A month isn’t an infinite amount of time to spend exploring a country, especially one which is vast in size and sometimes difficult to navigate, however it does give you plenty of opportunity to plan your time how you want it, rather than rushing around trying to fit everything into the space of a week or two.
Vietnam is a wonderful place to spend your time, and the main attraction at the current time is that although it is becoming increasingly popular, it’s not yet met the dizzy tourism heights of places like Thailand. Exploring the intoxicating culture and traditions that make Vietnam so special is much easier when you have more time, and that’s why a month is the ideal stretch. Of course, you’ll probably want to go back!
A popular route throughout Vietnam is to travel either north or south, with many starting in the north at Hanoi, before ending their trip in the south, in Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, for those who know it by its former name. Getting around isn’t so difficult once you figure out the bus system, however the overnight sleeper trains are great for travelling larger distances without much hassle. Bunk cabins are basic but they get you from A to B, and really that’s all you need.
This particular route will show you the bustling nature of the cities, compared to the more sedate pace of life in the rural areas, where traditions are permanent fixtures.
These are just a few highlights you should check out on your trip.
Starting your journey in Hanoi is a great place to gather yourself before you embark, as well as being a good base for travelling around the city first. The Old Quarter is great during the evenings, with a laid-back atmosphere, perfect for people watching, and chilling the hell out. You can try traditional Vietnamese food from street vendors and wander around to your heart’s content, although do be aware of the traffic, it’s constant.
Travelling on a traditional Vietnamese boat to Halong Bay is popular, and you can easily find an excursion to take you there. Once you arrive you will see natural beauty in abundance, as well as a traditional way of life, with locals living in small villages and floating houses. Fishing villages are plentiful around here, surrounded by the glittering waters of the region.
If you love trekking and checking out dramatic mountain views, then Sapa is for you. This is by no means the easiest trek in the country, but the reward at the top will take your breath away. The town itself is very pretty and authentic, so spending a few days here either side of your trek is a good option.
Ho Chi Minh City
Spending a good portion of time here is to be recommended, as there is much to see and do. This is bustling, loud, crazy, and very Vietnamese, and there is more to pass the time here than perhaps anywhere else. Again, try some street food, wander around and get lost, but make sure you venture out of the city on a trip to the Mekong Delta, which you will find easily accessible with an excursion vendor. Here you will float down the river in the most traditional of ways, and check out floating markets and villages as you pass, a very short distance away from the loud city ambience.
There is so much to see and experience in Vietnam, and these are just a few ideas to help you on your way. Spend your time in the areas that interest you the most, and certainly remember your camera for those hard to believe bits of scenery which are so plentiful.
Photo Credit: Peter Nijenhuis