Posted by Beth | December 31, 2016
We spent a full month in Vietnam in June as a part of our round-the-world trip. We were impressed, and pleasantly surprised, with the wide-range of affordable entertainment options across Vietnam. We’ll count down our top 10 favorite things we did, and throw in some honorable mentions at the end.
10. Vinpearl Land Themepark in Nha Trang: Kicking off the list with this wild card. We spent an evening at a cheesy amusement park in Nha Trang and had a blast riding rides, seeing a spectacular fountain/light show, taking silly photos in the 3D paintings room and playing unlimited arcade games. The people watching alone (mostly Vietnamese tourists there) was well worth the $13 half-price entry fee if you go after 5 p.m.
9. Spending an evening on Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street in Ho Chi Minh City: Traffic is banned from 8:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. along Nguyen Hue in touristy District One. It’s the go-to hang out spot for Vietnamese teenagers on hoverboards and we joined in on the fun renting one for an hour. It’s a prime spot for people watching or grabbing dinner, ice cream or drinks at one of the many cafes, many with rooftop bars, overlooking the pedestrian plaza. Our favorite place in the area was Pasteur Street Brewery.
8. Mud bath/spa day in Nha Trang: One of the popular things to do in Nha Trang (a mostly Russian resort town) is to visit a mud bath. There are a few outside the city, but we visited Galina Hotel & Spa, the only one in the heart of the city. We spent 20 to 30 minutes in our private mud bath, then rotated through the outdoor showers, steam room, sauna, jacuzzi, foot and body sprays and swimming pool. Relaxing way to spend a few hours for $15 each.
7. AO Show in Ho Chi Minh City: The AO Show was a chance for us to see a live performance inside the Saigon Opera House. The show represented village life in Vietnam through acrobatics and modern dance with bamboo props. Only lasts an hour but a fun experience for $24 each.
6. Private driver from Hoi An to Da Nang: We paid about $48 total for a private driver for the day and entry fees into Marble Mountains, Cham Museum, Dragon Bridge, a beach, and the Lady Buddha. Well worth it since we needed to get there anyway, and could see some tourist attractions at our own pace along the way.
5. Exploring Ancient Town Hoi An: Ancient Town is absolutely charming. Rent bikes and ride along the river before stopping at GAM (Gem Art Museum) for a cocktail on the patio at sunset. Make your way to White Marble Wine Bar for dinner then go light a floating lantern and send it down the river or take one of the many options for romantic boat rides. Spend the rest of the evening wandering around the alleyways, lit up in paper lanterns, stopping at a few of the tourist sights on your entrance ticket, browsing the handmade goods or following your ear to the closest bar with live music. Then rearrange your travel plans so you can do this all over again the rest of the week.
4. Canyoning Tour in Dalat: Our canyoning trip in South Africa still holds a “Top 3 Best Day” spot on our trip so we couldn’t pass up a chance to try it again in Vietnam. We booked with Dalat Passion Tours (also known as Adventure Tour Dalat). The best part about this company was it was a smaller group of four people, while the groups at the bigger waterfall were 15-20 per guide. The tour included hiking, abseiling, cliff jumping and a zipline. We were ziplining over a little lake and loved letting go of the bar halfway and dropping into the water until one girl came out with a leech on her and then Caleb bit it hard on his approach and we decided to call it a day. They had a great picnic for us with some sandwiches, fresh fruit and warm beers and a good time was had by all, despite the pouring rain.
3. Halong Bay Cruise: Had we not been sick this would have been a slam dunk number one for us, but our experience was unfortunately all but ruined by our sickness. We were hardly able to eat or drink anything or go on many of the extra excursions. But it was stunningly beautiful and full of the types of things we usually love–kayaking in coves, exploring caves, visiting a pearl factory, a cooking class, and just lounging around on the boat deck socializing with other travelers during happy hour. There’s lots of advice out there on how to choose which company to go through, and I agree with the general rule that your boat/company can make or break your trip. We booked directly with our hostel and settled on the middle of the road option–not dirt cheap but not too luxurious.
2. Getting Clothes Tailored in Hoi An: We bought very few souvenirs on our trip because of the whole have to carry it on our back situation, but we knew we wanted to save room in our packs to each get a few pieces tailored in Vietnam. We loved this quaint little town we stayed six days and ended up getting multiple suits and dresses tailored at a few different shops. There are probably 600 tailor shops here, most of which will custom create any coat, dress or suit for you in 24-48 hours. This post from Two Travelaholics has some great tips if you find yourself in Vietnam ready for some new clothes. We went through two different tailors, Blue and Bibi Couture. The first was slightly more expensive but higher quality, but the better experience was with Thue at Bibi. She was darling and made the whole experience so fun.
1. Easy Rider Countryside Tour in Dalat: Dalat was one of our favorite places in Vietnam because of the mountainous scenery and the cooler temperatures. The Easy Rider motorcycle tours are the biggest draw in the area and we found ours to be well worth the hype. There are countless companies available but we booked ours directly with our hostel owner. He and his buddy took us out for a full day of exploring the countryside. Before lunch we made stops at a coffee farm, a greenhouse, a temple, and a waterfall for a little hike. The afternoon was filled with scenic overlooks and stops at a rice wine distillery and a silk factory. Good scenery, hilarious company and some interesting experiences we wouldn’t have stumbled onto on our own.
Somehow none of Vietnam’s beaches made our list. Vietnam is not as well known for its beaches as some of the other Southeast Asian countries but Vietnam has a huge coastline full of beautiful beaches. We spent time in Nha Trang and Danang, two popular resort cities in Central Vietnam, but also really enjoyed the laid back beaches right outside of Hoi An. Very much a budget activity, as you usually only have to pay $1-$2 to rent a lounge chair for the day and have your pick of food and drinks from the little bars and restaurants lining the beaches.