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There are no matches to Niagara Falls, Sydney Opera House or the Grand Canyons. However, Vietnam is a truly hidden gem that only those visiting the country themselves will be able to tell. To put it correctly, Vietnam is not short of World Heritage Site: Halong Bay, Phong Nha Ke Bang caves, Hoi An Ancient Street and Cham Islands are all recognized for their intense beauty. However, it is the bits and bites of the non-heritage site that will surprise you further. Da Lat, for example, is too picturesque to miss. French style villas sitting next to a pine forest, bordered by strawberry garden- you feel like Europe but the market scenes speak otherwise. Keo pagoda in Thai Binh province also exemplifies well the no-name beauty of Vietnam: feel the serenity of a religious place, situated amidst greeneries of paddy farms. Whether a must-see site or an off-the-beaten-path attraction, you will not be disappointed.
2: Friendly and hospitable Vietnamese:
Like many other neighbor countries in Southeast Asia, Vietnam has a precious treasure: its people. Everywhere you go, you will be welcomed by smiles and kind helps from the locals- whether they know Vietnamese or not. People from Hue, for example, are famous all over the country for their royal-like attitude: elegant and sweet. Those from Hoi An, on the other hand, are known for being honest. If you have time to spend in the Mekong delta of Vietnam, you will even be more surprised and inspired by the way you are received by local farmers. Get impressed!
Vietnam is a well-known destination among budget travellers. Though the price is climbing monthly at a daunting rate, it is still much cheaper than travelling in other continents. There is almost every price for every wallet: a 5 star resort in Da Nang will cost you an equivalent amount to a 3 star hotel near JFK airport. For lower end market, there are a plenty of hostels and guest-houses in most cities. Food costs even lower and street foods are among the best in the world. That says, even in biggest metropolitan areas like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, you can get by a day with $15.
4: Coffee coffee coffee
Who do not like coffee (excuse me, tea fans)? There is no Starbuck with the humongous frap and latte but there is the French drip coffee that can be found in EVERY single street of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Why rush in a country like Vietnam? Enjoy a cup of black coffee (ca phe den) or iced coffee with condensed milk (cap he sua da) and watch life goes by on a corner of the street- you will never forget Vietnam. For those who would like to take some coffee home, visit Café Mai (79 Le Van Huu, Hanoi) or Highland Coffee (26 Le Loi, Ho Chi Minh City).
5: A nowhere-to-be-found travel experience
Vietnam has all the off-the-beaten-path experience that you are all looking for. From staying with an ethnic family in the Northern mountain area of Sa Pa to taking photos over the sunrise in Hoi An to sand-surfing with local kids in Mui Ne- you name them all. A unique travel experience is all about yourself- and the best part about Vietnam is that there are so much to discover after all. Read our “Best of Vietnam” page for more suggestions.
6. Exquisite cuisines
Have you always been a fan of Vietnamese food? Pho Hung on Spadina- Toronto, Nam Son near Bowery- New York, Le Lotus Blanc on Bourgogne of Paris- They can never be as authentic as the food served in Vietnam (though they all do an awesome job). Vietnamese food goes beyond pho and spring rolls and varies by regions: fresh vegetables continue to dominate the tables, while meat and poultry are rising in popularity. Near the beach such as Nha Trang and Da Nang, you can find plenty of fresh seafood caught in the morning and served in your dinner at very affordable price. A big size king crab costs about $8 and can be shared between 2 people.
7. Fast and easy immigration process
Applying for a visa to Vietnam seems stressful at first- why would you need a visa to Vietnam while you are granted free 30 day entry to Thailand and Ecuador? Vietnam requires you anyway, and to alleviate the pain, the process has been made quite easy. Besides visa at the embassy, Vietnam visas can also be granted upon arrival. All you need to do is to apply online for your approval letter via a number of online travel companies, which are plentiful on the net. The visa letter will be emailed to you after 2 days. If you leave close to the embassy, it will take only about a week.
8. It’s a natural thing
Think Vietnam and many still think about a war-torn country- not necessarily but that is usually the case. Vietnam is more than just its war memory: its natural resources are something worth talking about. National parks abound, and you can enjoy a variety of activities you could never enjoyed back in your country: camping and bird-watching in the tropical forest of Cuc Phuong or Cat Ba; renting a jeep and touring Cat Tien national park; wind-surfing crash course in Nha Trang. The bad news is that tourism has brought a lot of commercial activities into the nature. The good news is that there are still a lot more to see, and enjoy.
9. Traditional festivals
Thanks to its long history, rich tradition and Buddhist influence, Vietnam has festivals organized all year round- many of which are unheard of in the West and really fun to learn about. Tet holiday, for example, is an ideal time to see how families celebrate their love for their ancestors and for each other. Tet should not be mistaken or called Chinese New Year, which may even be an insult to some nationalists. It resembles the Lunar New Year in many ways, but modified with a Vietnamese feel in it. For example, in the countryside, people stay over night and make chung cake- over a bit of fire and some end-of-year gossips. In Hai Phong, the buffalo fighting festival is a well-known occasion: the winning buffalo will get killed and presented to the village god. Even public holidays in Vietnam are worth joining: come to Vietnam on the 2nd of September and you will see nation-wide parades. The whole streets will be lighted by the red flags- and fireworks take over the sky at night. Check our events page to see what events you can join in your next trip.
10. World famous beaches
What is more relaxing than spending time in the blue water under the shining sun. Let the waves of Da Nang, Nha Trang or Mui Ne relieve all the stress of the busy day-to-day life. Vietnam has several of the world’s top beach listing. Most of them are safe to swim and there are opportunities for water-sport activities as well. In Nha Trang, for example, you can do kite-running and wind surfing. In Da Nang, enjoy one of the world-class beach resorts- a romantic get away for couples and families alike. In Mui Ne, enjoy the quite with some added wildness while planning for your seafood dinner venture. For beach fans, Vietnam should really be on your list.