How to Get Off the Usual Tourist Trails in Vietnam

Mai Chau — Holzhütte auf Pfählen | Img. By : Franzfoto ( Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The rich food culture, unique locations and long history make Vietnam a treasure trove of unforgettable experiences for travellers. The bustling streets of Hanoi are a major tourist attraction for many, with it’s french colonial architecture and picturesque village ambiance. However, if you move away from the usual tourist trails and venture out of the city, you will find some of the most breathtaking scenery in Asia.

Visit villages in Kon Tum

The green central highlands are an amazing sight, and provide many opportunities for adventure in Vietnam. The quiet provincial town of Kon Tum, located along the Cambodia and Laos border, with its scenic riverside setting, in particular is a must see. Oddly enough, for all its mesmerizing beauty, it has been overlooked by tourists. Unlike other remote areas, you don’t need to have a permit to travel here, and the ethnic communities that live in the villages in the area are very welcoming to visitors, as long as you remain polite. You won’t find many other foreigners during your travels in the region, so enjoy the most out of this unspoiled province.

Road trip to Ha Giang

Situated around 6-hours north of Hanoi, Ha Giang is home to several minority communities, rugged limestone mountain, rolling green landscapes and amazing vistas. The only way to get to Ha Giang is by taking an overnight bus or hired car with an experienced driver.

Experience island life — Vietnamese style

To get a taste of island life during your Vietnam trip; head down south to the Mekong Delta — where adventurous travellers will find rice paddies, floating markets and canals. Easily reached through the country’s efficient bus service, the area is a virtual water world, made up of criss-crossing canals, streams, and islets. Life along the delta is a sharp contrast to the near hectic pace of the city. Sit back in take in the views as water buffaloes graze in lush paddy fields, and fruit laden boats make their way slowly down the murky river to the floating markets. All roads are fringed with palm trees, that give way to a backdrop of lush greenery and traditional thatched houses, many of which are open to travellers looking to stay over.

Sample Hanoi’s famous homebrew

Bia hoi, the local draft beer, can be sampled all over Hanoi, most travellers head to the tourist areas like Ta Hien in the Hanoi Old Quarter, to get their first taste of bia hoi. Come evening, the local bars are filled with visitors, perched on plastic stools, enjoy their brew. But to get a real taste of the local beer, move away from the tourist spots and head over to a little bar located on the corner of Bat Dang and Duong Thanh. This is where you will find the real deal, bai hoi served up at room temperature in sticky glasses, Vietnamese style. The bar is known to locals, so if you’re staying at one of the Hanoi hotels near Old Quarter, such as properties like Somerset Grand Hanoi, simply ask for directions

Wander through Mai Chau

A 4-hour drive from Hanoi will take you to the rolling hills of rural Mai Chau. The town itself is a typical bustling country town, but head out to the adjoining villages of Ban Lac and Pom Coong, and you’ll find something more akin to a Thai countryside than Vietnam. Surrounded by a ring of mountains, and set amid green rice fields, the valley is home to a welcoming Thai minority, many of whom have opened their stilt houses to guests. Take your time and wander through the villages, before settling down for a delicious farm-fresh home cooked meal as the sun sets over the karst mountain.