I was lucky enough to spend a week travelling overland through Vietnam in January of 2013. Along the way, I came across some fabulously historical and cultural places that are not neccessarily mentioned in guide books, but all backpackers alike should visit!
Here are my recommendations to see, eat and do in Vietnam.
Bich Restaurant– Hoi An
This was a friendly, family-run restaurant on one of the main streets in Hoi An. After trying numerous dishes on the menu for a really great price, I recommend the Cao Lau- which is a specialty dish of Hoi An. The dish contains noodles, local greens and pork, and is made from the water in the wells of the village. The ingredients are placed
into the bowl, and it is your job to mix it together to get the taste that you prefer; the dish is known as a ‘mixing dish’ in Vietnamese. Yummy!
Sand dune surfing- Mui Ne
On a long and tiring 16 hour bus journey, I decided to break up the time by stopping in Mui Ne to go sand dune surfing. There are white and red sand dune hills, and I would recommend stopping at the red dunes by sunset; with the smooth sand, glowing in the light of the pink and yellow sky. It is possible to rent a ‘slide’ for 1 dollar from a family who stand by the front entrance, although they aren’t secure and I broke mine, mid-slide! It is a fantastic, one-of-a-kind experience; getting sand in places you didn’t even know existed!
Cu Chi Tunnels- Cu Chi Province, Ho Chi Minh City
Wow, wow and wow. This tour is of the upmost importance during your stay in Vietnam. The tunnels exist as part of a larger tunnel network under the country, where the Viet Kong held their base during the Tet Offensive in 1968, when America were increasing their military effort. In the tunnels themselves, there are kitchens, larger dugouts for sleeping, and traps above ground consisting of booby trapped leaves that flip onto metal spikes. There is a section where tourists can shoot Vietnam War era weapons such as a machine gun, AK47, or a handgun for a small fee depending on the number of bullets you want to shoot; look out when the gun recoils- it’s painful! My tour was actually a war veteran named Jackie, who gave detailed information on his knowledge of Agent Orange and life in the tunnels itself.
Whilst in Vietnam, I booked a lot of my bus journeys and excursions through a travel agency named The Sinh Tourist. Ranked among one of the most popular agencies, I had nothing but trouble whilst dealing with them. I felt as though they had so many customers day by day, that they didn’t care if something went wrong with just one of them.
On one of my journeys, from Hoi An to Mui Ne, the bus broke down at 3am, around 5 hours into the trip. The bus I was on was a sleeper bus, with space to lay out and rest. The replacement bus that came along after an hour of waiting was another sleeper, which I proceeded to get on. After getting comfortable and settling in for the next leg of the trip, the driver came on and began to shout at us to get off. Yet another bus came and it was a standard, local bus; our bus for the next 9 hours. I was sat bolt upright, on a very old and rickety bus, and finally arrived in Mui Ne. From there, I travelled on to Ho Chi Min City and immediately went into the Sinh Tourist office to complain. The woman I spoke to didn’t care and told me to basically go away; you pay more than a third of the price extra to travel on a sleeper bus compared to a standard bus. No refund, no apology. Terrible company!