I’ve been playing a game with my travels – looking back at places I have visited and forcing myself to decide whether I think they are underrated or overrated. Even if I think they are completely deserving of the reputation they have, I must decide whether they slip just above or below the line. I’ve already done this with Thailand and Hong Kong and Laos so now I’ll move on to my third round – Vietnam.
So, looking at where I visited in Vietnam here’s whether I think each place is underrated or overrated
Vietnam’s capital is a chaotic mish mash of French culture, fascinating historical sights, bustling markets, narrow streets, and motorbikes. Lots and lots of motorbikes. Have fun trying to cross the road when you’re in Hanoi. There’s little chance you’ll get bored as there are so many things to see and do, such as the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem lake, Lenin Park, the Ho Chi Minh museums and the Hoa Lo Prison museum which I found particularly fascinating – it’s where American prisoners of war (including John McCain) were kept during the Vietnam War. Oh, and if you needed any more reason to visit Hanoi, know that as Vietnam is a former French colony there’s lots of pastry shops. Hanoi is plaudited in all the Vietnam and South East Asia travel guides but for good reason so I think it is…
We did not visit Halong Bay in the appropriate circumstances at all as the weather was unseasonably grim; grey skies and continuous rain. Every photograph of the bay we’d seen showed the sun reflecting on emerald water and glittering limestone rocks but on the day we visited it looked pretty drab and didn’t impress.. If we’d been there when the sun was shining my opinion might be different but based on our experience only I’d say Halong Bay was…
Hoi An is a lovely little riverside town in Central Vietnam. As with Hanoi, the French influence is clear to see in its narrow streets, balconies and enticing pastry shops. It has a chilled out vibe which encourages you to move at a slower pace, to take boat trips down the river, wander around the pretty streets, or enjoy a drink in one of its great bars. The food in Hoi An is amazing too; the local speciality is a dish called Cao Lau which is doughy flat noodles mixed with croutons, beansprouts and greens topped with pork slices and served in a savoury broth (apparently you can only get it in Hoi An because the water has to come from a local well). There’s also a gorgeous, expansive beach just outside the main town. It’s easy for me to conclude then, that Hoi An is…
Da Lat is a town in Vietnam’s Central Highlands which is a popular honeymoon destination for Vietnamese newlyweds. It has a radio tower shaped like the Eiffel Tower, horse drawn carriages, and quite possibly the most unimpressive attraction I visited in all my travels – The Valley of Love. Google it – it is as bad as it looks. In case you haven’t worked it out already, Dalat is TACKY. Those with a soft spot for extreme kitsch might like it. Those who don’t should avoid.
Mui Ne is a resort town with beautiful white sandy beaches, some huge sand dunes which really impressed me, a pretty little fishing village, and lots of kite surfing opportunities, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you’re looking for a relaxing beach holiday destination Mui Ne a good option so I’ll say it is…
Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City was less frantic and traditional than Hanoi – it felt like more of a business city. It had some very interesting sights, such as the War Remnants Museum, which has choppers and tanks from the Vietnam War, and the Reunification Palace which I found fascinating: it hasn’t changed since the 1970s when it was stormed by the North Vietnamese Army. It looks like the home of a James Bond villain with wooden floors, glass walls, hidden underground rooms for the president to hide from his enemies, and a helipad to make a dramatic escape. Ho Chi Minh City also has an area with lots of expat bars which may be quite grating if you live there or are on only on holiday to Vietnam but after months on the road we found quite welcoming. Also near Ho Chi Minh city is the Cu Chi Tunnels, another fascinating Vietnam War Relic. I really enjoyed my time in Ho Chi Minh city and I’d say it’s….
Our three day boat trip along the Mekong Delta provided so many of the images I’d had in my head when I pictured Vietnam; narrow rivers framed by towering green palms, boats guided by elderly women wearing cone shaped straw hats, paddy fields, floating food markets. It was wonderful. A highlight of our trip was a home stay where we spent the night with a family who lived in a straw bungalow and their menagerie of animals which included dogs, cats, ducks and the smallest puppy I have ever seen, darting between our feet as we ate the delicious Vietnamese food the family cooked for us. Another highlight of the trip was watching the sunset from a mountain on the border of Vietnam and Cambodia. The Mekong Delta is an extraordinary place and one I’d have to say is…
Vietnam was my favourite country in South East Asia. In my opinion, it has everything: fascinating historical sights, beautiful beaches, and two very different but equally as appealing big cities. It’s very cheap too which is always helpful. Giving Vietnam the title of my favourite country in South East Asia is a huge compliment as I loved the region and every country in it. I cannot recommend Vietnam highly enough as a place to visit so would definitely say it is…