As a main crossroads on the backpacker route there are loads of things to do in Vietnam. Here are just a few of the highlights...
Whether you want a tailor-made suit, an ‘authentic’ Rolex, or some souvenirs for mum and dad, the shopping in Vietnam is one of the best things to do. Make sure you save some dong to hit the shops at the end of your trip. Make time for the Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City and the
Don’t hire one to drive yourself – it’s too risky. One of the best things to do on your gap year in Vietnam is to join a tour. You’ll ride pillion while your driver takes you to the more remote regions of Vietnam in your own time. The tours usually include accommodation, petrol, helmets, drivers, and entry tickets too. There are companies offering this service all over Vietnam and give you a unique opportunity to see into the towns and villages.
You definitely can’t visit Vietnam without spending a sleep on one of the night trains. These are as much a part of Vietnamese culture as the Mekong Delta (more on that later). Book a spot in a ‘luxury’ four-berth carriage and by the time you wake up you’ll be in your destination. The carriages are often packed with fellow gappers so bring along a bottle of something and a few snacks and you’ll make friends in no time.
This is where you’ll find the Cai Rang floating markets. If you’re in a rush see it by speedboat in a day, if not cruise along the Mekong Delta over a few days soaking up the sites. You can take optional excursions to bee farms, music shows, horse cart riding, Nipa canals and a coconut candy factory.
This is a top spot for anyone on a gap year in Vietnam. This is where you’ll find the famous mud baths, and make sure you fit in some snorkelling too. Nha Trang is also well known as a party capital so save yourself some energy to hit the bars hard and make friends with some hot gappers.
One of the most popular things to do and see in Vietnam are the dark and dingy Chi Chi Tunnels. These were once the home to the Viet Cong for weeks at a time during the war in order to launch surprise attacks on the enemy. You can take a trip along the tunnels and get some idea of what it must have been like to have been stuck down there – any fatties should probably avoid this all together though.
Halong Bay is beautiful. Make the most of the grottoes, massage and fishing villages and take the time to explore around after your inevitable junk boat cruise. The Dau Go Cave and the Thien Cung Cave are definite must dos, and Cat Ba Island – aka Monkey Island – is pretty cool too.