15 Crazy Things to Do in Vietnam Before You're 30
Having some fun in Ha Long Bay | © Arianos/WikiCommons
In terms of extreme sports, Vietnam’s scattered communities are still in their infancy. There’s some skateboarding, a few surfers and a devoted following of rock climbers, but not a whole lot else. Vietnamese people don’t really gravitate to dangerous hobbies because they get all the thrills they need just from driving. There are ways to get a bit crazy in the country though. Whether you’re young, or young at heart, here’s how to let loose in Vietnam.
We’re not sure what kind of essence a dead snake infuses into strong liquor, but just one look at the bottle is enough to put off most people. Be the crazy one in your group and send all your friends recoiling in horror as you down shot after shot until your fangs come out. Enough snake wine is sure to make anyone crazy.
Snake wine with a hint of scorpion | © Shankar S./Flickr
To really see and experience Vietnam, skip the buses, planes and trains and get yourself a motorbike. The freedom of cruising dusty back roads with nothing more than a vague notion of where you’ll be stopping for the night is a feeling you just can’t get with a tour group. It’s not for everyone, but if you have a sense of adventure and don’t mind when things go hilariously wrong, then stray from the well-trodden paths and do some exploring on your own. The central highlands and the mountains north of Hanoi are the best for pure adventure.
One of the many back road scenes in Vietnam | © garycycles8/Flickr
It’s no secret that traffic in Vietnam is lethally dangerous. It kills hundreds every single day. That makes driving in the country pretty much the definition of crazy, but it’s wicked fun. If it’s your first time in Saigon, we recommend you get on the back of a xe ôm (motor taxi). It’s not easy on the nerves, but it’s safer than learning how to drive a motorbike on the hectic streets of downtown Ho Chi Minh City.
Needed some rest before hitting the roads again | © yyoz/pixabay
Bui Vien is Vietnam’s equivalent to Khao San Road in Bangkok, except much seedier and more fun. You could just show up and plant your butt in a tiny plastic chair on one of the overcrowded sidewalks, but for an even crazier night, join up with a bar crawl. You’ll meet people from around the world and drink in places you normally wouldn’t go anywhere near – but that’s part of the fun. Check in with the major hostels in the backpacker area. Most of them run bar crawls on a regular basis.
You'll probably end up here at some point during your night | © Matthew Pike
Race on a motorbike track
Many locals do all their racing on public streets, but you’ll probably want to avoid doing that. Even when you understand the traffic madness, you’ll die in less than a blink of an eye if you try to race through the thick crowds. And if you don’t kill yourself, the transport trucks are more than willing to do it for you. Take your need for speed to the circuit instead. Opened in 2016, the Happyland Circuit is Vietnam’s first professional motor racing track. Pop wheelies, brush knees with the tarmac and feel the g-forces like nowhere else in this country. The track is only 35 kilometers out of Ho Chi Minh City, so it won’t break the bank to get there either. Make it a day-trip.
Happy Land Circuit Office, 102 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Thành, Ho Chi Minh City
Bikinis, beach bods and as beautiful a location as you’ll ever find. To get your fill of partying in paradise, get yourself onto a party boat in Ha Long Bay. Glide around the incomparable limestone karsts and drink until your friends force a life-vest on you. Or you can choose one of the packages where they drop you off on a secluded beach with a bunch of other people looking to party – an international cast all letting loose on their big holiday.
If you’ve seen pictures of terraced rice paddies and Hmong people, then you already know how beautiful the Muong Hoa Valley is. Fansipan Mountain looms over Sapa, the small city that’s increasingly popular with tourists. It’s the tallest mountain in Indochina at 3,143 meters, and it’s no easy feat getting to the top. Most hikes to the summit are spread over several days. You ascend into the clouds through thick forests and some amazing nature. It’s not too crazy, but still something better done when you’re young and your knees can take the abuse.
View of Fansipan from Sapa City | © Matthew Pike
Even in a country as diverse as Vietnam, you don’t expect to see massive sand dunes squeezed between a fishing village and a forest. It doesn’t compute. But as weird as they are, the sand dunes of Mui Ne are quite a sight. For the usual traveler, it’s enough to hike around them for a couple of pictures. The more adventurous might even race down one of the slopes on a crazy carpet – like sliding down a snowy hill in the winter. To really get the blood pumping, rent a 4-wheeler and tear around the white dunes. Is it environmentally friendly? Hell no, but it’s wicked fun.
Wheel tracks over Mui Ne's sand dunes | © Saranya Chawanrattanasakul/Flickr
Expats, tourists and locals alike all gather at rooftop pools in Ho Chi Minh City to lounge, gawk and have a lot of fun. It’s a Vegas-style pool party where hoards of kids won’t cramp your style. Keep an eye on their Facebook page so you can join the beautiful action.
Splashing around with some beautiful people | © Saigon Soul/Flickr
Shoot a gun
Gun violence in Vietnam is practically non-existent. But, for a few dollars, there’s a spot where you can unload a torrent of firepower from some mean machines. The Cu Chi Tunnels, outside Ho Chi Minh City, are an underground complex where forces loyal to Hanoi lived and trained during the war. It’s a popular tourist spot these days, but certainly nothing too crazy. Blasting targets with an AK-47, though? That’s a bit more like it.
Cu Chi Tunnels, Đường tỉnh lộ 15, Phú Hiệp, Phú Mỹ Hưng, Củ Chi, Hồ Chí Minh 733814, Vietnam
As night shifts into very early morning, Hanoi’s streets get eerily quiet. There are still places where you can find a late-night drink or dance partner, but unless you know where to look, you’ll just be partying by yourself on an empty street. For intel on the spots to go, head to Bia Hoi Corner and ask around. Locals and expats love having their egos stroked by divulging insider information.
Where to next? | © Matthew Pike
Most people make their way to Dalat for the clean mountain air and the relaxed atmosphere. To get a bit crazy in Dalat, try canyoning. You’ll abseil down cliffs and waterfalls, slide down natural water slides and hike through ravines that’ll make you forget all about the civilized world. But the true crazy comes when you take a trust fall into a gushing torrent and disappear into wet darkness. It’ll leave you giggling and thankful to still be alive.
The beautiful forests of Dalat | © VCTBR/Wikicommons
Flyboard in Nha Trang
Although this one has a chance of turning you into a hydraulic missile, at least you’ll crash into some pristine waters. There’s no feeling that can quite compare to floating on jets of water. If soaring above the waves isn’t your thing, then straddle a jetski and wrench the throttle until you’re howling with joy.
Flyboard Nha Trang, 35/48 Ngo Den Song Cai, Tp. Nha Trang +84 165 979 6989
We know what you’re thinking. Anyone can do this one, right? The trick is to get something outlandish tailored, the kinds of things anyone with even a lick of wisdom would never even consider. Get a tacky Christmas suit. Get a fake wedding dress made of blood-red silk. Get the outfits from Dumb and Dumber (1994). Tailors in Vietnam are comically cheap, so splurge on something that will get some laughs.
Your creativity is the limit | © Caitlin Childs/Flickr
Part of the fun of traveling is trying new foods. Vietnam is a wild frontier of strange meals, sometimes with less-than-savory ingredients. For the most part, Vietnamese food is damn delicious and fairly safe on your stomach. But normal isn’t what we’re after, so ask for the Vietnamese menu and order some dishes. Just point to something on a random page. You’ll either find your new favorite dish, or you’ll have a laugh. Ever had fried baby sparrows? Frog? Sliced eel in fish sauce? Roll the dice and see what you get.
You might get lucky and end up with this | © Shankar S./Flickr