As one of the most stunning countries in Southeast Asia, it’s no surprise that Vietnam is consistently popular among travellers, year-after-year. It’s home to a varied landscape which encompasses serene mountainous caverns, beaches of golden sand and the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. However, despite modernisation in some areas, many of the local time-honoured traditions remain intact.
Of course, some of us want to beat the tourist traps – and for those looking to find the road less travelled in Vietnam, the good news is that there are plenty of unique things to see, try and do including:
1) Temples of Angkor
While visiting Vietnam, traversing the border to Cambodia to witness the Temples of Angkor Wat can be an incredibly eye-opening experience. Learning about the great history and architecture of the border region is stimulating, and you’ll also get to witness some of the most iconic sights in the world. The temples must truly be witnessed at sunset or sunrise to understand the true sense of wonder they have held for the indigenous population over the centuries. Keen film fans might even recognise some of the locations from recent blockbusters like Tomb Raider.
2) Rice fields of Hoang Su Phi
This somewhat imposing destination is off the beaten track and will appeal equally to those who love nature and those who want to see the real heart of Vietnam. The terraced rice fields of Hoang Su Phi are situated in the middle of Ha Giang Province, and during September and October the sheer colour on display is breathtaking. Acres upon acres are carpeted with huge yellow fields of rice. This destination is particularly popular among photographers, and its fields have even been the subject of several natural photography awards.
The area is a melting pot of 12 different ethnic groups, with all manner of trading customs, unique clothing and original trinkets on display – and always in a friendly manner.
3) Confucian Temple of Literature
While situated in the metropolitan area of Hanoi, the Confucian Temple of Literature is a stunning example of well-preserved historic Vietnamese architecture. The temple dates back to 1070 and is the site of Vietnam’s first university. It’s home to ponds, pagodas, courtyards, gardens and altars, which are particularly popular with students praying for the right grades. This temple is so grandiose that it is actually depicted on the Vietnamese 100,000d note. Fans of philosophy will enjoy delving into the works of Confucius here, while nature buffs will simply be happy to take in the beauty of the surroundings.
4) Golden Bridge of Ba Na Hills
The Golden Bridge, or Cau Vang as the locals call it, is an impressive structure which stands over 1400 metres above sea level. The bridge winds its way along a 150-metre stretch which is lined with flowers and lush majestic greenery. Mountains can be observed in the distance, and the ornate bridge is “held up” by a pair of huge stone hands. Greens, golds, greys and blues collide to create an extra-sensory experience that visitors to the Danang province won’t want to miss.
5) Hoi An Ancient Town
Few examples of South-East Asia’s trading history have been as well-preserved as Hoi An Ancient Town, which is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its roots in the 15th century, the town is a monument to both the indigenous and overseas influences which forged the culture of Vietnam. It’s a true homogenization of Chinese, Japanese and European influences – which combined over the centuries to create this truly unique port. It’s a complex of over 1,000 timber-framed buildings, open markets, ferry quays and religious monuments. It’s truly magnificent, and not to be missed.