Many travellers who have passed through Southeast Asia would all too easily jump on the bandwagon vouching for Vietnam as the top destination in the region, and it isn’t difficult to see why. It wouldn’t be stretch to say that no other country in Southeast Asia hits your senses with a plethora of chaos and colour than Vietnam – from the mind boggling traffic lights to the multitude of lanterns that light streets of Hoi An.

From the natural wonders of Halong Bay to the insane traffic in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam has something to suit the taste buds of every shade of traveller. If you’re the type that loathes having to read through pages and pages of travel information then here is a comprehensive Vietnam travel guide to get you started. 🙂

1. Immerse Yourself in the Chaos of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi

One of the most stressful but fun things to do in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh is navigating the streets on foot. We’ll even ask you take it a step further and challenge you to hire a scooter for a day and get around the city, it will be intimidating no doubt but the trick is to recognize the order in the chaos. . In fact, the best way to explore the sights of both these cities are on two wheelers. Just be sure to note that traffic rules are for all intents and purposes are non-existent. 😉 Alternatively you could opt for a motorbike tour of the city as a pillion rider, these are offered by several tour operators in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh.

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Busy Hanoi Street aussieassault

2. Indulge in Vietnamese Coffee and Food

The Lonely Planet calls Vietnam a Culinary Superpower, we second that claim. If the only Vietnamese dishes you’ve sampled prior to your visit is Pho and spring rolls, then you’re in for a culinary treat. Some of our favourites are Bun Cha, Pho Cuon, Bun Rieu, Ban Xeo and Banh Cuon to name a few. You’ll find these dishes in most the street corners but we recommend you sign up for one of the many street food tours that are on offer and you will get to sample the very best of Vietnamese food. For caffeine addicts, Vietnam is something of Mecca with their distinctive home grown Vietnamese coffee and an all pervasive cafe culture. A remnant from the days of French colonization, the Vietnamese have adapted all things coffee to suit their taste buds and we love every one of their adaptations, anything from serving coffee with condensed milk to egg coffee (yes, the Vietnamese have put eggs in coffee and made it work!).

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A popular corner cafe in Vietnam Emilio Labrador

3. Hue and Hoi An in Central Vietnam

In contrast to the hustle and bustle of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh stands Hue and Hoi An. Both with their respective appeals, these are both places you have to include in your itinerary.  Hue was at one point the capital of the Ngyuen dynasty and this is clearly reflected in the architectural marvels that remain today as Hue still maintains a lot of it’s old charm. Of particular note is the Citadel which is an impressive compound filled with palaces, temples and gates. If you’re looking for unique things to do in Hue then the best way to soak in the sights and sounds is by cycling through Hue. Hoi An on the other hand is over two millennia old and the Old Town in Hoi An is the main draw for most visitors and is a source of pride for locals. Be sure to buy yourself one of the colourful lanterns in Hoi An and if time permits then even learn to make a paper lantern.

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Lanterns in Hoi An Arileu

4. Halong Bay

Fit for the sets of a fantasy movie, Halong Bay with it’s aqua-green water, and over 2,000 green islands and floating villages is an attraction that any Vietnam travel guide you open till feature. You can opt not to see every other place on this list but Halong Bay is a MUST. In and around the bay are superb cave systems, sink-holes and lakes for those who dare venture to take a look. 🙂 While you could opt for a day trip, we recommend you take an overnight trip to Halong Bay on one of the Junks that offer a neatly packed tour for travellers.

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Halong Bay Lawrence Murray

5. Meeting Locals

There’s no better way to understand all things Vietnam without meeting the locals, and we at Backstreet Academy provide the platform for travellers to reach out to locals by engaging in a whole bunch of things to do in Hanoi , Hoi An and Hue, ranging from learning how to make the iconic conical hats, Vietnamese cooking class to Kung Fu lessons.

 

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Learning to make Conical Hats at Backstreet Academy


 

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Anil likes devouring copious amounts of Pho Cuon in Hanoi, Momos in Kathmandu and Kachoris in Udaipur. When not eating, you will find him bungy jumping off bridges or listening to talks by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Alan Watts.