Ready for backpacking Vietnam? Think untamed wildlife, glorious natural splendor, and the wonderful artifacts of a rich cultural heritage. Think beachfronts and rain forests, simple traditional villages and grand imperial complexes. You’ll have no chance to get bored; Vietnam is certainly one place worth scheduling plenty of time in your backpacking adventures.
Where do you want to go first? There is more to Vietnam than could fit in a book, but here are our top recommendations for Vietnam adventure travel.
• The Imperial Enclosure, in Hue, is definitely worth budgeting the better part of a day to go see. This one-time grand and magnificent complex is now largely in ruins, but a work of restoration is ongoing and there is definitely more than enough to see. Expect to pay an entrance fee, and time your visit for the open hours (usually between seven in the morning and five thirty at night.
• Halong Bay--- the literal translation of Halong would be “where the dragon descends into the bay” and the 2000+ limestone islets dotting this beautiful bay are said by legend to have been created by the thrashing tail of a great dragon. They certainly look the part, and Halong Bay is a no-miss location for anyone who would enjoy a grand dose of natural beauty and is not afraid of small boat craft. The best way to enjoy the bay is to take a boat tour, and you can arrange to spend the night on a boat as well. If you’ve got time, don’t forget to explore some of Halong’s impressive limestone caves as well.
• Hanoi—Vietnam’s capital city, and a burgeoning modern metropolis. There are more than a dozen fun places to visit: you could relax at the Haon Kiem Lake, visit the Temple of Literature, or browse ethnic art at the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. But the biggest experience Hanoi can offer is one you’ll find yourself wandering through the streets, peering into the little shops and sampling the street food.
• Mekong Delta—this is Vietnam’s major rice-producing area, and you can get a front row seat on traditional agricultural economy in a land overflowing with water. Everything is on the water here—houses, shops, and transportation. The center of this area is the city Can Tho, a good place to get transportation lined up for expeditions into the countryside. If you appreciate tropical rainforests and white sand beaches, schedule some time to explore Phu Quoc Island. This is a favorite destination for tourists and those backpacking Vietnam, and for a reason. Although a portion of this beautiful island has been developed and features comfortable tourist resorts, there is still plenty to appeal to a backpacker: 70% is covered by a national park and so inaccessible to the big money makers, and there are lots of backwater corners as well.
• Hoi Ahn—If you had time to visit just one town while backpacking Vietnam it should be Hoi Ahn, a slow-paced cultural center. Spend time browsing the Old Town, enjoying the old architecture originally built on the Thu Bon river as a trading center. Wander over the Japanese Covered Bridge, an architectural marvel first built in the 1590s and still going strong, or visit the two centuries old Tan Ky house.
Backpacking Vietnam will be an adventure you’ll never forget. Do your homework before you go, make sure you have plenty of batteries for your camera and stock up on insect repellant—and a will-have-fun attitude that no minor inconvenience can break!