- EAT! – Pho Bo: A steaming bowl of beef noodle soup is a local Vietnamese specialty and a must-try dish! Best eaten in styrofoam bowl off the streets off Hanoi
- DRINK! – Bia Hoi: Grab a plastic stool and sit at a Bia-Hoi Junction with locals and fellow travellers whilst drinking Vietnam’s most beloved draft beer. (At $0.50 / litre – why the hell not!)
- WEAR! – Red T-Shirt with a Yellow Star: Have you been to Vietnam? Get the T-shirt.
- BEWARE! – Crossing the road: Cars, trucks,motorbikes, bicycle rick-shaws, bicycles, street hawkers, pedestrians, it’s certainly a challenge! Locate a gap, commit and then don’t stop moving…
Welcome to Vietnam!
Misty mountains, magical karst landscapes, hectic buzzing cities, sweeping rugged coast lines, fishing villages, sandy beaches. The best thing about Vietnam is it’s diversity. The shape of the country, being skinny means that it is a fantastic country to travel the length from North to South or South to North. Hop on an open bus which costs $15 for the whole length of the country or take the comfortable sleeper trains.
In Vietnam’s cities, you’ll find an energy and a pace of life that is electrifying and never boring. In the North you’ll find Hanoi. Vietnam’s capital, full of character and life. Wander around the ancient streets of Hanoi’s Old Medieval Quarter, where each street is named after the trade that was first established there. Relax by Hoan Kiem Lake, sip sweet Vietnamese Coffee, sit at the famous Bia Hoi Junctions with the locals and soak up the atmosphere of one of Vietnam’s most atmospheric cities. Down South, Ho Chi Minh City, (formerly Saigon) has a completely different feel than Hanoi. Distinctly more modern and sprawling, it’s Vietnam’s powerhouse and economic centre.
Northern Vietnam is a great area for backpackers to explore and one that’s hard to beat on diversity. You could be trekking amongst hill tribe villages one week, wake-boarding by the beach the next. Hiking, kayaking, water-sports, rock-climbing, even scaling the heights of Vietnam’s highest peak ‘Fansipan;’ for the intrepid traveller, the adventures to be had on land or at sea are never-ending!
Heading further down the coast to Central Vietnam, you’ll find the ancient towns and UNESCO World Heritage Towns of Hue and Hoi An, must-stops for backpackers interested in architecture, history and art. For food lovers, they’re also great places to try some delicious Vietnamese local specialities! And while you’re in Hoi An, why not fill your rucksack with some brand new tailor-made clothes!
After all that history and culture, if you’re beginning to get withdrawal symptoms for a beach, don’t panic! Look no further than Vietnam’s beach resort of Nha Trang. A long white stretch of sandy beach, accompanies by lively night-time bars will keep travellers coming back for more. Or you may prefer the quieter, more chilled out Mui Ne, famed as the wind-surfing capital of Vietnam, it’s a great (and cheap) place to kick back for a few days.
Exciting, extremely diverse, at times exasperating, but never boring, Vietnam will shake up your senses and leave you with some fantastic and unforgettable travel moments!
5 Random Facts about Vietnam
1. Halong Bay in Northern Vietnam is a UNESCO World Heritage site where more than 3000 limestone karsts rise from the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin. Halong translates as the ‘bay of descending dragons.’
2. There are over 20 million motorbikes in Vietnam, more than 3.5 million of which can be found on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, which averages at nearly one motorbike for every two persons.
3. In the old quarter of Vietnam’s fascinating capital, Hanoi, the streets are named after the trade that once took place there. For example, Hang Dao Street, translates as ‘Pink Street’ as it once sold fabric, silk and dye in bright colours, like red and pink, whereas the connecting ‘Hang Ngang Street’ sold bluish fabrics, and is thus known as ‘turquoise street.’
4. Vietnam boasts an impressive coast line of nearly 3,500 kilometres of rugged sandy beaches and sheer cliffs that back onto National Park land in many areas. At its thinnest point, the country is only 31 kilometres wide.
5. Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, the First Lady of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1963 was considered one of the most elegant women of the 20th Century, compared to Jackie Onassis, Eva Peron and Grace Kelly.