Easily the most underrated destination in Southeast Asia is the small country of Vietnam. While most think of visiting while en route to somewhere else, Vietnam is actually a destination to visit in its own right offering breathtaking landscapes, friendly locals, great food, amazing hiking, stunning beaches, and great festivals.
More than 30 years after the war with the US ended, Vietnam is beginning to flourish as more and more travellers come to the shores of this spectacular country and discover that there is much more to this country than just the war. Get your travel insurance for Vietnam sorted, start planning, and go explore this amazing destination.
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam, and with a history going back 1,000 years, there’s lots to see in this city. The Old Town is the beating heart of the city, and is often called '36 old streets', as traditionally trades would all be grouped into streets, which means walking around you will find a street for silk, a street for silver, and a street for wrappings, paper and decorations.
Nowadays there are a few more than just 36 streets, nonetheless this is a really fun area to explore.
Some great sites to visit are:
- The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, made in the image of the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow.
- The Ho Chi Minh Museum which has many interesting exhibits and gives you a slightly different view of the war with the US.
- The Museum of the Vietnamese Revolution if you want to find out more about French colonial times,
- The Museum of Ethnology, which is an excellent destination to find out more about Vietnamese cultures and customs.
- There are also many temples in Hanoi, most notably the Temple of Literature, which is the country's first university established in 1076.
When you need a break from seeing the sites, make sure to try some of the excellent food here. Pho, a delicious rice noodle soup, is perhaps Hanoi's most beloved dish and no trip is complete without having tried it.
For more adventurous eaters, you can also find cobra blood or any other cobra part you may want to eat, boiled duck egg fetus, or an extract made from giant water bugs, which gives a very unique flavor to dishes.
Not far from Hanoi is Ha Long Bay, which is famed for its stunning limestone karst and ocean landscape and often cited as one of the natural wonders of the world. If you jump on a cruise you can go island hopping and hiking. From endangered cats to thick forest, from diving at beautiful coral sites to exploring grottoes and caves, there’s a lot to see.
A nice way to spend the night here is on a converted junk in the middle of the bay, where the sea rocks you to sleep and the sunrise is truly a sight to behold.
Another site to explore while in northern Vietnam are the Ban Gioc Waterfalls, which are in the Cao Bang province. Located at the border with China, this is an absolutely spectacular site to visit, with some beautiful opportunities to hike. If you want to meet the neighbors, take a boat out to the base of the falls and you will see Chinese tourists doing it from their side too. Nguom Ngao Cave is also not far away. While not as big as Phong Nha-Ke Bang, which is in central Vietnam and worth the journey, it’s still a beautiful cave with lots of mineral formations.
You will also find some hill tribes in this area, which have managed to remain intact and have kept their customs alive. They are open to tourists and a great way to see the living history of Vietnam. Before setting off on any large exploration though, sort out your Vietnam travel insurance.
As you travel towards Ho Chi Minh City, do make sure to stop in central Vietnam and investigate some of the stunning sites, such as the biggest cave in southeast Asia (Phong Nha-Ke Bang), the beautiful temple ruins of My Son, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as the cities of Hue and the beautiful coastal town of Hoi An.
Ho Chi Minh City is the economic hub of Vietnam, the former capital, and a busy city. There’s a lot to explore here, from museums to temples, and you’ll also find a bigger focus on the US war.
The War Remnants Museum will be of interest to you if you want to find out more about Vietnam's perception of the US war, but a place everyone should see is Cu Chi, located about 40kms from the city. This is the where you can see the underground system of tunnels and chambers dug during French occupation and used during the Vietnam War - a heart breaking and impressive site at the same time.
For more information on Vietnam, visit the Vietnam Tourism Website.