Out of all the countries I’ve visited, Vietnam is one of my favorites. Look passed the scams and you’ll find a country that has so much to offer: breathtaking landscapes, booming cities, charming villages, paradisiac beaches, … Here’s a list of my favorites activities.
(I’ll write seperate posts about most of the places listed below, so please check back later for the complete stories – or subscribe to my newsletter!)
Meet ancient Vietnam’s finest scholars at the Temple of Literature in Hanoi
The Temple of Literature is one of many temples dedicated to Conficius and hosts the Imperial Academy, Vietnam’s first national university. Bureaucrats, nobles, royalty and other members of the elite were educated here.
Walking through the front gate is like entering a different world. The site is an oasis of calm in the middle of the busy city. Highlights of the visit are the different courtyards and the Stelae of Doctors, in which are engraved the names and birthplaces of the graduates of the royal exams.
Be overwhelmed by the beauty of Halong Bay
I’d never seen everything like Halong Bay before going there and I haven’t seen anything like it ever since. Although the limestone pillars of Halong Bay aren’t unique in the world from a geological point of view (there are similar formations in eg. Guilin province in China, which I’ve visited as well), both experiences are totaly incomparable. Mystical, breathtaking and magnificent, Halong Bay is one of my favorite places in the world.
Read the full story of my visit in this post.
Get lost in the Imperial City in Hue
I’ve read many stories comparing the Imperial City in Hue to the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. I’ve visited both and think they’re both so different and unique, it’s a shame to compare them. The Imperial City in Hue – although smaller and in less good condition – is so charming! Many of the buildings have been destroyed during war and still haven’t been restored, but others are just radiant with all their bright colors. The place is melancholic and peaceful at the same time and the calm that reigns here is such an appeasement. We walked around for about 3 hours and saw almost no other people!
Sail down the Perfume River and visit the Royal Tombs in Hue
The overwhelming calm of Tu Duc’s tomb, the elegance of the tomb of Minh Mang and the extravagance of Khai Dinh’s tomb made this day trip one of the highlights of our journey through Vietnam. The whole day is centered about imperial tombs but all of them are so different, we didn’t get bored one second.
Fall in love with the charming town of Hoi An
The main reason to visit the town of Hoi An is the town of Hoi An itself. We didn’t do a lot of visits (museums etc.), we just wandered around the beautiful streets, went for a drink, relaxed, … Cars and motorbikes aren’t allowed in the city center, which is a relief! The town’s even prettier at night, when hundreds of lanterns light the streets. A visit to My Son archeological site, at 60km from Hoi An is definitely worth a visit too!
Witness the horror of war at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City
I must admit: this museum is completely one-sided and its main objective is clearly to portray the Americans as the bad guys rather than to give an accurate version of history. I understood that almost immediately after walking in.
But it’s not because only part of the truth is shown that the part you get to see becomes less cruel. What happened, happened to real people and really touched me.
Obviously, this is not a ‘fun’ visit. I left the museum speechless and with tears in my eyes. The picture below isn’t the most cruel one but did particulary touch me. Just look at the fear and despair in this man’s eyes…
Read this post for more pictures.
Discover the Mekong Delta by boat
Take the slow boat to Cambodia and get your heart broken by the every day life scenes along the shore. Read my whole experience here.
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Great post about Vietnam. I’ve been to Hanoi and HCMC a couple of times, but traveling the length of Vietnam is definitely on my bucket list before I leave SE Asia.
I’d really recommend it! Hanoi and HCMC are great but the center of the country is so different, calm and beautiful…
Nice photos! And nice blog.
Thanks so much! 🙂
I’d tend to agree with you that the experience of Halong Bay, if not the geological formations, is totally unique and mystical, going there was the absolute highlight of Vietnam for me.
Glad you loved it too!
I haven’t got there yet although my friends have been nagging me for some time to organise a Vietnam+Laos trip. However I heard really mixed opinions expressed about Vietnam – I guess it is the question of how many scams and rip-offs you encounter 🙂
I’ve heard many different opinions too: either people really love it, either they hate it. It’s full of rip-offs, you won’t be able to avoid them, which is sometimes really anoying when you’re there but which in some way is also part of the experience. The cultural shock is huge (much more than in any other country I’ve been to) but that’s also part of the reasons why I loved it so much… 🙂
I need to make it to Vietnam on my next trip to SE Asia. You’ve highlighted many of things I’d like too do. I especially love wandering around new places and Hoi An looks like a good place to do just that!
It’s the perfect place for that! 🙂
Amazing photos! I haven’t been to Vietnam but I’m definitely planning to, and I have a feeling that you pictured the essence of the country perfectly.
Thanks Aileen, that’s a great compliment! 🙂 I wish you a fantastic trip already!
What a beautiful country! I have really close friends who are Vietnamese American, and I always told myself I’d like to go with them when they visit! Glad I’ll have a list of things to do to bring with me 😉
You should, it’s a magnificent country! 🙂 I hope you’ll have a great trip!!
So, so beautiful!! Unfortunately i’ve just read about it and hope to come very soon!! Your picts are great!!
Thanks so much!!!
Great post, Vietnam is such a beautiful place 🙂
Great reads about Vietnam, I can feel you loved it! Unfortunately u couldn’t visit Da Nang as well or we might have met! Central Vietnam is indeed very different than the North or South
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Ah..Halong Bay is just not from this world. It really feels like paradise. Still need to go tho 🙁
hate the fact that flight time is 17hours or so *sigh*
Great article! Ive been to Vietnam last year for one month en enjoyed it a lot.
My favorite things to do were a trekking in Sapa, the tombs in Hue, the beach in Hoi An and the sanddunes in Mui Ne.
Hello Lili, I have just returned from Vietnam and visited all the places you have mentioned except HCM city. All the places you mentioned are great and I have missed Khai Dinh tomb, because I haven’t read your article before. I would though suggest that you visit Phong Nha and the beautiful caves there next time you go to Vietnam. They were not that popular (or even discovered in 2015), but it’s really worth it.
So amazing. Beside nice views, Vietnam still has a lot of foods such as Pho, Banh Xeo, Banh Mi… you can try it.
Sounds like you’ll be having a great time in Vietnam.
Thank you for sharing a post about Vietnam 🙂
The tombs are definitely one of my favorite parts of Vietnam as well. There aren’t many places you can go that have tombs for you to explore! 🙂
I love the unique culture here. It is new to me both culturally and in food, very diverse. Thank you for the great article to me and everyone.
Great advice! I recently travelled to Vietnam and LOVED it, especially the food!! Didn’t make it to Hue but definitely adding it to my list for if I am lucky enough to go again.
Love that I have discovered your blog, I can really identify with it!
Vietnam is very beautiful and the people are very friendly.
wellcom to u with us
Next time you if visit Vietnam again, pls experience the Mekong Delta with us. You are more than welcome.