No, this is not an article of the typical places that you have to see in Vietnam, in this article I propose something totally different.
If you plan to take a trip to Vietnam these are the activities that you cannot miss.
These were without a doubt the most relevant experiences during all my time touring the country, so I suggest you review your itinerary and see the possibility of including some or all.
Essential things of a trip to Vietnam: Eating Cao Lau
I personally nicknamed Vietnam the land of soups. At breakfast, lunch and dinner you will find a restaurant or stall that sells some type of soup, the best known is Pho. However, there is a dish that, not in itself a soup but almost as if it were, made the difference in a before and after of my love for Vietnamese food: Cao Lau
With its mixture of noodles, vegetables and meat, it may look like something you will find anywhere in the country, but no, it is only found in Hoi An.
Its flavor is so unique that there is a rumor where they assure that this peculiar flavor is due to the fact that the dish is prepared using water from a well that is located on the outskirts of the city. Whether or not this rumor is true I would personally return to Vietnam just to eat it one more time.
Essential things of a trip to Vietnam: Drinking Egg Coffee
One of my favorite desserts is tiramisu, now imagine that instead of eating it you can drink it. This is the closest description of the flavor of an Egg Coffee
Coffee mixed with egg, condensed milk and sugar. Cappuccino-style, it has a frothy top layer of beaten egg whites to nougat. If paradise had a flavor I’m sure it would be Egg Coffee.
As of today you can find this drink on most of the cafeteria menus in Hanoi but there is only one place where it originated preserving the original 1946 recipe: Giang Café .
Essential things of a trip to Vietnam: Visit the Paradise Cave or Dark Cave
The landscapes of the mountains of Vietnam are spectacular but even more impressive is their underground world.
A few years ago they discovered the Hang Son Doong cave in Vietnam. The largest cave in the world, so big that it has its own river, climate, jungle and ecosystem.
The stalagmites in this cave measure over 70 meters, that is the average size of a 20-story building.
Unfortunately, getting to this cave is not easy. There is only one tourism company that carries out expeditions, which last for several weeks and the prices go up to several thousand dollars.
But all this information was just to give you an idea of what is happening in the underground world of Vietnam, since there are some caves that if you can visit in an accessible way, the best is Paradise Cave.
This cave is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it has a depth of 31 kilometers but only 1 kilometer is suitable for tourists. This distance is more than enough to amaze you with all the rock formations you will find.
Essential things of a trip to Vietnam: Transfer between Da Nang and Hue by train.
Regardless if you travel from south to north or from north to south of the country, you have to take the train on the way between Da Nang and Hue. It’s a 4 hour trip that you don’t want to end.
The train passes by the coast, between cliffs, mountains, jungle and endless incredible landscapes. The easiest way to organize the train trip is through your hotel. In my case, I was staying in Hoi An at the Golden River Hotel and they took care of the rail passes and transportation from Hoi An to Da Nang to take the train.
As an additional recommendation to have the best views is that if you are traveling from North to South, that is from Hue to Da Nang then try to reserve a seat on the left side of the train. If you travel from South to North from Da Nang to Hue, book on the right side. If you can’t reserve these seats don’t worry, you can walk on the train, visit the dining car or just look out the open windows that you find in some sections.
A must-see on a trip to Vietnam: Take a motorcycle taxi in Ho Chi Minh
Just close your eyes and start walking. Try not to stop, definitely don’t run and don’t suddenly change direction. Just walk in a straight line and the motorcyclists will avoid you. This is the way to cross a street in Vietnam.
It is overwhelming at first but eventually you get used to it. The number of cars and motorcycles passing through the streets, which have no visible traffic signs and the few that are not respected, makes crossing the street an extreme adventure of your trip. But there is something that far exceeds this experience, getting on a motorcycle taxi.
Cheap, efficient and absolutely terrifying is how I would describe this experience. When you get off at your final destination you will have your heart racing and your body full of adrenaline.
When I was in India I thought that traveling in Richshaw was something extreme and unique, you can read my experience in this article but getting on a motorcycle taxi in Ho Chi Minh City has no comparison.
If you are one of the people who likes this type of experiences then you can not stop doing it on your next trip to Vietnam. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here is a video of what it’s like to cross a street in Vietnam:
Must-sees of a Vietnam trip: Losing yourself in the alleys of Ho Chi Minh
The tourist area and most hotels in Ho Chi Minh are in District 1. In addition to the restaurants, cafes and hotels in this area of the city, you will find an endless network of alleys full of life.
These alleys connect the main streets and you can easily get lost in them, and it is exactly what you should do.
If you want to see a different image of the city, moving away from the hustle and bustle, then walk among these alleys and learn a little more about the lifestyle of the city’s inhabitants.
An additional recommendation is that you download the Maps.Me map application. It allows you to have a map of the country with GPS and use it even if you do not have an internet connection. At the beginning I tried to use Google Maps but it does not have the detail of the alleys of the city, Maps.Me does have the detail and it is quite useful for when you want to find your way back.
A must-see on a trip to Vietnam: Floating market in Meakong Delta
If you have taken a flight to cross the other side of the world from Mexico to Vietnam I recommend that you consider in your itinerary to take about 2 days to make a little extra trip and visit the floating market in the Meakong Delta.
Visiting this market has 2 versions, the tourist and the non-tourist. The tourist version is easily visited from Ho Chi Minh on a tour organized in one day.
The non-tourist version requires you to travel to a small city near Ho Chi Minh called Can Tho, find a nice hotel in this city for the night, and immediately upon arrival organize a tour of the floating market.
Visiting the floating market is an activity that happens very early in the morning, they will pick you up at the hotel before sunrise and you will see the sunrise from the Meakong Delta river.
With the sun rising on the horizon you will reach an area full of boats of all sizes selling an impressive variety of products. Boats full of pineapples, others full of melons, carrots or fish. Prices are shouted from boat to boat and the transaction is made completely floating on the water.
For breakfast you can call one of the small food cans, they will come to you and prepare you a delicious soup accompanied by coffee.
If you are a fan of getting lost in the markets of the cities, then this activity is definitely worth it.
I traveled a month through Vietnam, I had the opportunity to see and experience the culture of this incredible country but without a doubt, the 7 previous activities were the highlight of my trip. Choose to do one or all, you will not regret it.