5 essential experiences in Vietnam
Vietnam is an incredible country. Stretching more than 1,000 miles from north to south, it packs in chaotic cities, rural rice-farming communities, ancient temples, white-sand beaches, riverside villages and plenty more besides.
Deciding where to go and what to do in such a diverse destination can be overwhelming. Luckily, our Vietnam tour packages sort all of that out for you - the itineraries have been carefully thought-out and meticulously planned to give you the best possible experience.
The route has been tried and tested, the hotels handpicked, and the transport booked. And when it comes to excursions, we've selected the must-dos and mixed them in with a few hidden gems and exclusive extras. Interested? Here are 5 essential experiences we think every traveller should have on their holidays in Vietnam...
Cruise the crowd-free waters of Lan Ha Bay
Halong Bay is one of the most famous spots in Vietnam, with tourists from all over the world flocking to cruise its emerald-green, karst-dotted waters. It's beautiful, of course - but busy. Want to escape the hordes? Head for Lan Ha Bay, just to the south of Halong.
Set partially within a protected national park, Lan Ha Bay has all the beauty of its well-known neighbour, but a fraction of the visitors. It takes a little longer to get to, but that just means you'll have more time to enjoy the relaxed pace of life on the water - sunset drinks overlooking limestone islets, morning tai chi on the deck, perhaps a spot of snorkelling or squid fishing.
Once you reach Lan Ha Bay, you'll be able to kayak through clear waters, snooze on white-sand beaches and explore hidden islets and sleepy villages. A real highlight of any holiday to Vietnam.
Learn the secrets of Vietnamese cuisine
One of the joys of travelling is sampling the cuisine - trying new flavours, tucking into dishes you've never heard of before and switching old-favourite snack foods for something completely different. Classics to try on holidays to Vietnam include bahn mi (a delicious street-food sandwich usually stuffed with greens and juicy pork), pho (noodle soup spiked with ginger and coriander) and spring rolls served with a peanut dip.
Cooking classes and workshops are perfect for bringing a taste of your trip back home with you. At rice paper workshops, you can try your hand at making tasty crisps and filled rolls. In Hoi An, meanwhile, venture to Tra Que village to learn the secret of making tam huu (paperless spring rolls) using veggies and herbs from the organic gardens.
We've talked about Vietnamese food, but what about to drink? Well, there's plenty to slake your thirst. Vietnamese coffee packs a punch. It's strong and flavoursome, and usually served over ice with sweet condensed milk. You can also sip your brew black (you'll probably want a spoonful or two of sugar), with a dollop of yoghurt or with a frothy egg-yolk-and-milk whip. In Hue, it's traditionally served with salty cream - an unusual combination that's surprisingly delicious (think salted caramel).
More of a tea drinker? Stop by a traditional tea house for a cuppa. Try Reaching Out in Hoi An, a social enterprise which provides opportunities for locals with speech or hearing impairments. In Hanoi, we stop by a cosy tea house where a former Tea Master Cup winner curates a menu of white, green and Oolong teas from around the country.
If you're in the mood for something stronger, you could order a local beer. Vietnam's craft beer scene is booming, and there are some fantastic local labels to try, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City. Head to a brewery and you can enjoy guided tastings and behind-the-scenes tours from the brewers themselves.
Explore the Mekong River Delta
When the mighty Mekong River reaches Vietnam, it fans out into a huge network of canals, tributaries and channels, all meandering towards the sea. Life here tends to revolve around the water - expect to see stilted villages, floating markets, fishermen hauling in the day's catch and farmers tending to shimmering rice paddies.
A boat trip is the best way to see the area. Navigating through the maze of waterways, you'll stop to explore local villages and traditionally built houses, or perhaps buy fresh tropical fruit from a floating market stall.
Step back in time at My Son
My Son was once the capital of the Champa Kingdom, a unique culture based on Hinduism that flourished between the 4th and 13th centuries.
Although many of the ruins have been destroyed over the centuries, today you can still see some of the remarkable tower temples, with their sandstone bas-reliefs and stone pillars, some half-hidden by greenery.
With its lush surroundings, mountain backdrop and babbling streams, My Son has a calm and tranquil feel to it (even when it's full of visitors). An expert guide is a must, to get an understanding of the ruins and an insight into Cham culture.
Our 'Vietnamese Discovery' tour helps you to uncover the highlights of this incredible destination, as well as introducing you to Vietnamese culture through its food, customs and local people. Everything mentioned in this article can be experienced on the tour, as well as a host of other incredible experiences.
Although she loves a lie-in at home, Laura is often up and about before dawn on holiday. She’s watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, Uluru and Angkor Wat, but her favourite was seeing the first light of the New Year sweeping across the yacht-dotted waters of Sydney Harbour.
Laura | About the author
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