Vietnam is overflowing with unforgettable experiences; it has everything you could wish for in a holiday destination and more. Taste exotic foods, float in spectacular emerald bays and soak up the ancient cultural treasures. Here are five experiences you should really experience if you are travelling to Vietnam for the first time. As you’ll find out, life is just good in Vietnam. Simple, beautiful and effortlessly magical.
1. A night on a junk ship in Halong Bay
Halong Bay is one of Vietnam’s most popular tourist attractions for a reason. At the exquisitely beautiful UNESCO World heritage site you’ll find a turquoise-coloured bay filled some 3000 islands. The islands are clothed in ethereal limestone cliffs the incredible result of thousands of years of wind and water erosion.
There’s no better way to experience the cliffs than from on board a majestic wooden ship, known as a junk. Spend a magical night gazing out at the gorgeous archipelago shimmering in the moonlight.
2. Sample street eats in Saigon
Why street food? It’s a great way to experience food that the locals really eat and sample dishes that have been perfected over generations and generations.
It’s best to enjoy street eats at night when the street vendors spring up about the city. A motorbike tour is also a great way taking in all the sights and smells and really makes you feel connected to city.
Make sure you get to try some of the incredible seafood dishes like scallops (so diep) with peanuts and onions or the razor Clams with garlic and morning glory (a vegetable eaten for its tender shoots and leaves).
3. See the incredible Phong Nha-Ke Bang Cave Systems
The spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site, Phong Nha Ke-Bang National Park, features a cave system that extends for 31km and includes breathtaking landscapes such as limestone caverns, rock formations and underground rivers.
Make it your mission to descend the wooden staircases into the ethereal Paradise cave and stand amongst the immense stalagmites and glimmering stalactites. Or visit the glorious Hang Son Doong, the largest cave in the world. It’s so huge that you can fit an entire Manhattan city block inside and so big it has its own river, jungle and climate.
4. Take a walk through Hoi An Ancient Town
Travel back in time to Hoi An Ancient Town. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the ancient town features more than 800 historic buildings that are amazingly well preserved. There are ornate Chinese temples, a Japanese-designed bridge, ancient tea warehouses, wooden shop-houses, French-colonial houses and old canals. It’s easy to imagine life as it would have been several centuries ago.
While strolling through the charming streets, take in some of the folk dancing, singing and traditional games. If you’re after some shopping, there are countless tailors, souvenir shops, art galleries, restaurants and cafés to pop into.
5. Stay in the Sapa highlands
If you’re craving an authentic Vietnamese experience, then you really can’t beat staying a night in a traditional wooden and bamboo house on stilts, nestled in the Tonkinese Alps of northern Vietnam.
Lap up the sweeping romance of a palm-thatched house overlooking a lush valley dotted with rice fields. It’s a great way to get a glimpse into rural life and observe Vietnam’s natural beauty. Try a visit to the Pu Luong nature reserve to see wildlife in the fields amongst stunning gurgling rivers and paddy fields, strewn with water wheels and bamboo aqueducts.
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