Ho Chi Minh is one of Southeast Asia’s most exciting cities, yet it’s also one where the stream of motorbikes is constant, the concrete endless, and the heat and humidity stifling almost every day of the year. It can become a bit overwhelming for the most seasoned of expats and travelers. Luckily, for outdoor enthusiasts, nature and camping under the stars are not far away.
Cát Tiên lies just a four- or five-hour drive north of Ho Chi Minh City. It’s one of the most undisturbed areas of nature in southern Vietnam, a place where dense forests and jungle give way to slowly meandering rivers and calm lakes. Tents can be set up or rented in a designated camping center near the park headquarters on the forests eastern edge. If you decide to bring your own, the cost for setting it up is 50,000 VND, while renting one from the park will be 200,000 VND. The campsite is clean and grassy and there’s a nice restaurant just minutes away.
Neither an official campsite nor a designated park, the banks of the Saigon River, winding northwest toward Cambodia, are a great place for adventurous travelers to set up camp and spend a night out under the stars. There are a number of nice, quiet spots all the way from Saigon to the border; however, the best may be where forests open up in Tay Ninh Province. Those looking to explore should head north on the QL13 before turning onto the DT744. Follow the river as closely as possible and keep your eyes peeled for grassy or forest areas to set up camp. The region is best explored by motorbike.
There’s something refreshing about the smell of pine forests in brisk air. The area around Dalat is overrun with it. For off-the-beaten-path travelers, crisscrossing through southern Vietnam, this region is hard to beat. Concrete mayhem has long faded in the rear view mirror, smog has dissipated and the sounds of nature replace the buzz of motorbikes. Those looking for a truly wild experience should head north from Dalat along DT722 into the woods. Set up camp wherever you find a bit of a clearing and relax in the clean air.
Coco Beach is one of the most interesting and in turn well-traveled seaside destinations in southern Vietnam. From Saigon, the white sand shoreline of this hip hangout spot can be reached in three hours by bus or four by motorbike. The ever growing grounds include colorful beach huts, larger ocean front bungalows, luxury tents, and smaller normal tents. Beach parties, bean bag chairs, and drinking games are the norm. Surfboards and California decor don ancient VW Bugs half buried in the sand. The clientele is a mix of Western backpackers and young Vietnamese. Tents can be rented from 200,000 VND.
Sao Biển is a beautiful little beachfront resort that looks out onto Cam Ranh Bay from a rocky jut of land. Hammocks hang inches above the sea and wooden lounge chairs recline along the sand. There’s a nice restaurant that offers affordable Vietnamese food and some great seafood. For accommodation, guests can rent bungalows, basic a-frame huts, or set up their own tents on the sand. As the rules at Sao Biển seem to be in a constant state of flux, it’s important to check with reception before setting up a tent as rates and regulations may change.