Vietnam is a fantastic country to visit and really does tick all the boxes when it comes to food, climate, hospitality, scenery, culture and history. If you are thinking of going to Vietnam, DO IT – but here are a few tips on things you really should do!
Go to see the Water Puppets in Hanoi – you might have to book in advance, and there are a couple of different theatres, and I do have to warn you, it is a bit tacky, but where else can you see smoke-breathing dragons, buffalo and people puppets rising up out of a pond of water and enacting all different kinds of typical folkloric scenes to live traditional music? The show is only around an hour long and is worth the entertainment.
Get up at the crack of dawn and take a stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi for some extra-early morning tai chi or rock n roll – this is an absolute must! I don’t care if you are not a morning person, the goings-on at the lake in the morning are an absolute scream! Everyone from Grandma and Grandpa to busy office workers are down there doing some kind of exercise (dancing tango, stretches, weight-lifting etc) or massaging each other, it is very inspiring. Seriously, you will thank me for it. And you might even get involved yourself!
Buy some elephant pants – they are EVERYWHERE and they are only a couple of bucks and will be the best thing (along with the conical hat) that you will buy for cheap in Vietnam. They are cool, comfortable, cheap and you can just chuck them away at the end of your trip – if you haven’t grown attached to them.
Get a cheap massage – some massages are better than others, but for the price you pay, who cares?? (I had some good ones, I also had one that left me bruised). You probably don’t have the time or money to get a massage every other day at home, so why not do it here! Some days you can get just your feet and legs done, other days go for the whole body – it’s all part of the experience!
Drink and egg coffee in Hanoi – egg coffee – I drawl just thinking about it! There is a certain tiny coffee shop in the old quarter that is FAMOUS for it’s egg coffee (blink and you will miss it) called Giang Cafe – they make the BEST egg coffee – well, they did invent it – (it’s otherwise not easy to find and often not as good as here). More like a desert with coffee – beaten egg yolks and condensed milk on the top and coffee on the bottom, it is addictive! Vietnamese for egg coffee is Caphe Trung. Don’t miss it.
Drink a salted coffe in Hue – also worth a try! You know how chocolate with salt is all the rage, well in Hue they know how to make a salted coffee. Salting your coffee just the right way takes away the bitterness and gives it a little edge. But you have to know where to find the cafe that sells it, and the best way to do that is by booking yourself on a day trip with the Hue Lady Riders. These girls take you on a tour of the temples on the back of their bikes – a delicious lunch and a salted coffee is also included.
Get your stuff fixed – got a broken zip on your bag? Your favourite shoes are falling apart? You need that dress taken up? Nothing is a problem in Vietnam! Take that stuff with you to Vietnam and get it fixed. Just ask and someone will sure to be able to help you find the right person to fix your things.
Buy a facemask and look like a local – they don’t wear the masks just for the pollution, they also wear them to keep the sun off their faces, because white is the colour they want to be. Get yourself a colourful, fun one and use it when you take a moto ride!
Buy a conical hat – these Vietnamese handmade hats are best thing since sliced bread and worth the hassle of carrying it around. They give a LOT of sun protection and keep your head cool because they are not hugging your head like a regular hat. Wear it and chuck it out at the end of your trip, just don’t travel with it in Cambodia, they don’t like them (one of my group was marched out of a temple in Cambodia because she had one on – reminds them of the bad old days when Vietnam occupied parts of Cambodia).
Drink cheap cocktails – I don’t need to mention how AMAZING Vietnamese food is, you will find that out very quickly (the presentation is outstanding as well). And the fresh juices are to die for! But treat yourself (you are on holiday after all) to a cocktail or two, they are delicious and cheap!
Get some clothes made in Hoi An – You have probably already heard this. Well I am telling you again. Bring that old skirt that you love and don’t want to throw out and have it replicated. Bring that favourite t-shirt and have the holes expertly patched. Have a new outfit made. Go wild!
Get your shoes shined – I don’t care if your shoes don’t need shining. Vietnamese people work their butts off for meagre wages, the shoeshine guy (like many others) can barely afford to live (look at how skinny they are) – just get your damn sneakers shined, it’s cheap and you’re doing the guy a favour. And don’t be surprized if he runs off with them. He’s just taking them somewhere to get cleaned, drink your beer, he’ll be back before you are finished.
Vietnam – make sure you visit!