Vietnam is one of the most well-known nations in all of East Asia. Indeed this is because of the Vietnam War but it’s also known for many other things. It’s a brilliant example of how economies and cultures change so rapidly when they are pushed further and further into a protectionist style. It used to be a communist country, but overtime we have seen the local villages grow into towns, towns into cities and cities into concrete jungles. This is because the economy has basically taken on every part of a capitalist society. Small businesses thrive in the country and offer lots of different products and services that rival the larger companies. It’s amazing to see it firsthand just how quickly the country has changed. However it’s got one of the best countrysides in the world too. Being a coastal nation, it has a lot of healthy rainfall and thus you have green rice fields, mountains, hills and rivers that are teaming with life.
What you first need
Exploring this nation is going to take a lot of time. Don’t forget that the north and the south have different cultures and thus you will need to make your way through the country in the longest way. So you will need a way to be allowed to enter the country and left alone for many months. For this you need a visa. Visa travel allows you to stay in a country at the acceptance of the government and essentially have the same lifestyle and almost as many rights as citizens. It’s a very serious and privileged gift to be given and thus you need to be respectful by having all the right documentation. For example you will need a flight reservation for visa to show that you didn’t enter the country via legitimate means. The flight reservation is to show you booked a flight, the airline confirmed your ticket and the flight itself. Thus when you enter the country you will be seen as a legitimate flyer that has had their travel confirmed.
Take me to the bay
One of the most beautiful places on earth, without a shadow of a doubt is the Ha Long Bay. literal turquoise blue waters, so many fish swimming in the lukewarm waters, so many small boats, floating homes and hundreds of limestone islands to explore. There are a few exclusive resorts that give access to the Halong Bay to their guests, but most of the time it is free to roam if you are a traveller. There are local guides that give ‘junk boat’ tours that are essentially homemade canoes and boats that cut through the water with ease. They are completely safe as health and safety measures are taken very seriously. However they offer something other tours do not and that’s local knowledge. They can take you into caves, coves and plenty of secret places where they can spot rare wildlife. The Halong Bay is of course in a lyric from the song ‘Come fly with me’ by the late great Frank Sinatra. It’s a place of paradise that is so vast, that you simply cannot explore it properly unless you have a couple weeks free. Hence why a longer stay is needed just for this.
The tunnel rat legacy
As most people know Vietnam went through many decades of war in the 20th century. It was a very contested time in the country and the north Vietnam forces were known to use guerilla warfare tactics. One of them being digging tunnels underneath the ground and moving troops, weapons, food and supplies through them. Now however these tunnels are open to be explored by the paying public. Just south of the city Tay Ninh are the Cu Chi Tunnels that were used by north Vietnam forces to travel deep into the south during their invasion. These tunnels are not that deep and not that wide, hence why they are still strong enough to be explored even to this day. They have ventilation of fresh air and they have certain peephole spots where the people inside them can see what’s going on above ground around them. Guides will give tours to show you how troops used them and how medical support was given to those injured inside and even how they slept and ate while underground. During aerial bombardments, tunnels were used by the enemy forces to keep safe and wait out the bombers. Such a vast network of tunnels that go on for miles and miles need to be explored with all the time in the world.
Standing tall in the middle
The thing about Vietnam is that it has so many different kinds of landscapes. You can find endless miles of rice fields, that are met by large hills and rivers and then slowly by mountains. One of the best features of the countryside are the Marble Mountains. Five altogether, these mountains are made of grey marble and because of their height and structure, are often a place for worshippers. Here there have been a few temples erected as well as some ancient towers used by various kings of old to survey the land. The mountains are in the middle of the country but on the east coast. You can take a guided tour inside and see how some have been hollowed out to have small shrines placed inside them. Many rock climbing enthusiasts look to conquer all fives of these mountains on their travels. You can see why they would be a challenge because they are all different in their width, height and quality of marble stone. If you would rather take it slow, then you can walk the pathways and admire the stone statues of tigers, ancient gods and birds that litter all around the Marble Mountains.
Some countries have so much history and places to explore that you need to book a longer stay. A travel visa is therefore a great choice to book yourself many months in which you can do all the adventuring you want. Go and see the Halong Bay with your own eyes and explore inside the coves and different limestone islands.
Brooke has been a connoisseur of back roads and obscure places since she was a girl. Growing up in a small working farm, she knew at a young age that there was so much to see and understand about the world. Since she left home at 17, she’s been gallivanting around the world. She’s a go-to resource for fearless Euro travel and extreme budget adventures. Her colorful experiences moving from one country to another with only time to spare will surely inspire you to leave the rat race and chase your backpacking dreams.