Why Vietnam should be your next holiday destination in 2020

Golden Bridge in Da Nang, Vietnam
Golden Bridge in Da Nang, Vietnam

Whether you are a solo traveller backpacking across Asia or part of a group of friends raring to explore a new country, a couple looking to get away from the mundane to spend quality time with each other or a young family wanting a budget-friendly option for four, Vietnam is the definitive answer.

The country, which is home to nearly 100 million, is teeming with options that cater to every type of traveller. A country that is rich in culture, nature, and urban experiences, Vietnam also holds much historical significance due to the Vietnam War and, earlier, colonisation by the French. As a result, tourists get to taste a unique blend of the past and the present.

This is why we, at YS Weekender, believe Vietnam is a great holiday destination and lay down all the reasons why you need to pack your bags and head to the country for your next break.

Ease of travel

For Indians, just like in Thailand, the visa is available on arrival in Vietnam. This means that it is as simple as applying for a visa letter online a few days before your trip, showing it to the airport authorities, and getting a seal of approval to enter the country as a tourist. Armed with a local SIM (again available the moment you land and get into the airport), you are all set to explore Vietnam.

Getting around is a cakewalk, thanks to technology. Grab, the Singapore ride-sharing company, is your Vietnamese version of Ola. Getting one is as easy, and you can safely avoid haggling with other taxi companies. Because of your luggage, we suggest you take a cab from the airport, but don’t give the bike taxis a miss when you are out and about exploring the country.

Grab’s bike taxis are a fun and quick way to get around and also soak in the sights and sounds of the Vietnamese cities. And if you are wondering, they are perfectly safe even for women travellers and you get a helmet too (which is more caution than we exercise in India, let’s be honest!)

Tourist-friendly paradise

If you have ever been to Vietnam before you would agree that one of the reasons the country is always bursting with tourists is the fact that it is so welcoming. Be it at your hotel or hostel accommodation, restaurants or roadside eateries, night markets or massage parlours, everyone is friendly. We hardly experienced any form of hostility in our stay in the country as people are generally warm and friendly.

Language, admittedly, is a problem, as most people do not speak English, even in the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. But technology has us sorted on that front as well, as we were generally able to communicate and understand the locals using apps like Google Translate.

There may be a little lost in translation, but there is a genuine eagerness to help, find out where you are from, and ensure you are happy in their country. It warms the heart and makes one want to revisit the country just for the people. Easy on the pocket If you are ever looking to escape the country but do not have deep pockets to splurge on a holiday at the French Riviera, Vietnam is the answer to all your budget holiday prayers. And we don’t even mean scrimp on your experiences: literally everything is cheap there. Accommodation, food, liquor, shopping, touristy experiences, transport… everything!

Including stay, all your meals, plenty of Vietnamese beer, and taxis one can easily spend as little as Rs 2,000 per person. This means you can do a budget trip for a considerable period of time. Cheaper options include hostels (we stayed at one in Hanoi and can safely say it is a great budget-friendly option).

With one rupee converting to around 325 Vietnamese dong (as of January 2, 2019), one can imagine the experiences you can have with very little money spent. The country is so tourist-friendly that you get a bang for your buck wherever you go: be it huge portion sizes of food, free beer at bars, or cheap scooter rentals for as little as Rs 250 a day.

Diverse experiences

Vietnam holds such a plethora of diverse experiences that we believe one trip is not enough to take everything in. But, like mentioned earlier, it is inexpensive and several visits are possible!

What we loved about Vietnam is that every place visited was unique. If you love cities and want a truly Vietnamese urban experience, head to capital city Hanoi in the North. Immerse yourself in the heady night scenes as the city pulsates with life at all hours. Street food abounds everywhere and the night markets are a treat to every sense.

If you can brave the sometimes-chaotic traffic, head to Beer Street, where you can enjoy steaming bowls of pho and drink endless pints of inexpensive beer as you take in the city unfolding around you. If you are lucky, you get to witness impromptu live music on the streets.

If you are a beach baby, Vietnam will not disappoint. We suggest you head to Cat Ba after your sojourn to Hanoi. A three-hour bus drive and a 20-minute ferry ride later, you are at the picturesque island which affords you views of the sparkling emerald-green water from everywhere. With Cat Ba, you can give the popular Ha Long Bay a miss, because you get all the experience but in a less touristy way.

Hire a scooter for the day and zip around the tiny island to discover all its hidden gems. Go kayaking in the peaceful waters that are dotted with towering limestones. Possibly the most calming experience you can treat yourself to in the new year.

If you are a war history buff, head to the bustling Ho Chi Minh City in the South. There, you are served a buffet from the past: the Vietnam War and French colonisation from the Saigon days, as well as churches and pagodas that hold historical significance. Tour the War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace, History Museum, Cu Chi Tunnels, and visit the Notre Dame Cathedral and Cao Dai Temple.

Take day trips to places around the city, like the Mekong Delta for the famous floating markets or visit beach towns like Vung Tau with the famous Jesus statue.

Be it the rice fields of Ninh Binh, or the gorgeous slopes of Sapa Valley, the culturally rich towns of Hoi An and Hue, the sandy beaches of Nha Trang and Da Nang, and all the Buddhist temples and pagodas along the way, Vietnam has something for everyone.

Land of knockoffs

If you have been coveting that Chanel Classic bag or lusting after a Michael Kors tote but finding your bank balance not in complete agreement, head to Vietnam. The country’s many street markets are a treasure trove of knockoffs and first copies that will have everyone fooled. We picked up a first copy of a The North Face jacket that retails for Rs 18,000 in India for a mere Rs 900.

Fake it till you make it, and Vietnam is the country to help you on that mission!

Nightlife and food heaven

Nightlife and food heaven in Vietnam

And, finally, we have saved the best for the last: the happening night life and all that comes with it in Vietnam. The cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh seemingly never sleep, with people partying late into the night. And we are not talking about just stuffy nightclubs. We mean the cities themselves. There is an atmosphere of celebration in most pockets of these cities, as people dance, sing, and just have a darn good time right on the streets. Bui Vien Street in Ho Chi Minh is a great example. A labyrinth of streets, really, the area is specked with bars, roadside restaurants, coffee shops, and nightclubs all serving up great food, beer, and music.

Some of our must-dos include sampling laughing gas (straight out of balloons) served in many bars, guzzling the many local beers of Vietnam (Saigon Beer and 333 were our personal favourites), dancing the night away with Gen Zs in a packed nightclub, singing Hotel California at a karaoke bar (Vietnam is full of them), and ending the night with a nice, meaty banh mi.

Nem Vietnam

And therein lies our segue into the best Vietnamese experience of all: food. You are in for a (cheap) treat, with excellent food found at street corners and established restaurants alike. Pork buns, banh mi (delicious Vietnamese sandwiches nestling a host of yummy fillings including meat, pickled vegetables, and fiery sauces), pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) and its many variants, bun cha (grilled pork meatballs and vermicelli noodles in clear, flavourful broth), Vietnamese rolls, and the many grills on stick available on every corner. Everything is cheap and extremely delicious and easy on your tummy.

Indulge your sweet tooth with the unmissable egg coffee (strong Vietnamese brew that gently cooks a raw egg yolk laced with condensed milk), the many delicious pastries and buns—thanks to the French influence—and Vietnamese ice cream that will have you swooning for more.