Buzzing, yet relaxed nightlife
One of my favourite past times whilst in Ho Chi Minh and Ha Noi was sitting by the street at night, (on the intsy wintry plastic chairs) having a few drinks and watching the busy lane transform into a popup bar. It seems that after 9pm, every store transforms into a mini bar as chairs and tables come out, drinks are served, and what was a news agency only minutes ago becomes a bustling bar of excited tourists soaking up the ambiance. Even though they aren’t entirely appealing, you must buy the dried squid from the street vendors. They’re the perfect accompaniament to a few cool beverages. Bring a deck of cards, chill out, watch the street performances and appreciate all that the city has to offer.
Vietnam is famous for its delicious food and there’s no shortage of great places to go for a meal. Whether you opt for cheap street eats or something more civilised at a fancy restaurant, the flavours are so fresh and delicious you will be addicted to their cuisine in no time. Must try dishes are the vietnamese pancakes, Pho Bo (beef soup) with lots of thai basel and chilli, and the Lemongrass chicken.
I’m not usually one to be too adventurous with street food, but was fortunate enough to meet a half american, half vietnamese friend, who convinced me to eat at a tiny pho vendor, on a busy corner in district 1. This meal was hands down the best food I tried on my entree trip, so I went back a few more times before moving on to my next destination. It’s worth being a little daring to try the street eats – I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Quirky, but important museums
Vietnam is full of great museums, which are also a great place to cool down, explore and gain further insight into the countries colourful past. Whether you’re fascinated by Vietnamese textiles, street vendor life, the Vietnam War, the role of the French in Vietnam’s history, or women’s roles in Vietnamese society – spending some time exploring the countries collated treasures is a sure way to enrich your experience and understanding of the country. Some of the best museums to check out are:
– War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh
– Southern Women’s Museum, Ha Noi
– The Fine Arts Museum, Ho Chi Minh
As mentioned above, there is no shortage of tours, day trips, and sights to choose to see. Some of my favourites include:
– Cu Chi Tunnels
– Day trip to the Mekong Delta
– Exploring the War Remnants Museum
– Halong Bay (overnight) boat trip
– Trekking to an overnight location in Sapa, to stay with a local host
– Weaving through the Cho Ben Thanh market at Ho Chi Minh
– Hiring a hike in Ha Noi to ride to the beach
Whether its a beachside bungalow or mountain escape you’re after, Vietnam’s terrain is so vast, there really is something for everyone. Or, if you can’t decide – you can do it all. Whether it’s cruising along Halong Bay, Exploring Hoi An’s multitude of taylor shops, trekking in Sapa or partying on Na Trang’s beaches, there’s so many options to choose from, you’ll never get bored.
The people are super friendly
There’s something infectious about the vietnamese and their positive outlook on life. Don’t be alarmed in you’re approached on the street – many locals just want to have a chat (or a game of charades due to the language barrier) to welcome you to their country. On our first night in Ho Chi Minh, we were stopped on our way back to the guesthouse by two old men sitting on the street drinking, eating and laughing. They insisted we join them, despite them not being able to understand us, and after a few hesitant attempts to move on, we decided to sit and have a drink with them. A few hours later, we were still there, sharing their dried prawns, drinking their beers, and sitting together appreciating the moment for its pure simplicity and enjoying their generous hospitality.
And most importantly, it’s cheap!
Vietnam is one of those places that you can enjoy on any budget. Whether you opt for a true backpacker experience and go for the hostel style bunk beds, a mid range guesthouse, or ‘luxurious’ style hotels, you can be guaranteed to get good value for money. Day tours are super affordable and food and drinks make you feel guilty they’re so reasonable. For those who like a bit more ‘comfort,’ you can get 5 star accommodation for the price of a 3 star room in any Australian city.