We all have a bucket list. The problem is, sometimes we keep adding to the on-going bullets, as opposed to checking off those at the top. Realistically, our bucket lists will be something we manipulate in the back of our mind for the rest of our lives, but it might be time to start whittling it down! With this, we have a suggestion. One of the Yampu Team recently checked the friendly and beautiful Vietnam off of her list. Traveling down the coast of the South-East Asia country, she absorbed the rich culture, indulged in the delectable cuisine, and engaged with the welcoming people. Interested? If you answer yes to any of the following questions, then it’s time to take the leap, and check off this destination that’s been brewing on your own bucket list!
Whether you travel by car, bus, or train, you will be engulfed by the endless beauty of Vietnam. Visit the marble sculpting villages within the Marble Mountain range, or take a stroll through the rice paddy fields to visit the local farmers. One of the best ways to see the mountains and luscious greenery that go for miles is to travel over the Hải Vân Pass from Hue to Danang. Also known as the “Ocean Cloud” Pass, climb up the highest road in Vietnam, with overwhelming views of the ocean and the Truong Son (Annamite) Mountain Range. At the summit, find local vendors, and climb up to the old French Fort bunkers that eerily rest within the clouds that speed by. On one side, gaze down to the coastline of the South China Sea, while on the other you’ll find that of the Danang Bay. Not convinced? Trek through the rice paddy fields of Sapa, in the Northeast. Surrounded by the vista of Vietnam’s highest peak, Fansipan, the region holds countless trails and walks for all enthusiasts. Tag along with the children of the Hill Tribe Villages, and lose yourself in the cascading rice farms.
One of the best parts of traveling, or vacation itself, is eating. Not only are you letting yourself indulge in the lavish cuisines that you try to cut down at home, but you can try those dishes that your local international restaurant isn’t getting quite right. For those seafood nuts, travel to the Nha Trang beach for fresh fish cooked right off the boat. On the sand, behind the row of bustling restaurants, you will find local women bringing their street vending right next to the surf. Negotiate a price on the sand after you’ve picked from the fresh crab, prawns, squid, clams, and scallops displayed on ice in reed baskets. Sit under the stars on a tarp, sipping a can of the local beer, and wait while she uses a bit of sauce and spice to grill up the best lobster tail you’ll ever have. More of a cold-cuts kind of person? Well the Banh Mi is one of the world’s most renowned sandwiches. Named for its bread, the Vietnamese baguette, this hoagie is often filled with pate, pickled carrots, fish sauce, cilantro, and tofu, steak, or chicken (but you can usually get anything thrown in there!) Another popular dish is the Pho Noodle Soup. A simple combination of clear rice noodles, beef broth, and steak strips, this noodle bowl is garnished with flavorful spices such as cilantro, bean sprouts, chili peppers, and green onions. Tickle your taste buds with everything that the Vietnamese cuisine has to offer.
A statement from one of our own here at Yampu, there’s no better escape than slipping into the South China Sea for a dip. The southern coast of Vietnam is lined with beaches. Add a couple days in the sun to your trip hopping around the country, or plan a couple of weeks at one of the luxury resorts. The most popular strip is located in Nha Trang. Covered in silky smooth white sand, the beach has everything from visitors lounging under shaded cabanas, to adrenaline junkies parasailing over the clear blue waters. The bustling nightlife will keep you on your toes. With endless restaurants that cook up fresh seafood caught that day, Nha Trang lets you melt into the serenity of the surf. If for you, the beach means and island, then skip over towards the Cambodia coast and set up at Phu Quoc. This fine tropical island has everything from scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, and of course that thatched cabana with a margarita waiting. Wake up early to absorb the Vietnamese culture at the Duong Dong Market. Hit the local restaurants to taste the flavorful local cuisine. If lying on a beach is a must in your vacation, then start packing your bags!
As we all know, Vietnam has a thorough, and rich history. From past international relations, to their religious traditions and relics, the country is full of must-see destinations and sites. As the locals often told us, they are looking to forgive, but not forget. They openly and excitedly invite tourists from all over the world to visit the historical landmarks scattered down the coast. One of the most visited sites is the Cu Chi Tunnels just out of Ho Chi Minh City. This intricate and immense network of tunnels was the base of operation for the North Vietnamese during the Tết Offensive in 1968. Walk through the jungle, and see the booby traps, fighting trenches, and bunkers set above ground. Then you can take the plunge, and walk up to 80 meters underground, through the dark and eerie tunnels yourself! After traveling up north to Central Vietnam, make sure to stop in the majestic city of Hue. A walled fortress protects the Imperial City, the former Vietnamese capital. Within the Imperial City lies the Purple Forbidden City (Imperial Enclosure), built and occupied by the Emperor Gia Long in 1804. Beautiful temples, ornate doorways, and decorative urns fill the abandoned citadel. Remnants from the war are evident on the stone walls, but many of the original buildings are being reconstructed. Need you hear more? Oh… did we mention that in Hanoi you can see the preserved body of President Ho Chi Minh resting peacefully in his tomb? There you go.
If you haven’t already been hooked, there’s nothing better than getting lost in an exploration of the nation’s cities and countryside. The fantastic color that lines the markets and buildings of Hanoi, and the rich chatter of men gambling at the street vendor tables only taps into what Vietnam has to offer. One of the most intoxicating cultures in the Northwest is the floating villages of Halong Bay. Around 1,600 people live in fishing villages around the 3,000 limestone monolithic islands of the area. With fishing as their main occupation, the residents of these villages head to the mainland to trade their product for rice, vegetables, and any other commodity necessary. Take a day or overnight cruise through the mystical bay and visit the communities who float through each day. Get sea sick? Well regardless of where you are, wake up with the sunrise, and head to the local beach, park, or temple to watch the day being greeted by morning exercises. The areas fill with women grouping together for Tai Chi, or men performing their own calisthenics. More fascinating is on the coast, where you stare down the surf and see the water packed with those swimming and cooling off before the mid-day heat. Join in, and feel refreshed from the workout, and such a sense of community.