Vietnam Tours, Activities, and Day Trips
Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country on the South China Sea known for its beaches, rivers, Buddhist pagodas and bustling cities. Hanoi, the capital, pays homage to the nation's iconic Communist-era leader, Ho Chi Minh, via a huge marble mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh City has French colonial landmarks, plus Vietnamese War history museums and the Cu Chi tunnels, used by Viet Cong soldiers.
A land of staggering natural beauty and cultural complexities, of dynamic megacities and hill-tribe villages, Vietnam is both exotic and compelling. Unforgettable experiences are everywhere in Vietnam. There's the sublime: gazing over a surreal seascape of limestone islands from the deck of a traditional junk in Halong Bay. The ridiculous: taking 10 minutes just to cross the street through a tsunami of motorbikes in Hanoi. The inspirational: exploring the world's most spectacular cave systems in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The comical: watching a moped loaded with honking pigs weave a wobbly route along a country lane. And the contemplative: witnessing a solitary grave in a cemetery of thousands of war victims.
Vietnamese culture is complex, diverse and represents something of a history lesson. The nation's labyrinthine, teeming trading quarters are rich in indigenous crafts and reflect centuries-old mercantile influences. Ancient temples display distinctly Chinese influences in the north and Hindu origins in the south. Meanwhile the broad, tree-lined boulevards and grand state buildings that grace the capital date from the French colonial period. And it's impossible to forget Vietnam's pivotal position close to the epicenter of East Asian power and prosperity, for its cities' skylines are defined by clusters of glass-and-steel corporate Headquarters and sleek luxury hotels.
In Southeast Asia nothing really comes close as far as gastronomy goes: Vietnamese food is that good. Incredibly subtle in its flavors and outstanding in its diversity, Vietnamese cooking is a fascinating draw for travelers - myriad street-food tours and cooking schools are testament to this. Geography plays a crucial role, with Chinese flavors influencing the soups of the north, spices sparking up southern cuisine, and herbs and complex techniques typifying the central coastline, rightly renowned as Vietnam's epicurean hot spot. And up and down the country you can mingle with villagers, sample local dishes and sip rice wine in Vietnam's many regional markets.
The Mekong Delta is an area in Southwestern Vietnam where the Mekong River dumps into the sea. Visitors can go to Can Tho, the largest city in the area, and get a real taste of rural life in this region affectionately known as the "rice bowl." Traveling up the backwaters, visitors will be wowed by the floating markets and above all else, the friendly people who live in the region.
Mammoth caves that hold entire jungles and lakes are still being discovered in Vietnam. Son Doong Cave, the biggest cave in the world, was only first explored in 2009, and didn't open to tourists until 2012. Trips into Son Doong are still highly controlled, expensive and limited, but there's a vast network of caves that are much more accessible. Paradise Cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, is 19 miles across and offers a variety of tours into its interior.
The vistas in Vietnam seem magical. Views of the horizon are magnificent, especially at sunset, all over the country. One of the most popular vistas, Halong Bay, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Gulf of Tonkin, is every bit as spectacular as people say. It is worth the drive and dealing with the swarms of tourists to see. The bay used to be littered with a lot more trash, but with recent clean-up efforts, it's much better these days. The 1,600 islands jut out of the sea, seemingly one on top of the other, creating a dramatic scape of mountains, sea and sky. They create a breathtaking view that shouldn't be missed.
Vietnam has plenty of thrills and chills. Some require a little physical effort, such as motorbiking switchback after switchback up the jaw-dropping Hai Van Pass in central Vietnam. Others require even more sweat: kitesurfing the tropical oceanic waters off Mui Ne or hiking the evergreen hills around Bac Ha or Sapa. And when you're done with all that adrenaline stuff, there's plenty of horizontal 'me' time to relish. Vietnam has outstanding spas - from exquisite marbled spa temples, to simple family-run massage salons with backpacker-friendly rates.
Vietnam should be a must on everyone's travel list. With its dramatic landscapes, fascinating history, epic food and pulsating energy, Vietnam will electrify all of your senses and seize you from all angles. Vietnam is at once crazy and serene, thrilling and relaxing. There are endless reasons to hop on a flight to Vietnam and spend some time traveling this amazing country, and the diversity offered here means that no matter what your interest are, you'll find something to inspire or entertain you. Whether you visit for the culture, the adrenaline, the vistas, the food, or for a relaxing time at the beach, you won't be disappointed, and you'll be glad you took the opportunity to make lifelong memories in this captivating destination.