There are so many things to do in Vietnam, tourist simply don’t have the time to experience it all. Teaching in Vietnam gives you the luxury to see parts of the country and experience things most visitors simply can’t. Enjoy your time teaching in Vietnam and take the opportunity to explore this amazing and diverse part of the world. I believe exploring beyond Saigon and Hanoi is a must to really get a sense of the country and the culture. Of course you’ll visit those cities, but look beyond them for a glimpse into the past. There are simply too many places to see and explore to list here, but here are some of my favorites.
From Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) you should definitely explore The Mekong Delta. It’s one of the world’s most important and grand river systems and is accessible from the city of Can Tho. Visit the many floating markets, sample the fresh fruit and spices right from a traditional Vietnamese river boat. Unfortunately you won’t be able to escape the sight of plastics that pollute the Delta; it’s a shocking sight, but should not put you off a one or two day adventure.
You can also visit the islands off the coast in Southern Vietnam. Con Dao is a former French, US and Vietnamese penal colony where the infamous ‘Tiger Cages’ can seen. Today the islands are promoted for their lush forests, white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. Enjoy your relaxing visit but remember your stay on Con Dao will be very different from those that came before you. Another beautiful island destination in the South to consider is Phu Quoc. It has been developed and promoted as a beach resort for the last 20 years and has accommodation options from 1-star to 5-star, and great seafood!
Feeling too hot, need a break from the sand and heat? Head to Dalat in the mountains for a couple of days of cooler temperatures. Hike in the forests, which reminded me more of Northern Ontario than South East Asia. For breakfast enjoy a hot bowl of Pho to warm yourself up and get ready for the day. Pull your jeans out of the bottom of your bag and take a hike into the hills.
As you move north, you have to stop in Hoi An. To me this is one of Vietnam’s treasures. It’s a small city nestled along a winding river between the shadows of the Marble Mountains and long stretches of beautiful beaches along the East Vietnam Sea. There is so much to explore and do. True, it’s a busy stop on the tourist trail, but for good reason. The town has a lovely mix of old Chinese, French, Vietnamese and Japanese architecture which combined with the extensive use of Chinese lanterns give the city a unique and unforgettable appearance. You’ll be taking more pictures than normal on your visit to Hoi An. Let’s not forget the food, which is an amazing blend of Vietnamese and French cuisine. And of course you can’t leave Hoi An without visiting a local tailor (there are too many to count) and having a custom made suit or dress made. It only takes a few hours and the prices are unbelievable! Hoi An is one of my top picks in Vietnam.
From Hanoi you should plan to visit Sapa in the North West and Halong Bay in the North East. Sapa is great for hiking and exploring some of the worlds most impressive terraced rice fields. Tour the local H’mong villages and markets and learn about the traditional way of life the indigenous peoples of Vietnam lived and maintain to this day. In Halong Bay, you’ll be able to rest your tired legs on a unique and fun Junk Boat Tour. These live aboard boats offer relaxing tours of the bay’s beautiful limestone islands, caves and rock formations. Jump on a kayak and paddle into a cave and out into the center of one of these limestone islands – it’s an experience you won’t forget.
Of course this is only touching the surface of what Vietnam has to offer. There are dozens of beaches to explore up and down the coast. There are affordable 4- and 5-star resorts you might not have the luxury of experiencing in other parts of the world. Love to bike? Or is a motorcycle more your speed? There are tons of great tours you can sign up for. Cooking classes, golf courses, hot springs, scuba diving… Vietnam has it all. Plan your weekends and time off carefully. You’ll be drawn to locations like Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia – and you should visit those countries as well – but don’t forget to explore you new backyard as thoroughly as possible. Your time in Vietnam will pass quickly so make the most of it!
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