To many adventurous travelers, Vietnam is a bucket-list destination they absolutely need to visit at least once in a lifetime. To millions of average tourists, though, Vietnam is an exotic faraway destination that might fall into the same category as every other notable destination in South East Asia. So what makes Vietnam so special that it’s quickly becoming one of the most highly sought-after travel destinations among the millennial crowd?
Quite simply, the amazing local cuisine paired with the bustling urban gems and sterling natural vistas scattered across the country make Vietnam the top travel adventure in the world nowadays. So let’s take a look at the three major reasons why Vietnam should rank high on your travel bucket list, and how you can experience the best it has to offer.
The world-renowned street food
Let’s cater to the foodie travelers first, shall we? There is no denying that food is one of the primary motivators for millennial travelers, and Vietnam is certainly the place to lose yourself in local culinary delicacies. Firstly, understand that Vietnam thrives on its street food scene. You will find food carts and stalls scattered throughout every city, especially in the nation’s capital of Hanoi.
In the bustling city of Hanoi, you can try numerous local dishes, starting with Pho, the nation’s landmark dish. Pho is a cultural phenomenon here – a seemingly simple dish made out of chicken or beef broth, sliced meat, and various herbs and spices with mouthwatering rice noodles. The dish is typically served as the breakfast of choice in Vietnam due to its refreshing and nutritious qualities.
That said, Pho might prove a bit too light for the gourmets among you, which is why you should move on to other savory delicacies that grace the crowded food stalls. Among these is the famous Banh Mi sandwich, the second go-to breakfast dish among locals and tourists in a hurry. The Banh Mi sandwich is a mixture of French cuisine and traditional Vietnamese ingredients, served in a baguette filled with pork sausage, pickled carrots and cucumber, cabbage, and a mixture of French condiments such as pate and mayonnaise.
The cultural and historic centers
Beyond its vibrant food scene, Vietnam is famous for its multicultural heritage and historic landmarks scattered throughout every city within its borders, particularly the famous Vietnam War capital of Saigon. Nowadays known as Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon is a bustling metropolis that fuses traditional Vietnamese architecture with French Colonial influences, dotted by Communist buildings here and there.
What’s more, Ho Chi Minh is the motorbike central of the nation, where famous motorbike tours such as The Sights of Saigon take travelers on guided tours around the city’s most notable landmarks, including the off-the-beaten path spots only the locals know about. If you want to experience Saigon and its history in all its vibrant glory, you will need to embrace the motorbike culture yourself.
Taking a motorbike tour will allow you to visit some prominent cultural spots, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon that was built by French Colonists in the late 1880s. In your busy itinerary you will find the breathtaking Central Post Office designed by Gustave Eiffel himself in 1909. But most interestingly, Saigon is the place to learn about the Vietnam War in a very personal way. Visit the War Remnants Museum to learn about the gruesome events that transpired in the two decades that shaped the history of the nation, and the political map of the world.
The numerous religious landmarks
While Vietnam is predominantly a Buddhist country, tracing its roots back thousands of years when the first Chinese Buddhist monks descended into the region, it’s an interesting fact that modern Vietnam is actually a country of numerous religions and theological doctrines. For the inquisitive traveler such as yourself, this means that you will be able to see some awe-inspiring religious architecture and witness mesmerizing religious practices firsthand.
For example, the city of Tây Ninh located in the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam is the birthplace of a unique religion called Caodaism, both a monotheistic and polytheistic religion that combines Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Visit the monumental Cao Dai Temple in Tây Ninh and watch in silence as the monks perform the main ceremony around noon.
Much like the Cao Dai Temple, every religious building is a unique cultural experience, and the Vĩnh Tràng Temple situated in the town of Mỹ Phong is no different. Located in the Mekong Delta as well, the popular Buddhist temple is an oasis of peace and serenity, a spiritual place where you will have the chance to sit back and contemplate life, and even join the monks in a prayer.
Back in Saigon, it’s interesting to see witness how well the local Notre Dame Cathedral assimilates itself into an exotic culture with completely different deities and doctrines. Enter the cathedral on a Sunday morning to experience a unique event: a Sunday mass attended by Vietnamese locals and travelers from all around the world.
Vietnam truly is a mesmerizing place, an exotic destination too vast, beautiful, and intricate to be experienced in a single lifetime. That said, there are numerous reasons why you should make Vietnam a priority in your travel bucket list and head out to what is bound to be an adventure to remember.