Top 20 amazing experiences you can only have in Vietnam
- on Nov 23, 2023       By: BN
In our globalized world, you can sample most cultures in any urban centre, but there are so many things you will miss if you don't get out and travel. Here are some experiences you can only have if you hop on a plane, train or boat and head to Vietnam.
1. Go to Cai Rang Floating Market
2. Ride a motorcycle on Hai Van Pass
3. Visit a Hmong family
4. Have a pho cocktail
5. Take a xe om tour
6. Take a boat trip on the Saigon River
7. Kayak in Halong Bay
8. Visit Hoi An Ancient Town
9. Eat seafood in sight of a turquoise fleet
10. Visit the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City
11. Ride a cyclo
12. Discover Fansipan
13. Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels
14. Discover Hanoi’s train street
15. Go to the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve
16. Take the Reunification Express
17. View from the Saigon Skydeck
18. Discover Bui Vien Street
19. Taste egg coffee
20. Explore the largest cave in the world
There are many floating markets throughout the Mekong Delta in Southwest Vietnam, but the Cai Rang Floating Market is the largest. It is located in Can Tho, the fourth largest city in Vietnam, which should be a stop on your Vietnam tour anyway.
Fans of the TV series Top Gear will already know that it is a must-see in Vietnam. For those who haven't seen the episode, we reassure you that the Hai Van pass should definitely be on your itinerary.
As soon as you step off your bus in Sapa, Northern Vietnam, you will be greeted friendly by colourfully dressed Hmong women. If you're a seasoned traveller, your instinct might be to chase them away but don't. They offer immersive tours where they take you to their villages to show you their traditional ways of life. It's an intimate experience, and you'll be glad you didn't leave them.
>> Read more: What to do in Sapa in 2 or 3 days?
Mojito Bar & Lounge Restaurant in Hanoi has taken the iconic noodle bowl and made it into a cocktail. This drink will probably mess with your head a little, but it's actually quite tasty.
>> Read more: Best things to do in Vietnam
Throughout Vietnam, you will see these tough old men napping on their motorbikes, catching a few midday naps in the shade. They're motorcycle taxis, and there's no feeling that matches the adrenaline rush of cruising through crazy traffic on the back of a motorcycle. Be sure to negotiate the price first, though.
It's surreal to see palm trees and tin huts receding to reveal the skyline of downtown Ho Chi Minh City. It's like going through a time rift. There are many companies offering river trips, and most of them can be booked through your hotel or hostel.
>> Read more: Top 4 favourite expat neighbourhoods to live in Saigon
The limestone islands of Halong Bay jutting offshore are a spectacular sight to behold. Lounging on a tour boat is a nice way to go, but a kayak is a more intimate experience.
This Unesco World Heritage Site is one of the most sought-after places for tourists in Vietnam – and for good reason. It's a special place and, although it's about as touristy as it gets, it doesn't hurt because the town has a sort of timeless charm.
>> Read more: Top 7 things to do in Hoi An
You can find picturesque fishing villages along the entire length of the Vietnamese coastline. There's just something very humbling about eating seafood in a place where you can see the boats that are out before dawn to catch your meal.
>> Read more: Two must-see fishing villages on Cat Ba Island
It's a sobering experience, but one that captures the visceral pain of the tumultuous years when little Vietnam fought against the world's most powerful military.
>> Read more: The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City
You can find these resistance fighters from the French colonial era near most urban tourist sites, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, Hue and Hanoi. They are a bit bumpy, but the drivers are excellent guides with detailed knowledge of your surroundings.
Fansipan, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, dominates Sapa in Northern Vietnam. There are many options available for people who want a guided hike to the summit and, unless you are a seasoned hiker, you should try to spread it out over two or three days.
>> Read more: Famous hills, peaks and mountains of Vietnam
These tunnels were the hideouts of forces loyal to Hanoi, fighting against the Americans and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam - the Army of South Vietnam. The tunnels are a stark reminder of how the war was to be fought, relying on tactics of subterfuge and guerrilla warfare.
It's amazing how the Vietnamese use space, and it's a perfect example of the pragmatism that seems to be in their DNA. Stay long enough and you'll see a train go by.
This Unesco biosphere reserve is a short distance from Ho Chi Minh City and, after a while in the madness of Saigon, you'll love escaping to the mangroves, wetlands, salt pans, mudflats and herbaria.
>> Read more: Top 11 World Biosphere Reserves in Vietnam
If riding a motor cycle along the length of Vietnam sounds like your idea of hell, then perhaps a ride on the Reunification Express is more for you. Take the train and pass through countless picturesque scenes.
>> Read more: Travel by train in Vietnam, why not?
The Bitexco Tower in downtown Ho Chi Minh City is an unmistakable landmark and also offers stunning views of the sprawling city.
>> Read more: Top 12+ best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
For a taste of debauchery, you can't do better than the famous Bui Vien Street in Ho Chi Minh City's backpacker district. It's the epicentre of vice in Vietnam, and pretty much anything goes. Be careful with your belongings though. Petty criminals are always waiting for you to let your guard down.
Egg coffee is a specialty in Vietnam. Few cafes serve it, but it's worth seeking out because of its texture and interesting taste.
>> Read more: Where to taste the best egg coffee in Hanoi?
Son Doong Cave, which is 150m wide and about 5km long, was only discovered in 1991 when a man heard hissing and rushing water. The entrance was impassable without climbing equipment, so locals never knew what was hidden from them.
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