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.