do.

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