The world has grown out of its routines. We no longer find solace in visiting the same spots every year for our two weeks of vacation, but we strive to venture into the unknown, the less explored, and the unpaved. Enter: Asia. This incredible continent is filled to the brim with regions, cities, and hidden natural spots that deserve a lifetime of adventure and exploration. However, next to the tech-driven streets of Hong Kong and Singapore, and the timeless beauty of China, Vietnam has finally emerged as a new top destination for travelers of all sorts and preferences.
Still, this is not your typical tourist destination where you can or should trot around with a bunch of bus tickets and a map. Considering its vastness and complexity, some areas of Vietnam will call for a motorbike (because that’s the ultimate way to get around), a guide, and a list of recommendations from experienced locals. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your trip to this exotic destination!
Time-travel in Tây Ninh City
Not your typical city on any tourist itinerary, and certainly a worthy stop for those who appreciate the historic and cultural heritage of Vietnam. Why this particular city? Because it’s the cradle and the most valuable remnant of a religion that came to be in the embrace of Vietnam, known as Caodaism – a curious blend of many other world religions, but present only in this remote region of Asia. In addition to their ancient religious heritage, you’ll be taken on a journey through time if you visit the Lo Go Xa Mat National Park, the remains of a primeval forest of diverse flora and fauna, including certain endangered species. If you’re staying in Ho Chi Minh City, you can take a bus to Tây Ninh, and then rent a motorbike to explore the surrounding area.
While the renowned Cao Đài Holy See is merely five kilometers from the heart of the city, the humidity and heat might not make it too pleasant of a walk, hence the many bicycles and bikes buzzing around. When you go to see this architectural masterpiece, you’ll notice a few patches of the aforementioned primeval forest on the premises – this is where monkeys reside and where you can feed them with fruits and nuts! An extraordinary way to sneak a peek into the past is to go underground – through the Cu Chi tunnels, which you can meander through with the help of a guide.
The City of Eternal Spring
The tropical humidity of Vietnam often poses a challenge for the typical tourist who isn’t used to this climate. However, the more temperate weather of Dalat, also known as the City of Eternal Spring, has started attracting more travelers every year – all year round. The average temperature ranges from 14 °C to 23 °C, which makes the city an idyllic spot for agriculture and floral wealth. In addition to abundant waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and pine forests, you’ll see the fields roaring with orchids, roses, and other flowers.
Somewhat smaller than the more populous Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, Dalat is packed with architectural gems, street food stalls, and hidden alleyways with coffee spots that will dazzle any gourmet out there. Make sure to look into various Dalat motorbike rental options so that you can cruise the city in peace, from visiting and taking a selfie near the Hằng Nga Guesthouse (also known as Crazy House), all the way to spending a day at the very first organic weasel coffee farm. If you want to see the incomparable Truc Lam Pagoda surrounded by pine trees and truly mesmerizing landscapes, you can take Dalat’s cable car – the vistas alone will be worth the journey!
Float your way to culinary delights
By now, you’ve spotted a pattern: the map of Vietnam is dotted with historic sights, interspersed with modern escapades of architecture and culture, a true blend of both the present and the past. Certain areas preserve their rural charm through their traditions, and one perfect symbol of their love for life’s smallest pleasures is the Mekong Delta, and the well-known floating markets that have made it so famous around the world. Immersed in the morning mists, the little, food-packed boats will take any traveler back to the beginning of this beloved tradition.
Rise early enough to mingle with the locals floating around, and you’ll have a chance to sample some of the finest noodle soups with different meats and tropical flavors, Vietnamese pancakes (also known as Banh xeo), and even durian cake. You’ll likely come across more unconventional dishes such as rat meat, but you will also find fish and chicken dishes to keep you full in case you’re not feeling that adventurous after all!
This brief itinerary has it all: the underground trails of Vietnam’s past, the religious landmarks scattered across the country, the water-based markets, and the motorbike routes worthy of your time. Make sure to see Vietnam through all the different lenses it offers, and you will likely wish to return and see more of this extraordinary country and its authentic charms.