15 BUCKET LIST THINGS TO DO IN VIETNAM
Whether it's lazing on white-sand beaches or delving into subterranean mazes built by the Viet Cong, riding record-breaking gondolas or hiking the wild paths of the northern mountains, Vietnam has plenty on its bucket list. Check out our top suggestions below…
1. Help with the rice harvest in Sa Pa
Sa Pa sits nestled between the verdant mountains of north Vietnam. We at LBW think it's hands down one of the most awesome places in the country. It's got oodles of character thanks to the rustic tribespeople that call it home, not to mention a truly breathtaking location between the rugged Fansipan mountain and the great karst valleys that rise close to China. We plan hiking excursions through the wilds here, and even sometimes get to help out the locals with the rice harvest!
2. Join the locals in the Dam Sen Waterpark
If you're sick of the big city of Ho Chi Minh and fancy cooling off with the locals, then be sure to head straight for the Dam Sen Waterpark. This fun-loving attraction to the east of the center is packed with winding slides and adrenaline-pumping water rides. It's got splash pools and winding rivers, along with places to eat and sunbathe. It's the perfect break from Saigon; Nam's largest metropolis.
3. Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels
Anyone interested in tracing the dark histories of Vietnam's 20th century past should be sure to make a beeline for the Cu Chi Tunnels. This winding labyrinth of subterranean passages that weaves through the earth on the edge of Ho Chi Minh City was where the Viet Cong planned their military advance in the Tet Offensive. They also hosted underground hospitals, supply routes and sleeping quarters.
4. Hit the floating markets of the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta marks the spot where Southeast Asia's mightiest river spreads out in tendrils to meet the waters of the South China Sea. It’s a beautiful region that's been hailed as the breadbasket of Vietnam for its fertile soils and seemingly endless swathes of rice paddies. Another draw are the floating markets, which pop up on the waterways offering stacks of fresh fruit and a picture of rustic, rural Vietnamese life in motion.
5. Laze on the sands of Phu Quoc
Sparkling stretches of pearly white sand and swaying clutches of coconut palms, traditional fishing hamlets that drop down into the waters of the Thai Gulf and more sea-front cabanas than you can shake a bubbling bowl of pho soup at: all that and more awaits on the paradisiacal island of Phu Quoc. It's easy to see why it's quickly become the top beach destination in Vietnam; and the perfect place to laze around under the sun.
6. Get a tailor-made suit/dress in Hoi An
Ever since we first set foot in the charming, UNESCO-attested town of Hoi An with our first LBW tour in Vietnam, we've been totally in love with the place. Influenced by the French, it has a charming European feel to it, with bobbing dhows moored along its harbors and dragon bridges arched over the old town area. Hoi An is also famed around the globe for its tailors, whose workshops dot the center by the bucket load. You'll usually be able to get fitted and fixed up with a bespoke tux in under a day!
7. Sail through Ha Long Bay
There are few attractions in all of Southeast Asia with the same ability to take the breath away as Ha Long Bay. Tagged by UNESCO and peppering the pearly waters of the South China Sea off from the northern coast of the country, it's formed from hundreds of karst islands and rugged mountains that rise and fall like great needles of rock from the sea. It's unquestionably one of the top draws here, and boating through the region is a must for any bucket list!
8. Ride the gondola to Vin Pearl Island
Vin Pearl Island and the amusement park that pulses with twisting rollercoasters and water-splashing slides that goes with it can be founding popping up from the South China Sea just opposite the city of Nha Trang. There's loads to keep you busy once you arrive (think countless rides a la Disneyland), while the gondola ride across the bay is an awesome attraction in its own right – it goes for more than 3 kilometers over the ocean before dropping visitors in the park.
9. Wonder at Paradise Cave, Dong Hoi
Dong Hoi hasn't been on any Vietnam bucket list for very long. That's because it was totally unknown to everyone until 2005, when it was accidentally discovered by a local wandering though the national park that surrounds it. In 2010, a road was constructed to the attraction, opening its colossal caverns and bulbous stalactites for all to see.
10. Explore the highlands of Da Lat
There are plenty of reasons why the high-perched town of Da Lat, set some 1.5 kilometers above the sun-scorched lowlands of Nam', on the edge of the Langbian Plateau, has become one of the top destinations for locals. It's cool, fresh air is one of the major draws, and so is the tasty coffee beans that grow here. For LBW tours though, it's the adrenaline-pumping activities that abound in the backcountry nearby: caving, waterfall swimming, rafting and more!
11. Go on a street food odyssey in Hanoi
From the lemongrass scents and fizzing Sichuan peppers of the stir fries to the fresh seafood spring rolls and bubbling bowls of pho soup, there's oodles of taste-bud-tingling street food to get through in Vietnam. And there's nowhere better to go on a culinary odyssey than in the capital of Hanoi. Check out the street stalls the spill out between the alleys around Phang Ngu and De Tham for some of the top flavours.
12. Board your way down the dunes of Mui Ne
Mui Ne might be better known for its windblown beaches than its dunes (windsurfing competitors flock here to try their skills out on the swells of the South China Sea), but there's no ignoring the awesome looks of those rising and falling sand mounds on the edge of town. Scooter your way over, cycle or catch a bus, rent a small board from one of the locals, and enjoy a day of sand boarding.
13. Hike below the Fansipan
Soaring to a whopping 3,143 meters above sea level, the craggy tops of the Fansipan mountain represent the highest peak in all of Indochina. Although there's actually one of the world's longest cable cars now going to the top, those pining for a challenge will prefer the hiking trails that go to the summit. Treks last between 2 and 3 days, and offer up sweeping panoramas above the clouds and mountain ranges of northern Nam'.
14. Motorbike tours in the mountains
Over the last couple of decades, Vietnam has risen to become one of the top motorbiking destinations on the globe. Riders flock here to complete famous loops through the ranges of Fansipan or the Central Highlands, while others simply roll across the country from north to south. Of course, you'll need to get all the proper licenses and documents, and be darn careful as you navigate those traffic choked-streets in the cities!
Delve into the temples and historic relics of Hue
Hue is an often-overlooked city on the line-up of Vietnam's travel destinations. However, those who do opt to visit are in for a medley of awesome temples and wonderful historic sites. There's the Forbidden Purple City to see, which was once the home of the Nguyen kings and comes packed with citadels and gilded gateways. There are other Buddhist temples and looming pagodas, each shouldering up atop the Perfume River.
Of course, there are plenty of other things that could easily make this bucket list. If you can think of any other top things to do in Vietnam, we'd love to hear about them in the comments below. Or, if you think it's time you headed out to explore this jewel of Indochina, be sure to check out LBW's tours in Vietnam.