Thinking about traveling to Vietnam? Then you’ve come to the right place! Vietnam is a beautiful country filled with their very own unique culture. Every turn you take there’s something memorable and exciting to do or see. From the beautiful jungles and mountains of the natural Vietnam countryside to the sea of motorbikes and action in the city; many amazing adventures await you. Let’s take a look at some of the 10 best places to explore while backpacking Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, formally known as Saigon, is the old capital city of Vietnam. This city has the largest population of Vietnam and is also the most densely populated. If you are traveling to Vietnam, you will most likely be flying into this City or the capital city, Hanoi.
You will find some of the best Vietnamese food and activities to do here. Ranging from food tours, biking adventures, crazy nightlife, and even puppet shows. Ho Chi Minh City is not a city to be missed.
Cities In Vietnam: Hanoi
The capital city of Vietnam, this city is very densely populated. However, it isn’t as populated as Ho Chi Minh City. Hanoi has the feel of an old town and actually remains intact from the Vietnam war. You will see old-style street corners along with multiple roads that are dedicated to a specific niche. Some of these roads are roads made just for selling clothes or food. However, other roads are dedicated to just selling and trading scrap metal.
Also, Hanoi is still under a communist government, just like the rest of Vietnam. Under Vietnamese communism, all of these shops work together and split profits. Hanoi will have similar activities to do with their own variations to Ho Chi Minh City. They have their own tours, puppet shows, Hanoi styled food and nightlife.
Hanoi Food tours
Most cities in Vietnam will have food tours on offer. On these food tours, you can be a part of a group food tour or a private one. The private tours are a little more expensive. However, you get a more intimate and better-paced food tour. In a private food tour, you will have the opportunity to try a greater variety of different Vietnamese dishes.
Also, you wouldn’t be slowed down by the rest of the group. Another perk when on a private tour is that you get to know your tour guide on a more personal level. this enables you to ask as many questions as you’d like. You’ll be the one who decides on the pace of the tour in case you wanted to stay longer somewhere or leave quickly.
The level of English of these food tours are excellent and they can explain some of the origins of the food you are about to eat. On these tours, not only do you get to sample a wide range of Vietnamese food, but you will also be able to try some Vietnamese dishes you would never found or known by yourself. Because you are going to try dishes you wouldn’t be able to find yourself, the value of going on one of these food tours is very high.
Puppet shows In Vietnam
Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and some of the other small cities have their own puppet shows. These puppet shows are unique in their own way. This is because they are not traditional puppets that have strings attached from the tops. The puppets are being controlled somehow… by the puppeteers from underwater. There will be traditional Vietnamese music playing while the puppet show is happening as well as some comedic Vietnamese dialogue accompanied by some signing, making it interesting and enjoyable. However, these shows are not in English, but you don’t need the script to figure out the story being told. Interestingly, you get to feel more immersed in the Vietnamese culture, rather than if they were speaking in English.
Ba Na Hills French Retreat
Dating back to the 1900s, Ba Na Hills was a French retreat. However, today Ba Na Hills is owned by the company Sunland and is located near Vietnam’s famous In The Hands of the Gods bridge. To get to Ba Na Hills, you must take a cable cart up into the mountains. The French architecture tells the historical story of how it was founded in 1919 by French colonists. They had built Ba Na Hills to be used as a leisure destination for tourists. Also, located 1500 meters above sea level, it has a view of the East Sea and the surrounding mountains.
However, nowadays you would describe it more as a Fantasy Park. Ba Na Hills has a lot of fun activities on offer. For example, there are live performances and plenty of beautiful French architecture. With these amazing sites and views, you should have a look around and take photos.
Hội An is a beautiful yet ancient town in Vietnam. A famous spice trading port in the past, most of Hội An remains fairly intact from World War II. It was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999. The old-style architecture accompanied by the hustle and bustle of the market is a sight to see.
Hoi An is also the home of a spectacular golf course and resort if that’s something that is of interest to you. Also, there are some dishes that the town of Hoi An created which as become local dishes for the town. These dishes are White Rose Wontons and Cau Lau. It is highly recommended that you try these local dishes while you travel across the country!
Ha Long Bay (Vietnamese: Vịnh Hạ Long)
In Vietnamese, Ha Long means descending dragon. A huge area about 600 square miles in size, Ha long Bay has incredible caves, limestones, and cliffs along the bay. This site is world-famous and is also one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There is a lot of history behind this place. For example, some of the earliest remains of our human ancestors have been found on the site; the earliest dating back to 18000 B.C.
The caves are enormous and Ha Long Bay is also home to tiny islands. Around 989 islands in total, they have all been given names. Some exotic animals also live on these islands. For example, there are antelopes, monkeys, and lizards. Around 1600 people live on and around Ha long bay. Most of the residents are living on floating or semi-floating fish villages. Also, there are 200 species of fish along this coast! Talk about variety.
Ho Chi Minh Nightlife
Ho Chi Minh will have the best nightlife scene in Vietnam. Period. There are more bars, clubs, and action than anywhere else in the country. Also, there are pub crawls where the hosts will take you from bar to bar to try to introduce to you some new places. This can be a fun and great way to meet new people on your Vietnam backpacking adventure.
If you’re looking for a great time, drop by the semi-famous backpacker street that’s filled with partying; Bui Vien Street. There’s bar to bar action with delicious local Vietnamese food. Also, you can observe street performances; some even with fire! On a backpacking trip, this would be a good place to go for nightlife. There are also a number of hostels and hotels in this area. However, if you’re not that into partying or would like an early night’s sleep… It may not be the most ideal place to stay. This street is in the center of town.
This is a very famous old prison in Hanoi. It’s highly recommended that you pay the extra bit of money to have a guided tour. Not all the historical facts are written down on all the memorabilia and objects. Without a guide, you won’t know exactly what you’re looking at. On the guided tour, it will be explained that this is one of the oldest prisons in Vietnam still fairly intact. The French originally built and used this prison when they were in control of Vietnam.
The prison became famous because it used to hold US war hero, John McCain. As a past prisoner, John McCain has written a book of how he was held prisoner and tortured throughout his stay in the “Hanoi Hilton”. However, the Hanoi Hilton will paint quite a different picture of his stay here than John McCain does.
Sa Pa is probably one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam. This place has terraced rice fields and green hills in the mountains. This is a dream place for anyone who enjoys hiking or beautiful scenery. You have some local Vietnamese people living in this town and the bordering areas, notably some Vietnamese hill tribes. Not only does Sa Pa have beautiful hills and countryside, but Sa Pa is also home to some spectacular waterfalls, which also includes the world-famous: Love waterfall.
Vietnam is a place you will never forget. Backpacking Vietnam is so different than any western place in appearance, culture, and climate. There are countless things to do across the country. Though these are some of the best places to check out during your stay in Vietnam, there are countless activities to try out. Prioritize what you will enjoy the most, whether that be the food, beautiful architecture, scenery or the wild nightlife.