Amazing Experiences You Can Only Have in Vietnam

Bùi Viện is an infamous street in Saigon, Vietnam
Bùi Viện is an infamous street in Saigon, Vietnam | © Soma / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Matthew Pike
Writer4 September 2021

In our globalised world, you can get a taste of most cultures in any urban centre, but there’s just so much you’ll miss if you don’t get out and travel. Here are some experiences you can only have if you hop on a plane, train or boat and make your way to Vietnam.

You can now book an exclusive adventure with Culture Trip to take in all that Vietnam has to offer on our specially curated small-group Vietnam tour, led by our local insider.

Go to the Cái Răng Floating Market

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Cai Rang floating market at the Mekong Delta, Can Tho, Vietnam, Indochina, Southeast Asia, Asia
© Yadid Levy / robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
There are many floating markets throughout the Mekong Delta in Southwest Vietnam, but the Cái Răng Floating Market is the largest. It’s located in Cần Thơ, the fourth-largest city in Vietnam, which should be a stop on your tour through Vietnam anyway.

Visit a Hmong family

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Terraced rice paddies in broken sunshine from above near Sa Pa northern Vietnam
© Arthur Greenberg / Alamy Stock Photo

The moment you get off your bus in Sapa, in the north of Vietnam, you’ll be accosted in a friendly way by Hmong women in colourful garb. If you’re a seasoned traveller, your instinct might be to shoo them away – but don’t. They offer immersive tours where they bring you to their villages to show you their traditional ways of life. It’s an intimate experience, and you’ll be glad you didn’t wave them off.

Take a Xe Ôm ride

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All through Vietnam, you’ll see these leathery old men napping on their motorbikes, catching some midday snoozes in the shade. They’re motorbike taxis, and there’s no feeling that quite matches the full-on adrenaline rush of cruising through insane traffic on the back of a moto. Be sure to negotiate the price first, though. They’re notorious cheats.

Take a boat tour on the Saigon River

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Aerial view of Saigon River with the city center, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
© Andreas Rose / imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo

It’s surreal to watch palm trees and sheet-metal huts drift away to reveal the downtown skyline of Ho Chi Minh City. It’s like going through a time warp. There are numerous companies offering tours on the river, and most of them you can book through your hotel or hostel.

Visit Hội An

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This Unesco World Heritage site is one of the most sought-after locations for tourists in Vietnam – and for good reason. It’s a special place, and, even though it’s about as touristy as you can get, it doesn’t feel wrong as the town has a sort of timeless charm. Keen to visit? It’s one of many fantastic destinations featured on Culture Trip’s specially curated Vietnam tour.

Visit the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City

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War planes in front of the War Remnants Museum relating to the First Indochina and Vietnam War in Ho Chi Minh City, District 3, former Saigon, Vietnam
© van der Meer Marica / Arterra Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo

This is a sobering experience, but one which captures the visceral pain of the tumultuous years when tiny Vietnam fought against the strongest military in the world.

Ride on a cyclo

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Perfume River, Hue, Vietnam
© ICP/ incamerastock / Alamy Stock Photo

You can find these holdouts from the French colonial days near most urban tourist landmarks, especially in Ho Chi Minh City, Hue and Hanoi. They’re a bit bumpy, but the drivers are excellent guides with detailed knowledge of your surroundings. On Culture Trip’s exclusive 12-day Vietnam adventure, you can enjoy a food tour by cyclo in Hue.

Climb Fansipan

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Stunning view of mountains and the temple from the summit of the Fansipan Mountain, Sapa, Lao Cai, Vietnam
© Elena Ermakova / Alamy Stock Photo

Looming over Sapa in North Vietnam is Fansipan, the tallest mountain in Southeast Asia. There are many options available for people who want a guided trek up to the summit, and, unless you’re a veteran hiker, you should try to spread it out over two or three days.

Visit the Củ Chi Tunnels

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Tunnel Entrance in the Cu Chi Tunnel Complex, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.. Image shot 12/2008. Exact date unknown.
© David Parker / Alamy Stock Photo
These tunnels were the hideouts of forces loyal to Hanoi, fighting against the Americans and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam – South Vietnam’s army. The tunnels are a stark reminder of how the war had to be fought, relying on subterfuge and guerilla tactics.

Check out Bùi Viện Street

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Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) Bui Vien street - Touristy Bui Vien street in District 1 in Saigon, Vietnam, Southeast Asia.
© Soma / Alamy Stock Photo

For a look at some debauchery, you can’t do much better than the infamous Bùi Viện Street in the backpacker area of Ho Chi Minh City. It’s the epicentre of vice in Vietnam, and pretty well anything goes. Be careful with your belongings, though. Petty criminals are always watching for you to let your guard down.

These recommendations were updated on September 4, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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