Vietnam is a sensory delight, with an experience, sight or smell to sweep you off your feet at every turn. Here are the 8 best things to do in Vietnam on your first trip:
1. Get some clothing custom-made at Yaly in Hoi An
This wasn’t planned at all until I stepped foot inside the shop, where everyone who walks in is greeted with their own personal tailor! Quite literally, the tailors will make any piece of clothing you request within 24 hours of the order being made. I ended up buying a tailor-made blazer, that I still wear to this day, which cost me a fraction of the price I’d have paid at home for a lesser quality blazer. Be careful though, it’s easy to blow your budget in there…
2. Venture outside of the big cities
Make sure you head out of the big cities of Saigon and Hanoi and check out a slower, more chilled out way of life in rural Vietnam. Head down to the Mekong Delta to check out the floating markets and stilt houses while cruising along the Mekong on a boat. Row down narrow rivers on a sampan and ride bikes around the local villages to see that money isn’t a prerequisite for happiness!
3. Learn about the country’s history
One of the best things to do in Vietnam is spend some time taking it all in at the War Remnants Museum in Saigon. The stories and photos on display are quite graphic in detail, but it is the reality of what the country suffered on a large-scale during the Vietnam War. To see how well the country has recovered and moved on from such a horrific period in their history is a testament to the kind of people they are. It will blow you away, and just add to your admiration of the Vietnamese people.
4. Climb to the top of the Ha Long Bay Lookout
It’s a very steep and physically challenging 400-step journey to the lookout on Ti Top Island in Ha Long Bay, but wow – the view is worth every step of the way up. It’s not exactly an easy descent either, so spend some time soaking up the picture-perfect view and take one last mental photograph before heading back down to the beach.
5. Grab some dinner and drinks at the Nha Trang Sailing Club
One of the best things to do in Vietnam is go to Nha Trang. After a full day of eating, drinking, jumping off boats and getting towed along through the water, head to the Sailing Club when the sun goes down for a good feed and some more drinks in a truly magical setting. No dining experience gets any better than getting a bit dressed up for dinner on the beach, as a refreshing light sea breeze rolls through while the waves are gently lapping against the shore.
6. Play some beach soccer
This is another one of those magical setting experiences. Once you step off the boat which drops you off at the island with the Ha Long Bay lookout, you’ll be greeted with an idyllic beach with soccer goals and a beach volleyball net, just waiting for people to take part in a social game. For the best experience, time your visit to Ti Top Island so that after descending from the lookout, the sun’s also just starting to clock off for the day.
7. Grab a drink on the rooftop of the Pan Pacific (formerly Sofitel Plaza) Hanoi
For one of the best views of the Hanoi skyline, get the elevator up to the Summit Lounge at the top of the Pan Pacific Hanoi. It’s got a great vibe, a great view, and for a place that’s a bit fancy, the drinks are still only a fraction of the price you’d be paying through the nose for at home.
8. Attempt to cross the road
As terrifying as it is, it’s an almost unavoidable experience in Saigon and Hanoi, if you actually want to get anywhere! I’d read up a little about this before I went, but until I arrived, I actually didn’t know that in Vietnam, red lights and pedestrian crossings mean very little to the motorists. Until you get the hang of it, it’s recommended to follow closely behind some locals who do this on a daily basis!
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