Vietnam was pretty much off-limits to tourists from the 1950s through until the end of the 1980s. But beginning in the 1990s, the country’s government began investing heavily in the tourist trade in the hope of attracting more people looking to see a part of the world that had previously been closed off. Now more than 4 million people visit Vietnam every year. To say Vietnam tourism has taken off is to state the obvious.
Vietnam is part of the Indochina Peninsula and in the top 10 in all of Asia in terms of population. It takes up the entire eastern coast of the peninsula and covers a total area of more than 128,000 square miles. Much of the territory is dense jungle, although approximately 16% of the land in the country is arable. The most important cities to Vietnam tourism are Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho, Da Nang, and Ha Noi.
Vietnam Tourism: Here are Some Great Things to Do
Vietnam is similar to most other Asian countries in that it’s nearly impossible to see all of the most important sites and participate in the most exciting adventures in just a single visit. You have to go several times to fully appreciate all that the country has to offer. Here are my top suggestions for things to do in Vietnam:
Buy a Tailored Suit
Purchasing tailored clothing is not something that is typically offered up on tourist information websites, but I’m making an exception for the city of Hoi An in Quang Nam province. The city is known throughout Vietnam for its exquisite tailors and dressmakers. When you buy a tailored suit from one of the locals, you will get something made with impeccable craftsmanship and quality, rivalling anything you would find in the best European boutiques. You will also not pay nearly as much. While you’re in town, there is plenty to see and do as well.
Cruise Ha Long Bay
Just about 15 miles east of Ha Noi is the beautiful and picturesque Ha Long Bay. This is no ordinary bay, fellow travellers. Scattered throughout the water are 1,600 limestone formations of various shapes and sizes that look a lot like London’s skyscrapers poking up into the sky. And there is no shortage of local companies offering very affordable cruises. As a side note, Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well.
Tour Ha Noi on Foot
One of the best things about Vietnam tourism is that there’s an awful lot you can do without spending a thing. For example, if you are the kind of person who loves to spend hours walking the streets of, say, London, speaking with the locals about what’s on everyone’s London bucket list and window shopping, you are going to love Ha Noi. This city is filled with winding streets and alleys that traverse both the Old Quarter and the more modern sections of the city. Around every corner is something new, something adventurous and different.
Take a Ride on the Reunification Express
From Ha Noi to Ho Chi Minh City runs a train known as the Reunification Express. Travelling the entire length can take as long as 40 hours, but you can travel between closer cities for a shorter experience. The train runs daily, stopping in most of the towns and cities along the way. It would be a great experience if you wanted to start your holiday at one end of the line and gradually work your way to the other end as you stop and visit the various towns and cities.
Visit the War Remnants Museum
Most of what we hear about the Vietnam War is from the perspective of the Western Allies. If you would like to see it from the viewpoint of the Vietnamese, you might want to visit the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. The museum includes both American and North Vietnamese equipment along with all sorts of relics and artefacts – such as a guillotine used by the North Vietnamese army in the 1960s. The museum is open daily from 7.30am until 5pm. Be aware that it can be rather intense for younger children.
See the White Dunes of Mui Ne
The White Dunes of Mui Ne is yet another opportunity for Vietnam tourism that doesn’t cost anything. The locals know these beautiful white sand dunes as the ‘White Lake’ because of their vast and impressive visual profile. Interestingly enough, not far from the white sand dunes are the equally impressive Red Dunes of Mui Ne. You might just as well see them while you’re there. And if you are the adventurous type, why not rent a sledge and go sand sledging. Both dunes are within driving distance of Phan Thiet.
Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels
If you’re interested in seeing the Mekong Delta where much of the fighting of the Vietnam War took place, you might want to take a day and go on a tour of the Delta and the Cu Chi Tunnels. These tunnels are essentially a network of underground routes and bunkers used by the Vietcong during the war. For an average price of about £65 per person, you can get an incredible day-long tour that will blow your mind.
Tour the Country on Motorbike
Lastly, Vietnam tourism is all about doing things you cannot do elsewhere. A favourite for many is to rent a motorbike and just go. Rentals are available in every city and town, they are very affordable, and you can see the entire country on the back of a motorbike if you want to. Most of the rentals are Russian-made motorcycles that may be a little bit unusual if you are not used to them, but you’ll learn quickly enough. Just be sure to stay on the main thoroughfares on your way between towns.
Vietnam is a great place to visit, without a doubt. The national government is doing a tremendous job making its country attractive to Western tourists looking for something different. I encourage you to take a trip if you can to appreciate and enjoy Vietnam tourism. See a country that remains largely mysterious to us in the Western world.
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- Halong Bay: By Arianos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Ha Noi: By Thang Nguyen (originally posted to Flickr as DSCF2931) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Reunification Express: https://vietnamvisaapplication.com/post/vietnam-reunification-express
- Museum: By Pinus – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21791766
- Dunes: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mklapper
- Tunnels: By Jorge Láscar from Australia (Interior of the Cu Chi tunnels) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons