Chủ Nhật, Tháng Tư 21, 2024
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HomeSorted by levelB2 - Upper IntermediateThings to do in Vietnam: readers’ travel tips

Things to do in Vietnam: readers’ travel tips

[Reading level: B2 – Upper Intermediate]

Beautiful countryside, delicious food and fascinating culture … readers share the most memorable places and experiences from their travels, often discovered in the company of knowledgeable locals.


Ninh Binh countryside – Vùng nông thôn Ninh Bình

OK, so the town of Ninh Binh (two hours’ drive south of Hanoi) is no looker, but the surrounding countryside will seduce you. Once there I hired a bicycle and set out early morning to explore the karst limestone scenery (think Halong bay with rice paddies replacing the sea). It was a wonderfully peaceful day of exploring villages, and having a picnic by the side of rice fields while watching the locals work. After two weeks in Vietnam, it was the first time I could really listen to the birds and feel at peace. It can be hard to escape the mopeds, but I had found the Vietnam I had hoped for.


Hanoi Kids tours – Tour trẻ em ở Hà Nội

Sign up for a free tour with Hanoi Kids, an organisation that pairs travellers with students learning English. It’s free and you’ll get a local’s perspective on the city, culture and cuisine. They filled us in on Hanoi life, their ambitions and the Korean pop stars they like over lunch in their favourite cafe. At the memorial to Communist leader Ho Chi Minh, we talked about politics and what the place meant to them. You set the pace and they give you tips for making the most of your time in the city. The tour is free apart from any entrance fees – if you give money to the guide they’ll pass it on to the organisation.


Food tour in Hanoi – Tour ẩm thực tại Hà Nội

Vietnam is a food lover’s paradise, with countless tasty and affordable options, but the sheer amount of things and places to eat, especially in the big cities, can be overwhelming. Hanoi was the culinary highlight for me and a tour with a local guide is the perfect way to sample a wide selection in a relatively short amount of time. Our guide took us to six of her favourite places in the city and the food she ordered for us was fantastic in all of them. Bun cha (pork with rice noodles), mi quang (fantastic noodle dish), happy pancakes, spring rolls, pho, beautiful steamed fish, sticky rice and egg coffee (yes, you read it correctly) were some of the highlights. She also taught us how each should be eaten and which sauces go best with each dish and the correct dipping order. We gained some great tips on specialities to seek out in other regions of Vietnam. This was definitely a stand-out from my time in Vietnam and cost just $15.


Dai Lanh and the Hon Gom sandbar – Đại Lãnh và bán đảo Hòn Gốm

Dai Lanh beach, 80km north of Nha Trang, where the lush Annamite mountains meet the ocean, is a brilliant place. Once there, I’d suggest you hire a scooter and make your way down the 30km-long Hon Gom sandbar. On a scooter you can ride past the sand dunes and over the sand-smeared tarmac of a new road leading to the Vuon Xoai restaurant in the floating hamlet of Son Dung. Here you can dive off the pontoon, go on a tour of the village by boat, and dine and sleep under the stars in a hammock. You can get the night bus here from Ho Chi Minh City, but it takes about 12 hours.


Overnight sleeper from Hanoi to Da Nang – Ngủ đêm từ Hà Nội vào Đà Nẵng

For a cheap, interesting and easy journey from Hanoi to Da Nang (for Hoi An) we booked the overnight sleeper train through which delivered tickets to our hotel and were efficient and courteous. Hurtling south in the dark our patchy sleep was punctuated by the arrival of the beer and noodle trolley and change of occupancy of the opposite bunks. A Vietnamese family of three was followed by a guard from the train, then more tourists. At daybreak there were glimpses of small shops on the edge of the track, views of coastline, water buffalo, bananas, more coastline, more beer and noodle trolleys before we glided into Da Nang the following morning.


Water puppet shows – Múa rối nước

Water puppetry is a Vietnamese tradition and was one of the best cultural activities I did on my trip. If your experience of puppet shows consists of Punch and Judy-type performances you are in for a surprise. The stage is a large pool of water in which the puppets act out tales from Vietnamese folklore with a traditional Vietnamese orchestra playing throughout. The puppeteers are extremely skilled and great artistry goes into the puppets themselves. Apart from just a handful of tourists, the theatre was filled with local families enjoying the show. This really is something you can only experience in Vietnam, but is an activity that seems to get overlooked by many visitors. I visited the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre in Ho Chi Minh (tickets $7.50), but there are also daily shows near Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre ($3-$5). I bought my tickets at the box office a couple of hours before the show.


An Bang Beach – Bãi biển An Bàng

We stayed at An Bang Beach for a week, a few miles from Da Nang, right by Hoi An. In the tiny village, down a dark side path is the Purple Lantern – a fantastic little restaurant in the front yard of the owner’s family’s house (Na – she’s an amazing cook, with a dry sense of humour). Her food focuses on daily caught seafood. No fuss, all taste. Out of the seven nights we stayed in An Bang, we ate there fives times – it really is that good, but Na’s hospitality and humour made it all the more special. To top it all, An Bang’s quiet, beautiful beaches make Da Nang’s pale in comparison.


Hoi An’s Library hotel – Khách sạn Thư viện ở Hội An

For an affordable and comfortable stay in Hoi An, I’d go for the Vinh Hung 3 hotel (also known as the Vinh Hung Library). It’s a stone’s throw from the old town, has a lovely rooftop pool and the friendliest staff. Breakfast was wonderful, with tasty treats to suit every palate. Visitors can rent bikes just outside the hotel and ride off along rice fields and to the beach. If you want to try one of the famous cooking classes in Hoi An, I would recommend the Gioan cooking school – we learned to make several delicacies there that I now often make at home.


Lunch and trekking with the Black Hmong – Ăn trưa và leo núi với người H’Mông Đen

By far the most amazing experience I had in Vietnam was in the north, near Sapa, and the day spent with the Black Hmong Tribe. Our host, Ker, met us at our hotel in Sapa, and took us shopping for ingredients, which her brother in law collected and took back to their village on a moped. We then hiked for around three hours amid brilliant Hoang Lien national park scenery to the village where they lived. On arriving at Ker’s house we met her children, and helped prepare spring rolls. Ker’s English was fantastic, and she happily answered our questions about her life, children, home, her beliefs and her village. The food – shared with the whole family – was fabulous. It was truly magical to see the differences and similarities in our lives as women with children, and I will forever be grateful to Ker for the insight into her life.


Da Nang mountain bike tour – Tour leo núi bằng xe đạp ở Đà Nẵng

This trip starts as the sun rises over Da Nang and it takes in the Dragon bridge and the stunning countryside. Pedalling through villages and mountains with a small group and a knowledgeable local guide is a really fun way to see this beautiful and historic area. Pathbiker, the company we used for the trip, operates several tours from Da Nang – half or full days and some of three to four days. Special tip: after the tour, cool down in the amazing rooftop infinity pool at the deluxe A La Carte hotel.






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