A lot of people think of Vietnam and associate it with the tragic Vietnamese war. That war ended a whopping FORTY years ago, however, and the country is now one of the most beautiful – and safe – places in Southeast Asia. Here are some reasons why you should add it to the top of your must-see locations in 2018.
It has MANIC cities
Vietnam has two huge cities in the North and the South and you should 100% be visiting both of them.
Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi, in the North, is beautiful. It’s super leafy, with trees lining the streets and a pretty lake in the middle of the city (which helps when you’re trying to locate yourself after walking around the same but different streets of Vietnam for three hours).
There is so much to see, from historical sites like the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum – where you get to see Mr Ho Chi Minh himself preserved in a glass casing, which is pretty weird – to the Hoa Lo Prison, where you can walk around the actual cells where American prisoners of war were captured and tortured for years. It’s grim, chilling, and incredibly fascinating.
Hanoi is a gateway to everywhere in the north of the country, and a lot of travellers use it as a base to leave and return to after visiting Sapa for trekking, or Halong bay on the coast.
The famous Ho Chi Minh City (A.K.A Saigon) is absolutely frantic. You might initially feel overwhelmed by the buzzing atmosphere surrounding you when you first arrive in HCM (the traffic is EVEN MORE RIDICULOUS than Hanoi), but after a while, its craziness will subside and you’ll get used to it. You’ll visit the coolest sky bars ever with insane views of the whole city (the prices of the drinks are also sky-high, as are most of the other people there), so splash out on your budget and go wild for a few days.
You can balance out your nights with chilled days by exploring the city and ingesting more culture. The War Remnants Museum will provide you with super interesting, if historically-biased (duh) accounts of the Vietnamese War, and will fill the empty cup of knowledge your education failed to provide you with back in school because they were too busy stuffing “relevant” history down your throat instead.
It has ALL the nature
If your picture of rural Vietnam is old ladies wearing those round flat cone hats working in rice paddies with bamboo sticks, then you’re pretty much spot on. You can get a bus to Sapa, the greenest region in the country with acres and acres of mountainous rice paddies, and pay a local lady to take you trekking around the stunning hilly rice terraces for next to nothing.
OR, take a bus to the coast and visit Halong Bay or Cat Ba Island and spend 3 days on a boozy boat trip, jumping off into the clearest, bluest water and swimming to the nearby islands, kayaking through caves and visiting an island run by an army of monkeys (not kidding).
If that sounds too relaxing, bus it down to Phong Nha – Vietnam’s greatest national park – where you can go exploring in caves the size of football stadiums. Phong Nha does actually feature the biggest cave in the world, which is so massive it has its own eco-system, but it costs a mildly significant £3k to take a tour inside, so maybe save that one for another time.
Vietnamese people are so, so friendly
If you’re sitting alone on a bench in the middle of a Vietnamese city and suddenly get the feeling of being watched, then don’t panic - you probably are. But only because you look like an alien to the Vietnamese. Don’t be surprised if random people stop you in the street for a selfie, or if a student asks to practice their English on you for a 15-minute segment which feels like hours. They are so sweet and so curious about Western culture that you will feel incredibly welcome in this country.
And the price?!
Accommodation is £3/4 for a decent hostel. While travel comes to £8 – 10 for an 8-hour bus journey. Food is 40p for a Banh Mi (basically a baguette)!
So my only question is…why are you still here reading this?
Your Vietnamese adventure awaits!