10 reasons to visit Vietnam
1. Free wifi everywhere
Unlike many countries, who charge tourists for using the Internet, many cities in Vietnam allow you to stay connected for free. Most restaurants will provide their customers a password and you can use as much as you want. It makes tourists feel like at home.
2. Cheap drinks on the sidewalk
A sidewalk tea shop on the lake in Hanoi. File photos
Vietnam has a unique street cafe culture, where you can sit on a little plastic stool in the shade of a large tree, looking out onto the street and chatting with each with a cup of hot tea in Hanoi or a glass of iced café in Saigon for as long as you want.
The habit has become addictive for many locals and it is worth trying, because it only costs a dollar or so.
3. Endless street food menu
Grilled frog and beef on charcoal.
Vietnamese street foods impress most foreign tourists and are the biggest memory they take home.
Banh mi, pho, sticky rice, broken rice with grilled pork, chicken rice, rice vermicelli with pork pies and spring rolls … even a local cannot name them all.
And they are all available at street carts and roadside eateries. Unless you have a special dish in mind, you don’t have to worry about going hungry on the road because you can just stop by any shop. Remember to have a quick look first to see if it’s clean, because the country also has a problem with street food safety.
4. A lot of different kinds of breakfast
A bowl of fish noodle soup in Hanoi, which is just one of many kinds of delicious noodle soups one can find in Vietnam.
Popular options are broken rice with grilled pork, sticky rice, dumplings, banh mi and noodle soup. Each of these dishes comes in various avatars, meaning tourists can have a different dish at a different restaurant every morning.
5. Available taxi
The perk of not having a proper public transport system is that Vietnam has many taxis available in cities.
There are several popular taxis that hotels will hail for you or give you the numbers of, and you will be sure to get a metered taxi that is cheaper than in Singapore, Japan, China or South Korea.
If you’ve been here for some time and can recognize which taxis are reliable, you can just wave them on the street.
Also, the country has seven-seat taxis which are not very available in foreign cities.
6. Traffic jam is not so bad
At least it’s not as bad as in Bangkok, where a jam can take you more than an hour to move two kilometers or in Japan where you can be stuck for hours.
There are rush hours in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but you don’t have to wait too long on the road, possibly because motorbikes still outnumber cars and the cities have many alleys. Because sometimes there’s beauty in the chaos.
7. Myriad nice accommodation options
Foreigners at a swimming pool of a local resort.
Most fancy resorts in Vietnam charge less than similar ones in neighboring countries do. Some cost less than $100 a night, just half of that in Thailand or Singapore.
So even budget tourists to Vietnam can afford to take splendid photos at resort pools.
8. Magnificent beaches
Many foreigners praise the beaches in Mui Ne, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc as among the most beautiful in the world and prettier than Phuket or Sentosa.
But it is important that locals keep them clean and the government saves them from construction.
9. Pristine islands
Nam Du Island off Kien Giang Province in the Mekong Delta
Forget Con Dao or Phu Quoc since many islands off the central coast like Cham and Ly Son and those in the Mekong Delta like Nam Du are mesmerizing.
They have pure, sparkling water, clean, soft beaches and friendly locals who are willing to cook fresh seafood for a cheap price.
10. Son Doong
Inside Son Doong Cave in central Vietnam.
The world’s largest cave in central Vietnam is a must-see for any adventure lover.
Son Doong stretches for around five kilometers with at least 150 individual caverns, a dense subterranean jungle and several underground rivers.
Local man Ho Khanh discovered the cave in 1991, and in 2009 he helped British cave experts explore it. The British are now working as guides for tours of the cave.
Photo credit: Kenh 14/Tri Thuc Tre