10 Stunning Reasons to Visit Vietnam
Vietnam is far from perfect. It has its rough edges, its not so savoury moments. But it doesn’t hide them: it displays its quirks with a conscious pride. And for this, it’s like no other Southeast Asian country. Often called the country of contrasts, Vietnam is perfectly imperfect in its own way. Here are seven stunning reasons why.
1. Vietnam has a heart
Vietnam does not have the loaded glitz and glamour of modern Asian cities like Seoul or Singapore, but it certainly has a heart. And this goes a long way – so much so that people who’ve lived all over Asia swear by Vietnam and settle without so much as a second thought. The energy of the rapidly growing cities, the curiosity and drive of many young Vietnamese and a centuries-old culture all contribute to an infectious atmosphere that is hard to not fall for.
2. The food alone is worth the trip
It’s not for everyone, but many who come to Vietnam distinctly remember their first bowl of pho or their first bite of a banh xeo. But what sets Vietnam apart is the sheer variety of the cuisine. Each region of the country – down to each individual city – has its own signature dishes and styles of cooking. Most of the best eats are undocumented – meaning you’ll be finding some of your all-time favourite food around the corner in a sleepy alley.
3. The country is a living secret
Have you ever had a secret hideaway as a kid? No one else knew about it but you - and that’s what made it special. This is what a large part of Vietnam feels like. A chance turn in a quiet province may present you with beautiful vistas never found in guidebooks or tours, or a impromptu homestay may yield the best family meal you ever had.
4. Boat life is stunning
Probably a memory that will last a lifetime is floating down any number of rivers along the length of Vietnam and absorbing the idyllic peace of local life. Whether it’s the mighty Mekong or a hyacinth-covered section of the Saigon River, getting on a boat ensures a tranquil day bordering on one long meditation. Life on the water is still wonderfully active, from chaotic floating markets to the fascinating sight of floating villages.
5. Vietnam is gorgeous and nobody knows just how much
Vietnam is beautiful, and in so many ways. You find standard beauty in the lush rice paddies, rolling mountains, sunny beach islands, cool pine-covered landscapes and endless supplies of flowers. Then there is the beauty of the people – curious, sensitive, positive and strong. And there is the beauty of the architecture – French-inspired coexisting stunningly with traditional Vietnamese housing.
6. Motorbikes are awesome
No matter how much they freak newcomers out, motorbikes in Vietnam are awesome. The true way to experience the country, there is nothing else like getting on a motorbike, learning how to navigate the chaos of city streets (it’s easier than you think), and then getting lost in locations that not every bus or car can venture through.
7. It’s a country of youth
Vietnam is a country of the young. Curious, precocious and delighted to learn and speak English with travelers, the younger half of Vietnam hold traditional values like family dear, while at once adopting Western mannerisms and following the latest trends. It’s one of Vietnam’s more heartwarming moments, when you sit in a cafe overlooking the Nguyen Hue walking street and observe the fervent activity of groups of youth bringing life to the area.
8. It’s not commercialised… yet
Vietnam is far from the modern commercial centre that more developed countries have grown into. Mass tourism is only beginning to truly take hold. The best the country has to offer is still often tucked away behind an alley or unlisted on Google. Markets coexist alongside megamalls and excellent unknown eateries are around the corner from international restaurants.
9. The beaches are some of the best in Southeast Asia
Vietnam has 3,700 kms of coastline, with beaches ranging from garbage-strewn and overcrowded to stunning pockets of paradise. And there are plenty of the latter. The waters are also great for diving near more tropical locales, with the rainbow colors of coral reefs, unique fish and underwater plant and fungi life. There is nothing like lying back on a beach in Phu Quoc, Mui Ne, Nha Trang or Phan Thiet and sunning yourself silly while enjoying a good book.
10. Vietnam is real
The one thing you will never find in Vietnam is perfection. Vietnam wears its scars on its sleeve. The people don’t pretend to be anything they’re not and the country has no shame in showing its true colours: kind, curious, hard-working, stubborn, proud. Vietnam is real and this is mainly due to the hardships it had to go through – not least of which is more than 1,000 years of invasions. Some find Vietnam frustrating because the culture, language and people are so unfamiliar. But many fall in love with these very things.