Every travelers dream is to explore the world for months at a time. You find homes away from home, experience culture and life like a local, and take the time to slow down and appreciate the world around you. Fellow explorer Andrew Lawler , originally from Ireland, traveled through Vietnam at the end of a 6 month trip. His journey began in Australia and continued through New Zealand, Fiji and ended in Southeast Asia. His time spent abroad was memorable, to say the least. Discussing his time in Vietnam is not only inspiring, but is nostalgic of those genuine travel moments, where you know a trip will change your life. Vietnam is no longer defined only by its rich and war torn history, but by its friendly people, stunning sites and unforgettable food and culture, which makes it a top spot to visit for all types of travelers! Andrew explored several parts of Vietnam over a two week period and gave us a peek into his favorite moments…
To see the country, Andrew recommends booking any tours or sites locally for an affordable authentic experience. A boat tour around Halong Bay is the usual tourist option, but Andrew recommends a hiking excursion for views instead. “There is a mountain accessible from the centre of Ha Long town and boasts panoramic views of Ha Long Bay. It is a little dangerous and does involve some rock climbing but the reward for reaching the top is worth the risk.”
Visiting local towns surrounding major cities was a highlight, and a great way to explore the local culture and food. A favorite of Andrew’s was Mui Ne, a small town on the coast of Vietnam with sand dunes that stretched for miles. The red and white sand dunes are best seen on a local Jeep tour, which also allows you to visit nearby fishing villages.
“Another notable place was a narrow street in Hanoi that has train tracks running through it. We stumbled across this when we were in the capital and it’s unbelievable how a massive freight train flies through this local populated area twice a day!”
Vietnam is a notable location for foodies, and a necessary place to visit for street food. You will eat an abundance of food with a variety of flavors, and for a very reasonable price! For budget travelers with huge cravings, this is the place for you. Andrew’s “must eat” checklist includes: Bun Bo Nam Bo (Beef Noodle Salad), Banh Mi 25 (Vietnamese Sandwiches), Bun Cha Ta (Pork & Noodles) and Quan An Ngon (Vietnamese Rice Pancakes). Walking around the streets of Hanoi or Hoi An will provide you with enough street food options to last a lifetime.
Want to learn to cook Vietnamese? Andrew recommends a cooking class. Also inexpensive, you will learn how to make classic dishes using local ingredients. Your menu creations may include spring rolls, Vietnamese pancakes, beef noodle salad and Pho. It’s a great “souvenir” to bring home to show your friends and family what they’re missing out on!
Traveling throughout Vietnam was cheap and relatively simple. Andrew’s suggest taking overnight buses between cities if you have limited time, or flights with budget airlines. “We got sleeper buses between some cities (Mui Ne – Ho Chi Minh) and for local tours, but because we were only visiting for two weeks and we wanted to hit up Hanoi, Hoi An, Mui Ne and Ho Chi Minh, we flew between the bigger cities for $40 or less with low cost airline VietJet Air.”
The only downside to Vietnam? “Roads are very dangerous in Vietnam and the streets are overflowing with motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. It makes it difficult to cross the road as a pedestrian and a culture shock when coming from countries that obey traffic lights! A local guide told us that there are 10 million people living in Ho Chi Minh and there are around 7 million motorbikes if that puts things into perspective…”
But don’t let that stop you from booking your flights and planning your next getaway to this unbelievable country. Packed to the brim with delicious food, kind people, environmental wonders and cultural excursions, theres so much to do you’ll find yourself wanting to come back for more!
Follow Andrew on Instagram to check out more of his travels!