Vietnam, one of Asia’s giants, is a densely populated country laced with rich cultural heritage, amazing people, picturesque locations, and mouth-watering foods. With the title of the 15th most populous country in the world, Vietnam is famous for its beaches, rivers, and its innate Buddhist practices regardless of the 73% demographic of folk or irreligious practices. Tourism in Vietnam is one of the largest influences in the country’s annual GDP and hence with a country as beautiful and Zen as Vietnam; you can expect its economy to be future-forward.
With all the luxurious landscapes, state of the art architecture, and tapestries that are woven into the heart of Vietnam, it’s more than just a tourist’s location; it’s a destination site. This piece is highlighting everything you need to know from the country’s history to famous and private tourist spots, even down to trip necessities when packing and, of course, vaccination requirements.
A brief history of Vietnam
This south-east Asian country can be found in the South China Sea. Its history is long and vast, but Vietnam has always been a country fighting for its peace and identity. With the country’s inter-tribal unity to form dynasties as far back as 2879 BCE, Vietnam was ruled by kings, and as much as there are still ‘royalty’ lineages in Vietnam, this monarchy soon dissolved and then came the wars. From world war II to the Vietnam war which raged on for years, you can say it took a lot of darkness, blood, sweat, and tears to get there but Vietnam is now a stable and peaceful country that is gradually thriving in this vast world and measuring up to other countries in its economic practices. Hence, there are a lot of monumental tombs of fallen heroes, war grounds and temples to look forward to during the tour.
What you should know
The country of Vietnam is a large one in terms of landmass and population demographics. With an area of about 331,210 km², (310,070 km² land, 21,140 km² of water), Vietnam shares a boundary with China, Laos, and Cambodia and the primary language of this country is Vietnamese (about 85.7%), and even as the country has a minority of English speaking locals, you’ll most likely need a translator to help you communicate. Just like a lot of other countries, you’ll need to plan your visit for the best available time. Being a tropical country, Vietnam is mostly temperate all year round. With the dawn of the rainy season comes heavy downpours that can ruin any romantic vacation in the country, and with Vietnam being blessed with tropical beaches and other water bodies, it really is the last place you’ll want to be during rainstorms. Hence, you’ll want to come around either during a fairly moist period of the dry season or a less humid period of the rainy season. Thus, book your flights anywhere from July-August or December-February to really enjoy the Vietnamese experience.
Now that we’ve highlighted a few ‘must-know’ facts about this beautiful country, we can start the tour already. With a landmass so large and a history so chaotic, there are a ton of places one can go. It all depends on you. Do you want to lay on the white sand beaches or jump off a cliff into the sea? Or do you want to explore the most historic parts of this country? Why choose when you can do all and then some. Here are a few locations that are on every tourist’s must-see list.
Ha Long Bay
Ha Long Bay is located in northeastern Vietnam somewhere within the Quang Ninh Province. This is one of the most visited locations in Vietnam, not just for its picturesque beaches but also for its monumental heritage. Ha Long in Vietnamese translates to ‘descending dragon,’ and most tourists are aflame with nature’s pleasures in this very calming location. Ha Long Bay can be categorized as a natural wonder because, with over 1600 limestone islands and islets spanning 1500 sqkm of land, it is one of the world’s treasures. Matter of fact this location was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as far back as 1994. So, what then can one do in Ha Long Bay? So much. From the bay’s boat cruises which are mostly a 2-day 1-night event to exploring the bay’s floating villages at Dau Go Island, not forgetting the virgin cave, pelican cave and of course, Dau Be island. Most couples love to canoe under bay’s hills or sunbathe at Cat Ba Island which also has a water park. Other fun activities to do include snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, swimming or jumping off one of the sheer mountain cliffs of Ha Long Bay. One of the many benefits of this location is that the quality of whatever service you’re getting from hotels to meals or any activity always exceeds the pricing. Ha Long Bay is truly a photographer’s paradise and it’s on a must-experience basis for anyone coming into Vietnam.
Mekong Delta, AKA The Rice Bowl of Vietnam is a beautiful water world with lush green varieties of greens carpeted all around the beautiful delta plains. Located in southwestern Vietnam, this maze of water bodies in the form of rivers, swamps, and even islands is the foundation on which the country’s most popular floating markets stand. The villages in the delta environs are cornered by lush rice paddies, and there’s so much to see here. From the iconic Mekong River which empties itself into the sea to the criss-cross canals which mimic the appearance of arteries, the Mekong Delta is over 40,500 sqkm of untapped experience, most of which is covered by water and mangrove forests, especially in the rainy season. Enough of the science trivia, what exactly can you do in Mekong Delta?
From walking on the white, picture-perfect sands of the Sao Beach to exploring Can Rang’s floating market, not forgetting seeking hidden treasures in Ha Tien’s Pirate Island. In Mekong delta, you can even go bird watching at Tra Su Bird Sanctuary, which is an 800,000 hectare forest or soak your feet in crisp ocean waters of Long Beach. Most tourists love to explore the rice paddies through canoeing along the many rivers of the Delta and with the tall rice blades bouncing off the sun’s rays, it’s really a cozy spot.
Cu Chi Tunnels
The Tunnels of Cu Chi is really monumental as it’s part of Vietnam’s rise to glory. During the Vietnam war and in a bid to obliterate the American and South Vietnamese forces, some communist guerilla troops or Viet Cong set out to dig tens of thousands of miles worth of tunnels. These tunnels are very extensive, and they run underneath the Cu Chi district. The Cu Chi tunnels were great for fabricating strategic attacks against the resistance and they were also used as routes to house troops. These tunnels were also utilized to transport diverse items from communications to supplies. They were equally used to lay siege, mount surprise attacks and lay booby tracks after which the troops could retreat safely and camp in the maze tunnels. Although the resistance devised a countermeasure which brought the war to an end, the Cu Chi Tunnels will always be part of Vietnam’s history. Decades later, Cu Chi Tunnels was inducted indicted into the Ho Chi Minh Vietnam War memorial park as it’s a fascinating tourist attraction site. To experience the history dug into the walls of these tunnels, there are tours you can go on. These tours are slated for mornings and afternoons and they last an average of six hours.
Now we’ve highlighted a bit about the top three must-see locations in Vietnam, and we can go further to highlight some other vital information.
What to bring
Vacationing always involves packing, and with packing, there are choices to be made. The choice of what to pack and what to leave out can be a difficult one especially when one is unaware of what he/she will be needing in a county like Vietnam to start with. First off, when vacationing to any location in the world, the first thing you should consider is the climate, seasons and temperatures there. For a country like Vietnam, it has a pretty temperate climate with the rainy and the dry season. Hence, these are some vital tips on what to pack in your travel bag.
Clothes: You may want to stick to some loose fitted clothes or clothes which are easy on the skin as you’re likely to sweat during some tours or activities. So anything from satin to silk or even cotton is fine, but definitely not wool clothes. This should be imbibed for both day and night outfits.
Shoes: Remember, Vietnam has hundreds of islands and even more jungles hence, pack appropriate shoes for it. You have no need for a leather strapped pair of boots when you’re on the beach or canoeing past the rice paddies. Sandals or slippers are very common, practical, and comfortable for these areas.
Skincare: Sunscreen is an absolute necessity. It’s either that or sunburn. Also, be sure to carry all your serums, oils, moisturizers, and cleansers as well. To avoid heavy luggage, get the travel size of all products.
Drugs/ointments: Bug spray or mosquito-repelling ointments should also be in your travel bag because of the country’s tropical climate. This way, you get to enjoy even the most remote areas and engage in diverse activities without having to deal with swatting a bug or two. Also, if you have any medical condition, never forget your medications.
Electronics: Your phone or a portable camera should be good enough to capture the experiences as you make new memories. Also, because the temperature could be a little higher than what you may be used to, consider investing in a great portable electronic or battery-powered mobile fan. This could help you keep the heat at bay. Also, anything that can play music would be great on those lazy days at the beach.
These are a few of the essentials that you should have in your travel bag just to ensure you are as comfortable as can be and, thus, enjoy your stay in this paradise country.
As Vietnam increases its popularity amongst tourists, vaccinations have become a necessity for anyone coming into the country. The center for disease control, CDC, together with the W.H.O, has recommended a list of travel vaccinations for Vietnam. These vaccinations are against the following diseases:
- Hepatitis A: This is recommended for a lot of travelers going in and out of the country.
- Hepatitis B: This disease can be transmitted through blood and bodily fluids.
- Typhoid: Typhoid shots last two years while the oral vaccine last up to 5 years and it must be kept in a refrigerator.
- Japanese Encephalitis: This disease is transmitted by Mosquito, which you’re likely to see in Vietnam.
- Rabies: Vietnam is a high-risk country with respect to rabies, which is why this vaccine is recommended for long-stay travelers or those who’ll come in contact with animals.
- Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR): This was given to anyone born after 1957.
Other vaccinations include Tetanus shots, Diphtheria, and Pertussis vaccinations. Vietnam also encourages travelers to take vaccinations against chickenpox, pneumonia, influenza, meningitis, and polio. These are all WHO and CDC recommended/stipulated vaccinations for anyone with the intention of traveling to Vietnam. These vaccinations aim at protecting both residents and visitors from catching or dispersing any type of communicable disease.
Vietnam is such, country. From the history to the culture, temples to floating markets, skyscrapers and amazing views, it’s the ideal place to explore both spirituality and intimacy. With such a huge landmass, it could be somewhat impossible to see everything during your visit, which is why we’ve narrowed it down to the top three. These locations have been highly recommended by past tourists and locals to be filled with blank canvases of possibilities. Hence, all you need to do is pick up the brush and paint your experiences.