‘Travelling across Vietnam wasn’t just a tour, it was a tale’, said Oliver Astrologo (check out his video of Vietnam here!), For me, traveling Vietnam was a life-time experience perceived by not just a Vietnamese, but one that has traveling and lived abroad for years. Exploring Vietnam got me from being curious to thrilled and shocked to see Vietnam. After traveling throughout Europe and living as a marketing student turned digital nomad for 5 years, I came back to my country to explore my routes and to seek the ‘feeling of being home again’! I did not know my own country has been this beautiful, and these best things I could imagine as a traveler were happening right next to me, but nowhere further as I was searching for adventures. Here are the best experiences traveling Vietnam to me as a digital nomad, and probably many other travelers who have been to the country where there is way much more than just remainings from the war with Americans.
Cruising through Ha Long Bay UNESCO Heritage
A must-visit destination in Northern Vietnam is without double Halong Bay. You can choose a luxurious cruise, or book a day tour on the spot, both of which are great! You probably wont know where to start as Ha Long is too big and almost every travel agencies in Hanoi would try to sell you tours or party cruises. Just make sure not to miss out important spots such as Thien Cung Cave and Lan Ha Bay (close to Ha Long Bay, near Cat Ba Island). Kayaking is a must-do. Jumping from the cliff is possible, but optional.
You probably wont like it for the first time to visit Ha Long! For many people, the bay looks overcrowded and dirty as you kayak through some corners. However, having traveled to Halong for several times, I could see the different beauty of the bay: whether during the mystic spring time or through magical sunset.
Explore Cat Ba’s hundreds of dazzling Islands
Besides Hoi An, Cat Ba is certainly the second best destination of mine in Vietnam, and the best choice of visit in Northern Vietnam. The Cat Ba archipelago, consisting of 367 islands spanning 260 km2 (100 sq mi), has everything of a paradise for all sorts of travelers. Empty beaches, a breath-taking bay, gorgeous mountains, a massive national park, top-notched seafood choices – Cat Ba as it all! You can spend one day exploring the bay on a local boat and then go kayaking, the next day trekking trough the National Park and then try some adventurous mountain climbing. Though Cat Ba is not as well advertised by the country as Ha Long Bay, visiting the island is still more highly recommended outside the peak season. You wont enjoy the real Cat Ba during the crowded summer months.
Taking the boat ride in Ninh Binh through the caves and karsts
Chosen as one of the filming locations of Kong – Skull Island, besides Quang Binh and Ha Long, Ninh Binh is definitely a natural gem to explore while traveling Northern Vietnam. This little town is filled with tons of spiritual and historical attractions (Bai Dinh Pagoda, Hoa Cu Ancient Capital); stunning caves (Hang Mua, Tuyet Tinh Coc), gorgeous limestone mountains, and stunning rice paddies surrounding peaceful river flows. You will be amazed while taking a boat ride through Tam Coc or Trang An, as these natural landscapes are simply unbelievably beautiful!
Trek through the rice terraces in Sapa
The best experience in Sapa I had was neither to take the cable car up the Fansipan mount nor capture a panoramic view of the colourful houses from Ham Rong park, but to trek through the villages and rice fields. It is amazing to see how these little people of ethnic groups can grow themselves such impressive rice terraces in a remote area like Sapa.
Riding the scooter or cycling around Hoi An
Ask travelers who have been to Vietnam to pick the top-rated destination and the majority would go for Hoi An. Not just experience of cycling through the old central towns of this ancient pedestrianised city is magical, but also to walk through the temple and congration halls, or watch Hoi An glowing on the waterfront from a local boat is majestic! If you are into adventurous riding, experience driving through the dangerous mountain passes in Ha Giang or Sapa too!
Grooving and working by the beach in Southern Vietnam
I was never a kind of traveler in the mood to relax on the sea shore, enjoy drinking coconut and watching the sunrise. Checking the must-see spots off my list, trekking the national parks, hiking up the mount or cruising through the bay have always been stirring my heart and soul more than get-away vacations. However, adoring the seaside of Vietnam gives me rather adventurous thrills rather than the will to rest and have for myself a treat. There are dozens kinds of natural beaches that you could find near Da Nang, Quy Nhon, Nha Trang and Mui Ne. These are all landscape gems made by Mother of Nature! It’s incredible to witness how breath-taking and endless the coastlines in Vietnam are! Book your one-way ticket plus a top-notched bungalow style home-stay in Quy Nhon and come see them with your own eyes!
Having plenty of cafe options to work from remotely in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh
It was nice for me to not just enjoy the experiences traveling through Vietnam, but also to live and work as a digital nomad. The dynamic working environment and booming start-up create tons of opportunities for young people to grow and sell themselves. Working remotely in Hanoi is convenient thanks to a decent number of authentic co-working spaces (e.g. UP, Toong, HanoiHub, Moonwork), and the massive number of cafes – all of which with free wifi and diverse range of drinks offered.
Everyday spent in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh is still exploring and discovering new places for me! I could literally pick a different cafe to work per day, and take weeks to visit all the nice ones. Try some recommended places below that I have been to (to be updated):
Hoan Kiem District (Old Quarter): Ifeel (lake view), Avalon (lake view), Chachago (close to beer corner and party area), Highlands (lake view), NEST AIA, Helio,
Ba Dinh District (near the Mausoleum): Xofa, Highland,
Tay Ho District (West Lake area where the expats live): Xuan Dieu street is full of options
Thanh Xuan District (south): Firefly (large space)