Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country on the South China Sea known for its beaches, rivers, Buddhist pagodas and bustling cities. Hanoi, the capital, pays homage to the nation’s iconic Communist-era leader, Ho Chi Minh, via a huge marble mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) has French colonial landmarks, plus Vietnamese War history museums and the Củ Chi tunnels, used by Viet Cong soldiers.
Its beautiful beaches, cheap accommodations, and amazing food secured the country on the top of most travelers’ lists for the region. But over the last few years, Vietnam has started to steal the Southeast Asia spotlight—offering less-crowded and cheaper options for tourists. Here are nine reasons why you can’t wait to visit Vietnam .
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1. The Food
Vietnamese cuisine is known for its fusion of flavors from many cultures: Take, for instance, the ubiquitous banh mi sandwiches, served on French baguettes but with traditional Vietnamese fillings such as pork belly, pate, fried eggs, tofu, or fresh vegetables. The country’s vast Buddhist population benefits vegetarian travelers, who will be able to find fake meat (usually made with tofu or seitan) at most restaurants. There’s also the famous pho noodle soup, sticky rice, steamed buns, and fresh rolls … we could go on forever.
2. Breathtaking landscape
Vietnam stretches over 2,000 miles of coastline, and can feel like three different countries. Vietnam’s distinct regions (north, central, and south) can all have varied climates during the same time of year—for example, it could be snowing in the far north mountains, while the far south experiences temperatures close to 90 degrees. Each area has its own unique scenery as well, from the mountains and bays in North Vietnam to the farmlands of Central Vietnam and the deltas of South Vietnam.
3. The Language
We’re firm believers that you should always try to learn some key phrases in a foreign language before you visit a new, non-English-speaking country. But in case you’re intimidated by the tough-to-master, tonal Vietnamese, you can be comforted by the fact that many people in Vietnam speak English. In fact, English is now taught to all public school students starting in the third grade. Locals are happy to converse with you in English but a few simple words or phrases like “xin chao” (hello) and “cam on” (thank you) in Vietnamese will go a long way.
4. Friendly and hospitable Vietnamese
Everywhere we went on our trip to Vietnam we were greeted by friendly locals who were happy to help travelers without expecting anything in return. The hospitality you’ll find here is worth checking out. Unlike in many other tourist destinations, we found that sellers here really will take your first “no” as an answer—you can shop without high pressure or hassle.
Vietnam is a well-known destination among budget travellers. Though the price is climbing monthly at a daunting rate, it is still much cheaper than travelling in other continents. There is almost every price for every wallet: a 5 star resort in Da Nang will cost you an equivalent amount to a 3 star hotel near JFK airport. For lower end market, there are a plenty of hostels and guest-houses in most cities. Food costs even lower and street foods are among the best in the world. That says, even in biggest metropolitan areas like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, you can get by a day with $15.
6. Exquisite cuisines
Have you always been a fan of Vietnamese food? Pho Hung on Spadina- Toronto, Nam Son near Bowery- New York, Le Lotus Blanc on Bourgogne of Paris- They can never be as authentic as the food served in Vietnam (though they all do an awesome job). Vietnamese food goes beyond pho and spring rolls and varies by regions: fresh vegetables continue to dominate the tables, while meat and poultry are rising in popularity. Near the beach such as Nha Trang and Da Nang, you can find plenty of fresh seafood caught in the morning and served in your dinner at very affordable price. A big size king crab costs about $8 and can be shared between 2 people.
7. Traditional festivals
Thanks to its long history, rich tradition and Buddhist influence, Vietnam has festivals organized all year round- many of which are unheard of in the West and really fun to learn about. Tet holiday, for example, is an ideal time to see how families celebrate their love for their ancestors and for each other. Tet should not be mistaken or called Chinese New Year, which may even be an insult to some nationalists. It resembles the Lunar New Year in many ways, but modified with a Vietnamese feel in it. For example, in the countryside, people stay over night and make chung cake- over a bit of fire and some end-of-year gossips. In Hai Phong, the buffalo fighting festival is a well-known occasion: the winning buffalo will get killed and presented to the village god. Even public holidays in Vietnam are worth joining: come to Vietnam on the 2nd of September and you will see nation-wide parades. The whole streets will be lighted by the red flags- and fireworks take over the sky at night. Check our events page to see what events you can join in your next trip.
8. World famous beaches
What is more relaxing than spending time in the blue water under the shining sun. Let the waves of Da Nang, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc island or Mui Ne relieve all the stress of the busy day-to-day life. Vietnam has several of the world’s top beach listing. Most of them are safe to swim and there are opportunities for water-sport activities as well. In Nha Trang, for example, you can do kite-running and wind surfing. In Da Nang, enjoy one of the world-class beach resorts- a romantic get away for couples and families alike. In Mui Ne, enjoy the quite with some added wildness while planning for your seafood dinner venture. For beach fans, Vietnam should really be on your list.
9. Fast and easy immigration process
Applying for a visa to Vietnam seems stressful at first- why would you need a visa to Vietnam while you are granted free 30 days? Vietnam requires you anyway, and to alleviate the pain, the process has been made quite easy. Besides visa at the embassy, Vietnam visas can also be granted upon arrival. All you need to do is to apply online for your approval letter via a number of online travel companies, which are plentiful on the net. The visa letter will be emailed to you after 2 days. If you leave close to the embassy, it will take only about a 3-5 working days.
Tags: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, North Vietnam tours