5 places to visit in Vietnam

Guest post by Marius

Southeast Asia is a great place to travel to. A while ago, when I decided to quit my 8 to 5 office job and go travelling for a year, it “won” the competition against South America and Europe. Friendly, safe, cheap — how can you beat that? I’ve been to most of the countries in the region, but in this article I want to focus on one of them — Vietnam.
The whole of Southeast Asia is the choice for travellers on a budget. But no country can beat Vietnam in sense of price / quality ratio of the accommodation. It is cheap, hostels are abundant and the standard is rather good. You can’t ask for a personal jacuzzi when you are paying 7 USD for a room, now can you?
The only beef I had with amenities, were occasional separate hot and cold water taps. 21st century, anyone?

Hanoi

Take an early stroll around the lake of Hoan Kiem, and join the crowds crazy about fitness. Jogging, Tai-Chi, badminton, you name it, they’ve got it. Oh, and did I mention that you’ll have to be there at around 6 AM?

Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

If that is too early, visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum for a much more serious experience. Wipe that smirk off your face, as the guards will have none of it.
In the evening, visit a street stall for a dinner, and try to find out what kind of meat is in your soup. Adrenaline guaranteed!

Fansipan mountain

From Hanoi, taking a northbound train, and later a crazy minibus ride up the mountain road will take you to Sapa, a tranquil town with a rich French colonial history.
Ask around for a guide, or visit one of many tour companies that will help you arrange a trek to the Fansipan – highest mountain in Indochina standing at 3,143 metres (10312 ft). Plan for a trip of at least two or three days. And sore muscles afterwards.

Fansipan peak, Vietnam

Fansipan peak, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay

Being UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature implies certain expectations.

ships at Ha Long bay, Vietnam

ships at Ha Long bay, Vietnam

And Ha Long Bay delivers. Hire a boat and slowly float amongst thousands of beautiful limestone cliffs, mountains and islets, visit the Hang Đầu Gỗ cave (Wooden stakes cave), or just gaze at the daily life in one of the fishing villages comprising of floating houses.

Mui Ne

What good is a trip without spending a few relaxing days on the beach? Take a good rest, soak in the warmth, or be a daredevil and go surfing, kite-surfing or windsurfing, the choice is yours. Just make sure to take it easy with the beer during a seafood rich dinner, as one of the mornings has to be reserved for getting up at 5 AM and driving a rented motorbike to red sand dunes, where the sun is about to rise.

Red sand dunes, Mui Ne, Vietnam

Red sand dunes, Mui Ne, Vietnam

Arriving early will put you ahead of the crowd, and, most importantly — will help you take that stunning photo you always dreamed of.

Saigon

Ho Chi Minh City now, Saigon before — call it what you want, but the name won’t change the place. It is big, dynamic, bustling megapolis, with crowds and crowds of people. If you are up for a challenge, try to cross a never-stopping river of motorbikes flowing along any of the bigger streets. The only way to do it is walking slowly and steadily, without jerky movements.

motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam

motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam

The lifestyle here is much more business oriented than in the capital Hanoi, but at least a few historical sites, like Củ Chi tunnels, or War Remnants Museum are really worth a visit.

About the Author: Marius has left his well paid office job for a career break in Southeast Asia. Now he is a photographer and blogger. On cringel.com he shares his knowledge and expertise about the region in a witty and straightforward way.