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30 Cool Things to Do in Vietnam

By: Tim Russell Posted: May-16-2014 in
Bai Sao beach - Photo Credit - Tim Russell
Tim Russell

Coming to Vietnam & want to avoid the touristy stuff? Or coming back for a repeat visit & want to do something different? Here’s our list of 30 fun & non-touristy things to do in Vietnam…

  1. Go to a rural wedding – you can’t beat rice wine shots at 6am
  2. See Vietnam the way the locals do – from a motorbike, with a Vietnam Vespa Adventures scooter tour or an evening street food crawl with XO Tours
  3. Join the locals on a tiny plastic stool for bia hoi on the pavement in Hanoi
  4. Spend a day relaxing & eating seafood at Bai Sao beach in Phu Quoc, the most stunning beach in the country
  5. Think about swapping that internal flight or long road journey for a relaxing, scenic ride on Vietnam’s ramshackle but charming trains
  6. Get out of the tourist areas & visit some authentic wet markets, eg Tan Dinh in HCMC
  7. Get up early & join the locals for morning exercises in a local park, or around Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi
  8. Eat oc (shellfish/snails) on the street at night
  9. Spend the night in an ethnic minority stilthouse in Mai Chau
  10. Smile at everyone you meet – it really does work
  11. Escape from the modern world at Jungle Beach, a hand-built eco resort on a private beach near Nha Trang
  12. Befriend your hotel’s security guys – they’ll be your best friends if you have any problems with rogue taxi drivers
  13. Do a cooking class on the beach at Mui Ne Cooking School, the most idyllic cooking class location in Vietnam
  14. Go for a blind massage
  15. Find & join in a game of da cau (shuttlecock) in a park – not as easy as it looks but it’s good fun
  16. Act like Andrew Zimmern & try some bizarre food – minced snake, grilled scorpion & field rat are on many restaurant menus
  17. Spend the night in a jungle lodge at Cat Tien National Park, home to many endangered species
  18. Cross the road in Saigon or Hanoi – a real sense of achievement when you make it intact to the other side!
  19. Ride a motorbike over the Hai Van Pass at 5am on a clear summer morning, and see sunrise at one of Vietnam’s most spectacular spots
  20. Visit Cholon (Saigon’s historic Chinatown) by cyclo – vibrant markets, magnificent colonial buildings and great Chinese food
  21. Try out your handicraft skills at a lantern-making workshop in Hoi An
  22. Take a private blessing ceremony at a colourful Cao Dai temple
  23. Go trekking in Con Dao’s national park to observe wild monkeys
  24. Drive the spectacular coast road from Quy Nhon to Tuy Hoa
  25. Enjoy a relaxing couple of hours at a local hairdresser for a haircut, hairwash and head massage – the whole lot will cost less than $2 in many places
  26. Get some friends together & rent a private karaoke room with a couple of cases of beer
  27. Try night fishing for squid off the coast of Phu Quoc
  28. Visit Binh Thuy ancient house in Can Tho, where the film The Lover was shot – and contribute to its upkeep
  29. Visit the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Cham Island near Hoi An – sail there on a traditional ghe nang boat, and stay in a village homestay
  30. Get off the tourist trail in the Mekong Delta – avoid My Tho & Vinh Long, & try Ben Tre, Sa Dec or Tra Vinh instead

Big thanks to Kris Goetghebeur, Scott Bowen, Craig Anderson, Tin Bien, Tim Scott, Jake Catlett, Naya Ehrlich-Adam, Mario Jukic, Irina Kim and Irene Wong for sharing their suggestions.

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