If you were to ask me where home is, my answer is clear: Vietnam. Born and raised there, Vietnam defined my childhood and teenage years. It was 18 full years of curiosity and excitement that have truly defined the person I am today.
As far as I could remember, those 18 years were never static, with Vietnam being a developing country that refuses to be dull. Able to maintain cultural and historical beauty, while embracing modernism, is what makes the charm of Vietnam. While visiting, you’ll see a beautiful blend of past, and present. The past imprints itself in timeless architecture, while the present is one of economic development, and of new changes.
Geographically, Vietnam is divided into three main regions: North, Central, and South. I can still recall the summer of 2014 when my family decided to drive across Vietnam – a three week long journey. We started in Saigon, moving further South until we arrived at the most southern part of the mainland: Ca Mau. From there, we headed back up North, passing through the Central regions. Needless to say, I was able to explore Vietnam at its fullest extent.
Therefore, I will introduce to you some of the most notable cities/areas that you must visit:
The North exudes a timeless beauty, with our capital, Ha Noi, located in this region. Ha Noi is very distinct in its own way. Characterized by a misty atmosphere that drapes over old French architectures, Ha Noi stands as our portal to the past. It is an effortlessly beautiful city, with its old streets, that I believe deserve to be appreciated more. Hit up the city centre, where the Old Quarter is, and you’ll be greeted with narrow streets, old temples, and Ho Guom – a major scenic spot in the city.
Before reaching the South, you’ll cross the Central regions. If you’re looking for long shorelines and beautiful hills, this is the area you need to visit. If you’re adventurous and can drive, I would recommend you to rent out a motorcycle to get the optimal experience. You’ll be able to enjoy the breeze, stop anywhere you want, and perhaps find hidden local gems. Da Nang has fantastic beaches, white sands, and occasional high waves. Therefore, if you’re a surfer, you’ll love Da Nang! If you’re not into beaches, Da Nang also has fantastic, very well preserved caves that you can visit. With that, there are also temples built into these caves. I highly recommend you visit these natural wonders, as you definitely would not want to miss out on this!
However, if you want a safe plan (aside from soaking up some sun at the beach), I would recommend you to visit Hoi An. There is a direct bus (45 to 60 minutes) from Da Nang to Hoi An for 30,000 Viet Nam Dong, which roughly equates to 11.75 Euros. Once you get to Hoi An, you will have arrived at an important historical port for trading, dating back to the 15th century. Due to this, the city is a melting pot of culture, thus resulting in interesting food and architecture. Stepping into Hoi An is stepping into another world. The houses are painted in this beautiful and timeless yellowish tone, while streets are adorned with red lanterns that light up the entire area at night. Therefore, make sure to take a nice stroll, while stopping to participate in some traditional games, before enjoying the local food.
The MeKong Delta:
Rather than a city, the Mekong Delta is a lively region further south from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). As it is a delta, this region has an abundance of rivers. A very interesting activity that you can partake in while you’re in this area is to visit the floating market. There are numerous floating markets in this region, but the most famous one is Cho Noi Cai Rang. As the market is on water, you will need to get in contact with some tour organizers to get access to a boat. However, fear not, this service is easily found on the internet. When you’re at the market, be sure to look for bamboo poles that are used by sellers to notify their customers what they have on their boat for the day. You can stop to buy fresh produce, while also enjoying some traditional vietnamese food on the boat.
On a personal note, Vietnam is beautiful not only because of its landscape, but also because of its people. Anywhere you go, the people are always welcoming. The Vietnamese people live together as a community, in which everybody is ready to lend a helping hand. Our culture is one of collectivism, hospitality and easygoingness. Never be afraid to ask for help from locals, as we are always happy to lend a giving hand. Now that I’m more than 9000 kilometers away, I miss home dearly. To me, Vietnam will forever be charming with its magnificent beauty. It is ethereal, and breathtaking – a beauty that is so delicate, yet so sophisticated. I can guarantee you, that Vietnam will surprise you for its uniqueness, as it is definitely a country that cannot be overlooked.