160811 vietnam gettyimages
If the extent of your Vietnam experience is the rice paper roll you had for lunch, then we have a problem. From the food to the culture, people and pace, Vietnam is a sensory overload for all the best reasons. With so much to do and see and eat it’s hard to narrow down a selection of highlights but here's the ultimate checklist for your Vietnam travels.

Enjoy a sundowner overlooking Saigon

It’s indisputable; there is no better way to enjoy a stellar view than with a beverage in hand and the Duc Vuong Hotel, Broma Bar’s top floor, Chill Sky Bar and The Majestic all offer the goods on both fronts.

Get hooked on Vietnamese coffee

It’s actually mind-blowing that the rest of the world is yet to pick up on Vietnamese coffee and run with it. It’s all down to the not-so-secret ingredient of condensed milk. The unique preparation process helps, coarsely ground beans go into a French drip filter (called a phin), which sits on top slowing dripping a dark, strong brew into your cup.

160811 vietnamese coffee gettyimages2

 

Learn about the Vietnam War from a different perspective

Fair warning, the Vietnam Military History Museum is confronting, but worth it. The museum gives you shock insight into Vietnam’s military history and the ongoing impact it has on the country’s culture and people.

Navigate Hanoi’s Old Quarter

Get yourself a map (you know, those paper things with the squiggly lines) and try not to lose yourself in the chaos that is the Hoan Kiem District (the Old Quarter). Explore the alleyways, appreciate the beautiful colonial architecture, dodge rogue scooters, take in the bountiful street stalls and vendors and just know you will never experience anything quite like this anywhere else in the world.

160811 old quarter hanoi gettyimages

Temple of Literature and lunch across the road

Take a breather from the hectic traffic and explore the beautiful Temple of Literature and its surrounding gardens. Drop in for lunch across the road at KOTO, run by Australian-Vietnamese entrepreneur Jimmy Pham, which offers delish dishes while providing hospitality and life skills to local disadvantaged youth.

Homestay in Sapa

If you’re after the real-deal experience, homestays are the way to go. Families like Dat’s, who runs Heavenly Homestays, take you into their own home giving you the chance to really experience life in a rural village in Northern Vietnam. Surrounded by stunning rice fields and immersed in local culture, all components of your stay are taken care of including delicious home-cooked food and guided tours of the area.

sapa

See Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum

Dress modestly for a visit to Ho Chi Minh’s final resting place. Known to his people as ‘Uncle Ho’, the popular socialist leader’s remains are preserved here in a glass case.

Cruise through Ha Long Bay

A trip to Vietnam is not complete without a junk boat tour through the maze of limestone islands rising spectacularly out of the bay's emerald waters. Stop to swim, snorkel and kayak, and be sure to check out the Cave of Wonders after you’ve eaten the equivalent of your own body weight in local seafood.

160811 halong bay vietnam gettyimages

 

Appreciate Hue’s history

This former imperial city is jammers with interesting historical attractions like the Forbidden City, Thien Mu Pagoda, Thanh Toan and the Tombs of the Emperors.  

Take a tour down the Mekong Delta

Explore Vietnam’s agricultural heartland and sample local fare with a boat tour down the Mekong.

160811 mekong delta gettyimages

 

Get yourself a pair of pimped out custom trainers

Hoi An is infamous for its abundance of incredible tailors. Seriously, show them a snap of that Dion Lee skirt you’ve had your eyes on and you can expect an indistinguishable replica to be produced within 24-48 hours. Stock up on suits, coats, cocktail dresses and even custom-made shoes but be warned, handpick every detail and be very specific. Although the vendors are incredibly cheap in comparison to home, you get the quality you ask and pay for.

Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels

If you’re even slightly claustrophobic it’s best you stay well above ground for this one. Just outside of Ho Chi Minh is the remnants of the Vietcong’s extensive tunnel network which, at height of the Vietnam war, was several storeys deep and included countless trapdoors, constructed living areas, weapon factories, field hospitals and kitchens. If you are game enough you can make your way through a small section of the tunnel system, which mind you, has been widened for tourists.

160811 cu chi tunnels vietnam gettyimages

Tackle the Ben Thanh Market

Hone your haggling skills for a trip to one of Vietnam’s most bonkers markets. Handbags, shoes, clothes, souvenirs -- you name it and they’ve probably got a knockoff version.

Eat Pho on the streets of Ho Chi Minh city

Just like you’d sample pizza in Italy and sashimi in Japan you have to try Pho in Vietnam. Get acquainted with this God dang delicious noodle soup at pretty much every street vendor in town.

160811 vietnam pho gettyimages