PHOTO: Bikes on a busy Vietnam street. (photo by Michelle Rae Uy)
If you think those steaming bowls of pho are a big indicator of what Vietnam is like, you’re in for a big surprise.
Pho may be the extent of what many people know about this Southeast Asian destination, but you’ll certainly fall in love with the melting pot of textures, sounds and aromas, plus a truly unforgettable setting for many adventures.
Visit this amazing country once and you won’t ever want to leave.
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The people are warm, friendly, and always smiling.
You’ll fall in love with its people as much as you will with the country itself. The Vietnamese people are always warm, friendly and ready to extend a helping hand when you need it.
They’re also some of the most genuinely welcoming people in Asia. It’s not uncommon to meet locals who would happily chat with you while you’re taking a leisurely stroll at a park, or a shopkeeper offering to give you directions if you find yourself lost somewhere.
Everything is dirt cheap!
You can eat and drink like royalty for a week in the country with only $40 in your pocket, especially if you are on a steady diet of street food, (which is really the ONLY way to do Vietnam).
And it’s not just the food either. Even in the most touristy of places, most goods—from souvenirs to clothing—come at a fraction of what they would normally cost in other locales. If you have a penchant for shopping while on vacation, Vietnam is the perfect place for you.
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The markets sell just about everything.
Vietnamese markets are some of the most fascinating places you’ll ever visit in the country. There’s beauty in their chaos, and they’re great for people watching.
Most importantly for shoppers, they seem to carry just about everything you can ever want or need, from the tiniest things like pins and buttons, to party favors and children’s toys, to fresh meats and vegetables. They’re basically retail wonderlands.
The beer is good and refreshing.
Beer in this country is not only cheap—you can get a bottle for less than a dollar—they’re also refreshingly good. What a great way to cool down during those hot, humid days that Vietnam has a lot of! Take a break from your explorations and get a couple of bottles with your bowl of bun cha for lunch.
Hanoi and Saigon are the most popular brands.
The food is unforgettable.
You can skip going on a boat tour of Ha Long Bay. You won’t have to see Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park if you don’t want to. But you absolutely cannot and must not miss out on the local food.
Vietnamese food is one of the best cuisines in Asia. It's light yet tasty, healthy yet hearty. Eating is an unforgettable way to experience and get to know the country.
The coffee is amazing.
You’ve never had coffee until you’ve had Vietnamese coffee.
The beans are produced and roasted locally. Coffee in this country is typically made using the slow drip method, which really brings out very rich and slightly chocolaty flavor. One favorite way to prepare them is with condensed milk and lots of ice.
The cities will keep you on your toes.
There are motorcycles coming from every direction, vendors peddling their wares everywhere, locals playing all sorts of games in the parks, and plastic dining stools and scooters taking up most of the sidewalks.
Vietnam’s cities are completely chaotic, yet somehow, there’s so little not to love about it all. The disarray is so appealing and so completely unforgettable, all you want to do is immerse yourself in it.
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The countryside looks like you’ve just walked into Jurassic Park.
Lush jungles, towering limestone karsts and herculean cave systems make up Vietnam’s landscape. And they’ll make you feel like you’ve just been transported back in time to a prehistoric period.
So prehistoric, in fact, that it was actually used as a movie location for Kong: Skull Island. Take a mountain bike ride through the countryside, and you can almost hear the Jurassic Park theme song playing in the background.
There are a lot of caves, and they’re astounding.
Vietnam is famous for its colossal cave systems, the most famous of which is Hang Son Doong. It’s the biggest and one of the most spectacular in the world.
There’s also: Paradise Cave, which is peppered with beautiful stalagmites and stalactite; the mud-covered Hang Toi, which boasts a mud pool that you can take a mud bath in; and the very extensive Phong Nha Cave.
The sunrises and sunsets are awe-inspiring.
Rising or setting, the Vietnam sun is an enormous, vividly orange ball grazing the horizon.
There’s nothing quite like the calm that follows as the sunsets over the countryside, and the sunrises are definitely worth rolling out of bed early for.