Travel Vietnam: The Ultimate Foodie Destination
Why You Should Visit Vietnam
Vietnam is a vibrant country with rich history and tantalizing cuisine. If you are looking to experience something truly unique, while eating your weight in the best food Asia has to offer, Vietnam in the place for you!
Vietnam has a long torrid history of royals, colonial overthrows, and war. We always enjoy learning about the culture and history of the places we travel. Yet as Americans in Vietnam, the learning process was bitter-sweet.
Throughout our trip, we were told the other side of the story of what we call the Vietnam War. We saw areas that are still recovering from the aftermath of a war the ended over forty years ago, and people with mutations from Agent Orange.
Even so, we found that nowadays, the Vietnamese people are happy to welcome Americans into their country.
One guide told us, the Vietnamese people understand there was propaganda from both governments during the war, and believe the American people themselves are not to blame. He also told us, Americans boost tourism revenue more than any other country, because we spend more and tip better than other travelers.
I’m thankful for that!
Vietnam is about the size of the state of New Mexico in square miles. However, it’s a long narrow country, and each region has its own diverse flavor.
The northern city of Hanoi is the mecca of Vietnamese cuisine. Everything we ate that was deemed “the best” was devoured in Hanoi. The best pho, the best bun cha, the best spring rolls, and the very best coffee.
However, we loved the feel of the smaller towns in central Vietnam. Hue, Da Nang, and Hoi An were our family’s favorite stops.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south is the largest and most modernized city in Vietnam, with beautiful parks, fantastic shopping, and colorful night life!
Vietnam is known for its picturesque terraced rice fields, dazzling Halong Bay, and the Mekong Delta. It is a beautiful country!
You can spend all your time in the cities, or head into the countryside to explore the natural wonders.
My advice… Do a little of both!
In my opinion, the number one reason to visit Vietnam is to eat Vietnamese food in its place of origin!
Unlike some Asian cuisines, where country borders have shifted over time, and cooking styles have mingled into something similar… Vietnamese cuisine is its own unique thing.
- It’s ultra-fresh with a focus on herbs and produce.
- It’s intricate, with multiple cooking methods going into each single dish.
- And Vietnamese cooks become specialists at one recipe.
In Vietnam, you will find shops that only sell one dish, like Bun Cha, the famous Vietnamese noodle salad. And it’s the best bun cha you’ve ever tasted! If you want something else, you have to go to a different kind of specialist.
Because of this sharp focus on perfection, the foods we ate in Vietnam are haunting us to this day.
Travel Vietnam: The Ultimate Foodie Destination
We started our time in Vietnam in the north. We spent a few days in Hanoi, visiting morning markets, sampling “specialty shop” cuisine, drinking rich sweet Vietnamese coffee, and shopping.
Then we headed to Halong Bay. The best way to experience Halong Bay is on a cruise. Therefore the company we worked with booked a luxury three-day cruise for us.
The cruise was a huge highlight of our time in Vietnam. We were well pampered, while floating past thousands of tiny isolated islands, that pop up out of the water like green mushrooms.
Among the 1,600 islands in Halong Bay, there are sea caves, private beaches, and tiny floating fishing villages you can visit.
Where To Go In Vietnam
In central Vietnam we visited the smaller towns of Hue and Hoi An.
Hue has the feel of a laidback college town, with funky restaurants, bars, and lounges. Here we biked through quiet neighborhoods, visited art galleries, and went fishing with local trap fishermen.
After driving over the Hai Van Pass, we found the stunning city of Da Nang and Hoi An just beyond.
Hoi An is a small ancient village, near a popular beach area, deemed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for preservation. Nowadays it’s a tourist hotspot, filled with little open-air restaurants, elegant shops, and colorful hanging lanterns draping over the city streets.
We biked around the village, kayaked on the river, and went to a fabulous Vietnamese cooking class!
We absolutely adored central Vietnam and wish we could have planned more time there! Hoi An was at the top of our “favorites” list for the entire Southeast Asia trip.
Favorite Places In Vietnam
Saigon, now officially named Ho Chi Minh City, is the largest and most modern city in Vietnam. It is a bustling metropolis with vibrant nightlife, museums, high-end shopping, Banh Mi carts on every corner, and millions of mopeds whizzing by.
Yet our final stop, the small island of Phu Quoc, was more our speed. We spent the last couple days of our trip, relaxing by the ocean, and sipping tiki drinks.
Of all the places we visited in Vietnam, there isn’t a single place I would tell someone not to go.
However, we did have our favorites…
- Halong Bay
- Hoi An
Planning A Vietnam Vacation
So how did we decide where to go? We had help!
We booked our Vietnam travel experience through a company called Sens Asia Travel. Sens Asia is a local Vietnamese company that offers vacation packages all over Southeast Asia.
Because they are based in Vietnam, their overhead is lower than most American travel companies, so you can book everything you want to see and do while saving money!
For One Reasonable Price They:
- Customized our daily itinerary based on what we like to do
- Booked all our hotels (4 & 5 star)
- Booked all our excursion and attractions
- Gave us an English-speaking guide every day
- Provided a private air-conditioned van and driver each day
- Scheduled many of our meals
I didn’t have to spend weeks researching and planning, like I usually do when we travel abroad. And we were well taken care of the entire trip.
There was never a moment of wondering what we should do next, how we were going to get there, or if we’d be able to find someone who could speak English.
It was awesome!
Is Vietnam Safe For Tourists?
Overall, yes. Vietnam is considered a safe place to travel in Asia. There are few reports of violent crimes involving tourists. Most “incidents” involve rented mopeds in traffic.
However, in the big cities, you do need to watch out for pickpockets. It’s not uncommon for them to linger around hotels and watch as tourists come in and out.
As long as you resist driving the mopeds, and keep your valuables in a money belt underneath your clothes, you shouldn’t have any issues.
Is Vietnam Travel Expensive?
Yes and no. Like with most Southeast Asia countries, your daily in-country costs are significantly lower than traveling through the United States or Europe.
You can stay in nice hotels for a quarter of the price (or less) than the equivalent hotel in any American city. Meals in noodle shops, and street food, will run around $1-3 a meal per person.
Yet the international airfare is usually pretty high. Expect to pay $1200-2000 per person for airline tickets.
However, if you watch the daily airfare prices like a hawk, for several months, you may be able to score discount tickets for less than $1000.
What Is The Best Time Of The Year To Visit Vietnam?
Although the climate is very different in northern and southern Vietnam, most people will tell you that November-March is the best time to travel because the temperature is lower.
However, we feel there’s not necessarily a bad time to go to Vietnam.
We went in August because the kids were still out of school. Yes, it was hot, and yes, it did rain a few times. However, there were way less tourists than in the winter, which to me, more than makes up for a little sweat!
Is It Easy To Get Around In Vietnam?
Yes and no. In the cities, there are taxis everywhere, and Grab, Asia’s verison of Uber. You can rent bicycles in smaller towns and safely make your way around town.
Yet from city to city, the Vietnamese infostructure is still under construction. It is not a good idea to try to take a bus from one city to the next. You could be stuck on a faulty road for hours… Or days.
Sens Asia advised us to fly from city to city. The regional flights were fast and cheap, so that’s definitely the way to go!