Top 5 things to do in Nha Trang

By: Vinh Dao

Top 5 things to do in Nha Trang

The weekend is one day away so if you are heading to Nha Trang, we have listed 5 things to do in Nha Trang. Nha Trang is known for it’s beaches and scuba diving sites and is a popular destination for both local and international tourists. While high rise hotels span the length of the main beach, the city still retains some of it’s local charm and if you are willing to head out of town, there are a few unspoilt beaches to be visit.

While we’ve written in length about Nha Trang in our Discover Vietnam post, we’ve listed our top 5 things to do at the beach destination.

1. Take a cable car to Hon Tre

Take the 3,320 metre gondola cable car to Hon Tre which is home to Vinpearl Land. This entertainment centre  includes a water park, bumper cars along with an expansive food court and is enough entertainment for the whole day!

Local insight: The cable car is the longest over the sea cable car in the world.

2. Take a mud bath

There are a few spas dotted around town that offer relaxing spa treatments but for the ultimate in relaxation, head to Thap Ba Hot Springs for a hot mineral-mud bath.

Local insight: They are a bit out of town so make sure you take a taxi there.

3. Get your PADI

The scuba diving is world-class and there are many different schools to choose from in the city. Just make sure you use a PADI certified school.
 
Local insight: Rainbow Divers has been running for over 17 years and is the recommended choice in town.

4. Go diving

There are over 350 different species of coral and other marine life in the ocean off Nha Trang. So when you get your PADI, rent a boat and go diving!

Local insight: Hon Mieu island’s clear water makes it a favourite for snorkellers and scuba divers alike.

5. See the sleeping Buddha

Located in Long Son Pagoda, this 80 metre long sleeping Buddha is one of the largest in the world. Inscriptions of the teachings of the lord Buddha dots the walls of the pagoda.

Local insight: Make sure to take the 150 step staircase to the top. Stunning views of Nha Trang are your reward.

Have a great weekend and enjoy our 5 things to do in Nha Trang!


Other articles:

Top 5 things to do in Danang

Top 5 souvenirs to buy in Vietnam

Top 5 things to do in Quy Nhon

Top 5 dishes to try in Nha Trang

Top 5 dishes to eat in Hanoi

Top 5 places to go shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

Top 5 Che-sweet soups must try in Saigon



Ox-racing festival in An Giang

By: Quang Mai

Annual festival for all ages

The 21th Bay Nui ox-racing festival was held at the Khmer pagoda of Ta Miet, in the southern province of An Giang, on October 14, with 64 pairs of cows from southern provinces of Vietnam and Cambodia.

In order to promote the solidarity of 54 ethnic minority groups, the festival is organized annually. This is a joyful activities in An Giang that visitors from all ages are fond of. During four-day event, visitors also have chance to enjoy the cultural identities in Vietnam.

A muddy 120-meter-long racing path is the central point of the whole event where people gathered to witness the strongest and the fasted pairs to win the race. Before the cow racing festival, farmers had chosen the best pairs of cows for racing. The cowboy held the stick with sharp point when the race starts, he hitted the cows to make them run as fast as they can. The challenge is how to keep the pair run at the same speed and stay focused, otherwise he can probably fall down onto the race and get severe injury.

Photo by: Huỳnh Bá Long

 


July 2014 B2B Newsletter

By: City Pass Guide

 

July, 2014
The City Pass Post: An Insider Look

MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY


YEGA THIYAGARAJAN


This is the first in an occasional series in which we profile a successful industry identity. We find out what makes them tick, how they got to where they are now, and what they learned along the way.

We caught up with Yega Thiyagarajan, the general manager of Villa Song SaigonRead the full article that reveals the path to his success.

If you have an interesting business background and would like to participate in our series, don´t hesitate to contact us: send an email to carlos@citypassguide.com or emilio@citypassguide.com

by Rob van Driesum
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TRAVEL NEWS: INSIDE & OUT

STAY UP TO DATE WITH NEW ONLINE MARKETING TECHNIQUES

 
The latest news in the Travel and Hospitality Business. We've gathered the best articles to keep up to date with the latest Online Marketing practices in our industry:
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MOBILE USAGE CHANGES TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

PLACEABLE RESEARCH


Hoi An Entrance Fee
The rapid move to mobile research and bookings means travelers require easier ways to access content. In 2014, approximately 40% of leisure travelers and 35% of business travelers will use mobile search engines to find hotels, and this number will only grow, with 72% of travelers worldwide saying that the ability to book via mobile device is useful.

Placeable has recently conducted a survey where they surveyed 1,000 consumers to find out about how they research and find businesses before and during their travels. Read the FULL ARTICLE for key findings and nicely illustrated infographic.

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CITY PASS GUIDE DISTRIBUTION

CITY PASS GUIDE INCREASES ITS DISTRIBUTION NETWORK


Julien Robellet, Distribution Manager at City Pass Guide, talks about the quick and high increase of the distribution network.

Lee Starnes - Content Manager
Aiming to reach a larger number of readers and provide useful and meaningful information to travellers and residents, City Pass team has done a great effort on its distribution channels. READ FULL STORY

SEE THE INFOGRAPHIC DISPLAYED ON THE LEFT IN FULL SIZE

If you wish to contact Julien directly, email him at distribution@citypassguide.com





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FOOTBALL TOURNAMENT
FOR CHARITY IN HCMC

SPORT & FUN ON SAT 19TH JULY

 
CityPass Guide is a proud sponsor of the 1st Inter-Company Football Tournament, organized by BBGV. The event will bring 16 teams together to compete for the Championship title. Colleagues, families, sponsors, associates and volunteers will support and cheer on the football teams throughout the day.

Date: Saturday 19th July 2014
Time: 08:30 to 17:30
Where: RMIT University, 702 Nguyen Van Linh, District 7, HCMC
  • Fun and games for adults and children
  • All proceeds go to support local charities in Vietnam
For more info visit the Event Page
Top Three Souvenir Shops in Hanoi

If you´re interested in collaborating with City Pass Guide in the promotion of your Events/Deals, please write an email to carlos@citypassguide.com

For more Events in Vietnam, visit our Deals & Events Calendar

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Golf in Dalat

By: Simon Stanley

"City of Eternal Spring", Why not?

Golf Clubs

Dalat is the stepping stone to the Central Highlands of Vietnam.  It stands at 1475 metres and this French influenced city is a breath of fresh air after the mayhem and humidity of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Dalat has been known for decades as the "City of Eternal Spring". This is due to its year round cool crisp mountain climate.  Dalat is the centre for vegetables and flowers, which grow in abundance in the rich, dark colored soil.

Dalat palace golfGolfwise, it is well serviced by three golf courses, although two are only nine holes, with both scheduled for completion of 18 holes this year.  In 1994 Dalat Palace Golf Club emerged again as the ideal golf retreat in Southeast Asia. The 18- hole golf course is crafted into the area’s rolling hills, surrounded by stately pine trees and seated above the majestic lake Xuan Huong.. The course weaves its way through stately pine trees to oversized and delicately manicured bent grass greens.  For many years it has been rated as the best golf course in Vietnam and many would tell you that it still is.

The course makes full use of its mountainous setting and cooler climate with breathtaking views of famous Xuan Huong Lake nestled amongst French inspired architecture.  It really is a delight to play and tee times are easy to get during the week.  Weekends tend to be busy due to the influx of native golfers from Saigon and Hanoi. The clubhouse sets the scene for the entire course, built in 1956 and restored to its former beauty. It houses a fully equipped pro-shop, locker rooms and international standard restaurant.  Stya and play packages are available from the golf course owned Hotel du Parc and the upmarket Dalat Palace Hotel.  Check the website for promotion packages, such as twilight golf.  www.vietnamgolfresorts.com

Located about 15 minutes drive from the airport, Royale City Golf Club, whilst only 9 holes is an absolute gem of a golf course.  Some of the views will take your breath away and the par three third hole, with its 80 metre drop from tee to green is just stunning. Designed by Peter Rousseau, his concept is to keep the site as natural as possible, preservingRoyale city golf the beautiful trees, some of the paddy fields and other water features. At the same time, enhance it with more exotic flora and fauna and to utilize the many natural springs, waterfalls and smaller lakes.

With four sets of tees, then it is recommended to play nine holes off one set and another nine of another tee box.  We can guarantee you will never get bored with this course!  Because of the many changes is elevation and the distances between holes, a buggy is mandatory. The current price is only $3 per hole, including green fee, caddie fee and a buggy.  This is great value for money.  www.royalecity.vn

Tuyen Lam golfThe latest addition to Dalat is  Tuyen Lam Golf Club and Resort, situated halfway up the mountain heading into Dalat City. The resort is located by the beautiful Tuyen Lam Lake, right outside of Dalat town. The valley topography is surrounded by sloping hills and primeval pine forests. 18 holes are planned to be completed by April 2104 and nine holes have been opened since February 2013.

The heart of the valley is a natural high mound which is a highlight for the formation of a four-star hotel, a golf clubhouse and next to it is the driving range. Halfway is a winding path following the slope of the hill. You can feel a combination of high-level works among the pure natural hills by standing anywhere.   http://www.sacomresort.com.vn/.

Dalat is highly recommended not only for the magnificent golf courses, but also a wonderful and relaxing place to visit.

Climate

Dalat from high upWith its mountain setting, the temperate weather is usually warm to hot during the day and cool during the evenings.  There is no need for air conditioning. The rainy season lasts from May to October, and the dry season is from November to April.  The wet season does not prevent golf, as the rain is not continuous and many days are dry.  One word of warning!  Due to the high altitude, the sun’s rays are much stronger; therefore use plenty of sun lotion to avoid getting sunburn.

Staying in Dalat

There are many hotels and resorts in Dalat, from five star to one star and therefore accommodation is plentiful and built in a French style.  There are many restaurants and cafes offering interesting local and international cusine.

Getting there

There is an international airport, with regular daily flights from Ho Chi Minh, Danang and Hanoi.  For visitors on a budget, sleeper buses from companies such as Sinh Café.  Be warned that is it about 7 hours from Ho Chi Minh to Dalat.  BEWARE.  The usual charge for the 35 kilometer journey from the airport to Dalat centre is around 300.000 Vietnam dong.  Do not use the meter if you are using a taxi.  You can buy a ticket from the taxi booth inside the terminal.

Booking golf

Golf Asian – www.golfasian,com  - and Golf Dalat – www.golfdalat.com – specialize in booking golf trips to Dalat.  They can book not only tee times but also accomodation and make all travel arrangements as well.


Trekking: A Dangerous, Critical Feature of VN Tourism

By: City Pass Guide

Before Trang Ho set out for her trekking expedition to Phan Dung, inland between Phan Thiet and Cam Ranh, in April, the tour operator Nobitrip offered some guidance.

The tour operator issued an extensive set of instructions including what kind of shoes Ho should wear during the trekking expedition and how she should cut her toenails before the expedition (down to the quick). Aside from wrapping all of her personal items in waterproof bags, Ho said that the tour operator explained that the trekking expedition would stop for heavy rains and the trip would traverse the area’s many streams.

A week of exercise was recommended. Nobitrip said that it would not be responsible for any health problems that arose during the trip, Ho said in written response to interview questions.

Proceeding with Caution

Nobitrip’s precautions only seem overprotective until you consider the fact that deaths while trekking, while not common, are nonetheless not a negligible risk in this type of travel. Ho said she weighed the risks, “but they did not affect my decision”.

“I just want to experience it, to see if it is really as beautiful as the articles say.

trekking in vietnamImage source: vnmotorbiketours.com

Why do I want to go this way? I do not know how to say it. It's just youth that makes you desire to explore, wanting to venture into the experience and conquer it. This way is very normal for me”, Ho wrote.

Ho added that her risk-friendly lifestyle also played heavily in to her decision to pursue the trekking trip knowing the risks. She is a self-described road warrior who’s logged untold kilometres going from Saigon to Mui Ne and all points in between.

“So to me it’s just another experience,” she wrote.

Attraction, Though Fatal

Ho’s enthusiasm belies the very real dangers she overcame as a traveller in the area. During her journey she crossed a stream where a previous traveller had died.

Perhaps it’s the Phan Dung area’s stunning beauty that explains its lasting appeal to tourists despite the hazards. Nobitrip is one of a wealth of tour agencies that specialise in shepherding tourists through this area.

Video source: Hoa N Don

The most popular route is a 55-km-long path that stretches across three provinces northeast of Ho Chi Minh City: Lam Dong, Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan. At its highest, it’s 1,100 metres above sea level and 500 metres at its lowest. The road features a seemingly endless expanse of rolling terrain with pristine streams and scenic mountains.

The beauty is a mismatch with the terrain’s extreme difficulty. A group documenting their trip for a trekking blog on “Inspitrip” reported that each of their three groups got lost on the first day. Throughout their trip, the group encountered difficulty finding water and following the trail as well as problems with cell service (Viettel is best, they later learned).

The month after Ho’s journey in April, Thi An Kien, a 24-year-old hiker, would die after getting lost during a hike in the area. Some combitionation of the same problems plagued Thi up to the fatal end of his trekking voyage.

At noon on May 12, the group travelling with Thi became aware that he had been separated from the group, according to reporting by Dantri news. At 9 p.m. that night, the group had activated local authorities and forest rangers to help search for their missing friend, a rescue effort that grew to 100 people by the next morning.

It would be nearly a week before Thi’s remains were located near the Phan Dung commune. He is the second person to die on this trail in as many years.

Always Almost There

Writing about the journey, Ho didn’t linger on the dangers. For her, the biggest feature of the trip was the beauty of the landscape.

trekking in vietnamImage source: media.we25.vn

Nevertheless, the tour operator said the hikers were welcome to turn back at any point within the first 8 km in the 55-km path. Ho travelled with a 10-kg load on her back and four litres of water. As the group walked, Ho said the tour leader kept encouraging the group, cheerleading them and reminding them that the downhill portion is “almost coming”.

The last kilometre to her campsite on the first night featured an almost vertical climb, she said. This one stretch took almost two hours and included plenty of opportunities to slip and fall to a possible injury.

Ho said the first night she fell into the best sleep she’s ever had.

A Necessary Part of the Tourism Strategy

The traveller deaths, the unforgiving territory—these are obstacles Vietnam’s tourism authorities will need to confront as it seeks to grow its tourism sector and earn the 20 million foreign visitors expected by 2020. The country’s natural treasures and the hiking tours that have drawn travellers like Ho will be a big part of that strategy.

The country received just under 13 million international arrivals in 2017, according to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

Speaking about the objectives, Vietstar Airlines Deputy General Director Luong Hoai Nam said that Vietnam’s tourism was “good at some things but bad at many things” in remarks reported by online publication “Inquirer”.

Mr Luong said the country’s visas policy and technology friendliness could be updated. He said that airport infrastructure would need to be refreshed to make the tourism increase viable.

trekking in vietnamImage source: thienviettourist.com

He also suggested tourism companies look to the nation’s previously untapped historical assets in building new resources to support this goal. He speculated that the country might serve new visitors by offering “war tourism”, a journey through Vietnam’s countryside to visit important sites in the American War. Willing travellers might be able to hike through this kind of tour, Luong said.

But Nobitrip shows it’s possible to accommodate these types of tours in a safe, responsible manner.

Ho visited the site knowing it had claimed lives previously. Nevertheless, she said she’s planning a similar journey in another part of Vietnam in the near future.

Banner Image source: bhutan-motorbike-tours.com


30 Amazing Things to Experience in Vietnam

By: Aleksandr Smechov

Are you new to Vietnam or are you planning to join us here for a period of time? Here we compiled a selection of 30 more or less unique experiences you will have in the country. Some of them will leave you speechless, others are amusing, a few might be annoying, but all of them together make up the utterly amazing and inspiring cultural experience that is called Vietnam.

Without further ado, let’s dive into our 30 things to experience in Vietnam:

Test Your Patience with Visa on Arrival

Vietnam is notorious for one of the most frustrating and unorganized visa-on-arrival processes in Southeast Asia. First time tourists tend to nervously shift about the visa counter like frightened cattle as confusing instructions are barked and questions are usually ignored by staff. On return visits, foreigners get the unprecedented edge of adeptly navigating the confused group to expedite the process for themselves, a 1000-yard stare cutting through the haze of lost looks and angry grumbles. Upon a third return, a monk-like state of calm takes over.


Motorbike Madness

Rush hour on one of the major traffic arteries can turn your view of the world and fluent traffic upside down. Traffic rules? Phaw!

Motorbikes flow around each other like streams of water, those who turn left intertwining with the oncoming traffic and separating again like winding serpents. Buses lumber through the torrents of the rush hour like armored war-elephants amidst light cavalry. How to cross a street in this madness? Just dive in, but remember: The bus is the king of the road and we are on the lower end of the food chain on the streets of Vietnam.

Motorbike Madness


Tet Craze

In preparation for public holidays, especially Lunar New Year, Tet in Vietnamese, you will find yourself in the middle of the only time of year when Vietnamese people begin to show signs of stress. People work double shifts to make up for the days when they visit their families, uniformed entities knock on various doors to collect what they think is due, and robbers snatch more phones and handbags that at any other time of the year. The markets are buzzing with buyers and sellers of gift baskets, while housewifes set up huge cooking pots for preparing the traditional sticky rice cakes for Tet.

Tet craze


Empty Streets

During Tet holidays, many urban dwellers leave the major cities to visit their families on the countryside. You can walk through entire wards without seeing a sign of life. Well, that’s slightly exaggerated, but compared to the usual bustle it’s really calm and empty. While the tourist areas are less affected by this temporary exodus, in other districts so many shops close down, that usually bustling streets turn into abandoned ghost-alleys.

Empty Streets


Bui Vien

A clusterf*ck of a backpacker area, Bui Vien is a hate-it-or-embrace-it romp through all-hour bars, street food vendors, “massage” services, cheap hotels, $5 US extra-strength cocktail jars, drug peddlers, pharmacies, convenience stores, flyer girls, hagglers, hustlers, drunks and fire-breathing children. It’s fun for an occasional cheap beer and street watching session, or a stopover at the few decent Greek, Indian, Mexican or American restaurants along the strip. But most expats tend to slowly grow irritated at the neverending din of one of the most famous backpacker enclaves in Southeast Asia. If you have never been, visit Bui Vien for an evening to soak in the madness.

Bui Vien


Rooster Fights

Even if this point might cause an outcry from animal rights activists worldwide, I used to live in an alley with cock fight enthusiasts as neighbors. They take better care of their roosters than of their own families. The rooster fights as such, however, are remarkably unspectacular. The roosters are strong and healthy, quite noisy at times, but the bets that are placed among the spectators are not high enough to apply doping techniques. Or even risk the health of the animal in just one fight, like it is common on the Philippines.

Rooster fight


Gambling

During the days of the lunar new year festival, the rules change. Unwritten. People believe that gambling, be it for small money, bigger stakes or just matches, will attract luck for the new year. This is the only time of the year the police does not interfere with people gambling in the alleys. Wherever you walk, people are playing cards, dice or board games. Beer flows among the Vietnamese men in significant amounts and spectators frequently give wanted or unwanted tips to gamblers.

Gambling


National Flash Mob

Sometimes you may witness pedestrians, even people on motorbikes, frozen in place beside the street as if struck by some futuristic temporal flux rays. They look serious, some even somber and don’t move an inch. At first you might wonder if it’s some weird flash mob that gathered on the street, while you pass them in amazement and watch out for the cameras. But soon you realize the truth: In fact they froze, because the National Anthem was blaring out of a creaky speaker.


Burning Bills

Certain occurrences at local shops supposedly cause bad luck for the business. The proprietor may take measures to avoid that unfortunate situation and gift fake money to the spirits by means of burning it in front of the shop. The same happens during new and full moons: The fake bills you burn turn into real cash in the netherworld that can be used by the ancestors, which in turn help their descendants in daily matters of business and family.

If you are new to Vietnam, you might find the one or another $100.- bill next to the road. Don’t bother picking it up, it’s fake and used for burning.

Burning Bills


Flooded Streets

The abundance of plastic bags and other trash that gets carelessly shoved into the drains of streets during dry season may clog the drainage system, so with rainy season’s first heavy monsoon of the year, some streets get thoroughly flooded. That doesn’t stop motorbike riders testing how deep the water really is. Children take the cooling rain and deep puddles as an opportunity to splash around in the water.

Take a seat at an adjacent streetside cafe and enjoy the show.

Flooded Streets


Wai Wai Wi Ai

The tendency of Vietnamese people to drop the ending syllable of words when talking English and other foreign languages is an amusing classic. At first you might be confused when you hear an expat ordering Wai Wai Wi Ai at a Saigonese restaurant. When the waitress turned up with a glass of white wine with ice, you get it. Expat English teachers can sing you a song about dropped syllables, but westerners actually adopting this for fun - that’s just splendid!


Ao Dai Traditional Dress

Although most Vietnamese wear Western clothes, the traditional Ao Dai dress is still popular as a celebratory or workplace outfit. A beautiful pants and top combination for women, the Ao Dai is elegant and unique, and a lovely reminder of Vietnam’s culture.

Ao Dai Traditional Dress


Funerals

Be prepared to wake-up at 4 a.m. to the sounds of wailing funeral horns, which then often continue throughout the next day. Funerals in Vietnam are long, serious affairs where the deceased’s family dedicate sleep, food, money, time and energy to remembering their life and celebrating their achievements. Funerals involve large colorful tents at the entrance to the deceased’s house, tables of serious men drinking beer, feasts, visits from friends and family, music and traditional funerary rituals. Be respectful, but also feel free to watch this fascinating side of Vietnamese life, and be sure to ask a local to explain it to you.


Snacks in Baskets

There are ladies here who carry baskets on their backs, and inside those baskets are foods from your wildest dreams. Keep an eye out for the women with two massive buckets on the ends of a large pole which they support on their shoulders. Squat next to a basket lady and sample some of the waffles and crackers she is selling. If you’re feeling adventurous ask for bánh tráng trộn - a bag of torn rice paper, nuts, dried beef, herbs, spices and quail eggs which serves as a sort of Vietnamese trail-mix.

Snacks in Baskets


Talking Bicycles

If you’ve spent any time in a Vietnamese city you will have noticed those bicycles which have a voice of their own. The rider rides around on them, looking furtive, while a speaker from his bicycle blurts out ‘bánh mì đây!’ or “bắp xào đây!”. Inside the basket on the back of their bike is hot bread, a delicious corn mix, sticky rice, fruit, etc! It all depends on what the bike says…


Park Life

This one is peculiar to Ho Chi Minh City, but local parks throughout the country have their own unique blend of people and culture. Visit a park to understand the lives of those who live nearby. Ho Chi Minh City’s 23/9 Park in District 1 is a great example. Hundreds of people pass through here every day - tourists with their cameras and sunglasses, expats walking their dogs, local students looking to practise English and older women in hilarious sports gear dancing in a large organized exercise class. People from all over the place use the park’s free exercise equipment, and donut sellers, illegal fishermen, couples, singles, etc dot the park benches.

Park Life


Night Buses

Many countries have night buses, but the buses in Vietnam are strange. Uniform throughout Southeast Asia, these buses have tiny individual seats with little pockets for your legs. The walkways are like squeezing yourself down a tube and you will spend your night-ride in the fetal position, but the sheer hilarity of sitting in a pocket on a bus that glows with bright neon lights and sounds like a strangled duck will make it worth it.


Drinking Culture

Have a drink with some local people. Trust me it’s an interesting process - they drink differently. It is customary for people in Vietnam to drink together, saying ‘yo!’ (‘cheers’) every time they take a sip, and taking that sip together. People also often drink beer with ice, and it is quite usual to eat snails, giant flat crackers or BBQ chicken legs with your beverage. None of those boring crisps or beernuts here, no sir.

Drinking culture


Soup

Vietnam is, of course, famous for its delicious and varied types of noodle soup. Pho is the most famous soup, but this is just one kind of noodle. Other noodles include hủ tiếu, mì and bún, and you can eat them dry, with liquid, vegetarian, meaty, with seafood, with mountains of vegetables, etc. You name it, Vietnam probably has it.

Try some of these options:

- Mì (instant noodles)

- Bún riêu (large tube noodles with tofu, congealed blood and seafood)

- Phở (large flat noodles, with chicken, beef, or a variety of other options)

- Hủ tiếu khô (dry noodles with chicken, beef or a variety of other options)

- Hủ tiếu nước (wet noodles with chicken, beef or a variety of other options)

Also note that ‘gà’ is chicken, ‘thịt bò’ is beef and ‘thịt heo’ is pork.

Soup


Bribe a Cop

Corruption and quotas plague most police forces on a global scale. From the petty arrests in New York City to the shady police stops in Saigon, almost no major city comes without its share of seedy authority figures. Bribes are a normality in Vietnam, and it’s common practice to negotiate for an affordable bribe once you are stopped for a real (or blatantly made up) offence. If you drive, you’ll probably be pulled over once or twice. Have some money ready and brace yourself for standardized corruption.

Dribe a cop


Date a Vietnamese Guy/Girl

More so than any book, article or YouTube video, locals are your #1 resource for immersing yourself in Vietnamese culture. Take it a step further and date a local guy or girl and not only will your Vietnamese language skills steadily improve, but your understanding and empathy for the (at-first) strange culture will reach a nice equilibrium. And for those having a hard time, any attempt to speak the difficult-to-pronounce language is admirable, making your efforts all the more noticeable. Just try and avoid the “they’re out for money” mentality; this turns otherwise open-minded foreigners jaded and cynical.

Date a Vietnamese


Tiny Plastic Chairs

At first sight the tiny plastic chairs littering every street food joint might warrant a snort. At first sitting they might cause a disgruntled mumble. But eventually most foreigners come to tolerate or even embrace the tiny plastic chair setup - it means good, cheap food and iced beer is at hand and waiting.

Tiny Plastic Chairs


Speak the Language

Vietnamese is a tonal language. Meaning you won’t have too much trouble slowly learning to read and write it, since it uses Roman characters, but speaking is an entirely different matter. In most countries, a slight mispronunciation is acceptable and sympathized with. In Vietnam, it can cause a misplaced order, a hearty laugh or a dead stare. You may annunciate something five times, never changing your tone, before something clicks and the locals understand what you’re trying to say. Some understand your broken tone perfectly, while other will quickly give up without even trying. Other languages (at least, speaking-wise) will soon seem like a joke when six months in you’re still struggling to pronounce the street you live on.


Discover the World of Alleyways

Vietnam’s alleyways are a world of their own. While tourists may not venture through these maze-like clusters of clandestine streets, those who brave the country’s unseen pathways discover colorful scenes of lax local life, shortcuts to destinations and cozy neighborhood stalls and shops. While dodgy alleys may need a local’s guidance, generally alleys are teeming with life only the Vietnamese tend to see, and are worth the spelunking. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a xe om driver that knows and utilizes his alleyway shortcuts well, squeezing through impossibly thin openings, and dodging roosters, kids and other motorbikes to get to your destination.

 Discover the World of Alleyways

Image by Brian Huang


Eat a Durian

We dare you. The initial smell alone causes some to take several steps back. Imagine sweaty gym socks with a sweet tang and you’re getting close. A bite is more like a blended batch of onions with a hint of aforementioned socks, and something sweet somewhere in that mess. Many, many find it nauseating. For a lucky few it becomes one of their favorite snacks. Eating a durian can literally be a once in a lifetime experience, but only because you’ll never want to look - or smell - one again.

Eat a durian


Visit Cholon

Located in District 5 in Ho Chi Minh City, Cholon is Saigon’s Chinatown, a medley of colorful shops and colonial buildings, spices and herbs, and Cantonese cuisine joints. Cholon is home to mainly Taiwanese and Chinese residents. Historic in feel and far from the run-down, cramped chain-shop Chinatowns of many Western cities, Cholon is an atmospheric trek through gorgeous Chinese pagodas, delicious street food, herbal medicine shops and ancient, colorful architecture. It’s a must-visit on a cooler day, when you can walk around the streets, alleys and markets, and sample and buy to your heart’s content.

Visit Cho Lon


Karaoke

With modulated microphones echoing your grating voice into something permissible, karaoke joints around Vietnam are a prime way to turn your shower screeches into melodious singing. Vietnam’s karaokes are ubiquitous, cheap as dirt (compared to other karaoke-culture countries, at least), and offer a nice selection of cheesy English pop “classics”. Drink and food prices are fair, but karaoke room cleanliness can be a hit or miss. In general, however, the Vietnamese karaoke scene is definitely something to get into if you’re looking for a cheaper, more private alternative to bars and clubs.

Karaoke


Ca Phe Culture

Coming from Austria with our flourishing coffee culture, I tend to look at the Vietnamese equivalent in amazement. It is so different from ours, and yet so richly developed. Hot coffee with or without condensed milk is native to the North and the Highlands, while in the South we pour it over ice. But North or South, ca phe is a social thing Vietnamese enjoy at all times of the day.

Ca Phe Culture


Herbs and Knobbly Vegetables

Vietnam’s vast array of herbs, lettuce-like leaves and other miscellaneous fruits or vegetables make eating here an experience in itself. Many of the Vietnamese herbs are only available locally, and the aroma of Vietnamese mint and other strange leaves are staple to most local dishes. You should also have a nibble of some of the vegetables here! From countless types of courgette to a long, stick-like thing which absorbs anything it is cooked with. A bit like a choko but with the texture of a sponge...

market vietnam


Supermarkets 

No two supermarkets here are the same. Even if they are part of a chain. And trying to buy western foods in any of them can be a real challenge, so why not embrace the Vietnamese choices? Skip cereal, apples, tomato paste and pasta, and get into some rice paper wraps, weird dried shrimp or some of those strange sweet-but-salty cakes. It may seem odd to pay less for a mango than for a banana, or for a Snickers to cost more than a carton of milk, but such is life in Vietnam. Embrace it!

Supermarkets


CONCLUSION

If we’re honest, it was hard to stop at 30. Vietnam is not a top tourist destination for nothing, and as we wrote this list of things that you can only fully experience here we began to appreciate just how unique and fascinating a country it is. From the impossible bubbly language and rocket fuel coffee, to the questionable legal system, terrifying traffic and that disgusting snotty durian that I never quite got the taste for…
Vietnam is a world of possibility.


30 Things to Experience in Vietnam is a post co-developed by Zoe, Aleksandr and Frank together, while Frank fiercely contradicts the other two writers’ opinion about the fragrant, fantastic and marvelous durian fruit!

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