Posts in Vietnam

Top 10 nicest towns in Asia where everyone wants to live

The nicest cities in Asia are those cities where you planned to stay two nights, but ended up sticking for a week or more. We selected them for you: the 10 (+2) towns or villages in Asia where the atmosphere is so relaxed that you never want to leave.

1. Hoi An (Vietnam)

The perfect example of an ultimate town where the atmosphere is so nice and relaxed that you actually want to live there permanently. Hoi An is located in the middle of Vietnam and is the ideal stopover during a journey from north to south, or vice versa. In the car-free center you will find atmospheric streets full of lanterns, old wooden houses, delightful (cheap!) boutique hotels, nice restaurants and cozy bars. Rent a bike and you can drive straight into the countryside or to the quiet beach. Check out the cool things to do in Hoi An here.

2. Luang Prabang (Laos)

No matter how relaxed and charming the Laotian capital Vientiane is, you will be truly enchanted in dreamy Luang Prabang. Luang Prabang is also called the “Pearl of the Orient”. Dozens of Buddhist temples, smiling monks, lantern-lit streets, ornate French-Indochinese architecture and a photogenic location in the hills, between the Mekong and Nam Khan River. Luang Prabang has a magnetizing effect. Rent a bike and meander through the back streets of the old quarter, visit the colorful night market of the H’mong and get pampered at one of many spas (5 dollar for an hour of massage!). Just outside Luang Prabang are the beautiful Kuang Si waterfalls and the sacred caves of Pak Ou, which are full of Buddha statues.

3. Chiang Mai & Pai (Thailand)

We call them together, because visiting the small town of Pai without having first been to Chiang Mai is actually not even an option. Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city and has been a traveler’s favorite for decades. The city (admittedly, it is not a small town) is located in the green, mountainous north of Thailand and is not only a pleasant, medium-sized city full of atmospheric boutique hotels, hip coffee bars, cozy street cafés, delicious eateries, ancient temples and bustling markets; Chiang Mai is also the base for the active person. Trekking, ziplining, rafting, quad biking, scooter rides along crocodile farms and botanical gardens: you can stay busy in the beautiful, natural environment of Chiang Mai. Visit the Elephant Nature Park to see how elephants are treated properly.

If you want to be more immersed in nature, then continue 3 hours further north to Pai. A backpack classic and hippie hangout, but also a lovely village on a river for the “ordinary” peace seeker, between rice fields and green hills. In Pai you book a spacious bungalow on the river for a few dollar, with your own veranda and hammock.

4. Kampot (Cambodia)

Kampot is located near the Vietnamese border on the Kampot River, a few kilometers from the Gulf of Thailand. It is such a typical sleepy river town in Cambodia with houses in old, decayed French-colonial architecture. Some of them now form nice, cheap boutique bars, restaurants or bars. Kampot is slowly but surely developing into a popular tourist town, but it will continue to have a relaxed vibe for the time being. Thanks to the French influences, croissants, wine and even fondue are possible here, just like pizzas, burgers, espresso and even tapas. The backdrop of the city are the Bokor Mountains, whose peaks hit the mist. Must do: a day with the scooter driving around the countryside outside Kampot. Everywhere friendly locals wave from their bikes or the verandas of their simple wooden houses. Especially the dusty country road towards Kep is beautiful.

5. Ubud (Bali, Indonesia)

Ubud is the cultural and spiritual heart of Bali and is beautifully situated between the rain forests and rice terraces. It is the place where fans of “Eat, Pray, Love” indulge in massages, ayurveda treatments and yoga classes. In and around the main street of the town, the Jalan Raya Ubud, you will find many local craft shops, coastal galleries, cafes and restaurants. In the Puri Saren Agung palace, daily performances are given by various Balinese dance groups. Also visit the Monkey Forest and the Monkey Cave. The nature around Ubud is breathtakingly beautiful, you can enjoy hiking through the rice fields, cycling in the area or rafting on the Ubud Ayung River.

6. Udaipur (India)

There are more beautiful relaxation towns in the fairytale-like Indian province of Rajasthan, but we opt for Udaipir. This small city is considered the most romantic city in India and is located in a valley along the azure blue Pichola lake. There are beautiful palaces in and on the lake, the highlight of which is the extravagant Lake Palace where the James Bond film Octopussy was filmed. Udaipur is the city to take it easy, and to enjoy delicious food and drinks at sunset, overlooking the lake.

7. Nong Khiaw & Muang Ngoi (Laos)

The remote river villages of Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi are Laos at its best: spectacularly located, withdrawn places where time stands still and you can combine your ultimate tranquility with trips to nearby caves and H’mong villages. Nong Khiaw is located about 3 to 4 hours (or 8 hours by boat) From Luang Prabang, on the edge of a cliff at the foot of the Nam Ou River. Around the village you will find an impressive blue-green karst mountains, the area is really beautiful here. You prefer to stay in Nong Khiaw right on the river, ideally a house with its own porch and hanging chair.

8. Lijiang (China)

The Chinese province of Yunnan is one of the most beautiful and popular regions of China among travelers. Here you will find many traditional minorities and authentic historic towns, of which Dali and especially Lijiang are the best known. Lijiang is one of the most beautiful provincial towns in China. Due to the system of waterways and bridges, the town is sometimes called the “Venice of the East”. The old center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Touristic? Yes. But in a good way. Stroll through the narrow, attractively lit streets full of lanterns, along the small rivers and the courtyards that are typical of the Naxi culture. Admire the old buildings with their carvings, traditional pillars and red decorations. And rent a bike to explore the area. In and around the city center of Lijiang there are dozens of rivers, small waterfalls and water features.

9. Georgetown, Penang (Malaysia)

Gorgetown is a city with half a million inhabitants and can therefore not be called a relaxed hanging town. It is not necessarily quiet there, in fact: totally not. But it is precisely this cozy and manageable chaos in Georgetown that makes you stick to it longer during a trip through Malaysia. Because where certain parts of Malaysia sometimes look a bit “un-Asian” and are fairly neat, clean and quiet, Penang – and especially in the capital Georgetown – is full of life and culture. The city is a mix of old and new, western and Asian, always full of life and activities. Busy Chinese shopping streets and eateries stand side by side with age-old temples, British-colonial buildings and trendy boutique cafes. What will keep you apart from the fun in Georgetown is the food. The Penang cuisine is unrivaled in Malaysia (and beyond) and everywhere on the street or in food courts you can eat the most delicious seasoned soups, curries, rice and noodle dishes for little.

10. Yogyakarta (Indonesia)

Smuggling again with a city of half a million inhabitants. But also Yogyakarta on Java is included in this list, especially after you have just come from large and ugly Jakarta. Yogyakarta is not the official one, but in our opinion it is the cultural capital of Indonesia. The city is the center of Javanese culture and is one of the few “fine” large Indonesian cities to stay. That is not only because the magical Borobudur is nearby, but also because of this university city itself: lots of culture, atmosphere and (nightlife) life in the brewery!

 

Top coworkation experiences and locations around the world

Coworkation, in other words, coworking vacations is a rising forms of travel that can undoubtedly beat traditional tourism for a certain groups of people. These are digital nomad and remote workers that live and travel on their own terms, by working anywhere from their laptops, having either multiple home-bases or no base at all, and  new means of settling down by becoming financially free and location independent.  Nowadays, with work and personal life having blurry lines in between, there seems to be even no line at all especially for startup entrepreneurs and freelancers. We work with multiple time zones and cultures, some of what don’t separate work and life as clearly as Europeans. You will find below coworkation experiences that I have personally experienced or been referred to by digital nomads worldwide.

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Vietnam Independent Travel Guide – Must-Knows From A Local

 I have recently received all kinds of questions regarding Vietnam independent travel guide, ranging from if it’s safe getting around alone, to how to get from A to B, and even weird things like whether touristy places like Ninh Binh has some restriction for international visitors? Seriously?

In the end of the day, I am happy to see that Vietnam has finally gained some attention as a popular destination in South East Asia. Westerners who have already been to, or lived in Thailand, seem drawn to Vietnam, for a typical reason that the country has something more authentic to offer, culturally wise. Below you will find things I found necessary to know to travel Vietnam, writing from a local perspective. And though my background is quite international, I am a complete Vietnamese one hundred percent. Hence you can count on the things I mention below, some of which could be subjective or controversial, nevertheless are honestly true from my personal experiences.

Heads up! What I am going to share below is NOT just about how beautiful and attractive Vietnam is! But also scams, weird things going on and sad facts as well.

Kỳ Co

Visa

Whilst ASEAN citizens can visit Vietnam without a visa, most of the westerners do need a visa upon arrival in order to enter Vietnam. I have helped some international friends to get their visa approval letter. Make sure you check the regulations regarding your own citizenship and stay up to date about the visa fee, which can change from time to time. For example, Vietnam visa for American citizens just changed last year to 135 USD for a minimum of 1-year visa, which they changed back. But honestly, who would be crazy enough to pay this much for a visa, and would stay that long just for a vacation?

Order a visa online – One of the most popular and convenient ways to get a Vietnam visa is to apply yourself for one online at vietnam-visa.com. After sending required documents and paying the service fee, you will receive an approval letter. Bring this one to the airport and pay the stamp fee there.

Leave the work for a travel agency – For those who are too lazy to get your ass on the website, or do not trust online visa services, ask your travel agency in Vietnam to make a letter for you. I worked in a travel agency before and they can get an approval letter for you as quick as within 1 day. Then you will bring this letter and pay the same stamp fee at the airport upon arrival.
Tip: Be skeptical when choosing a trustworthy agency and go for big names like Buffalo Tour (Thien Minh Group), Viettravel, Transviet, etc.
At the airport – the procedure could take hours, so be patient with the officer. Paperwork takes forever in Vietnam. Don’t be frustrated yet, yet prepared for the ‘slow work pace’ commonly known in Vietnam.

Money

Currency – Vietnam use đồng currency (VND). For quick count, 1 USD equals about 20,000 VND. Dont be surprised if we all are millionaires who carry a lot of cash around in Vietnam. For first-time travelers to VN, do not exchange all of your charges in VN to dollars or euros to often. You will feel like everything is cheap here, easily be led to being overcharged. Always check the ‘Vietnamese’ price simply by asking the local next to you. Bargaining does not work, as shop owners may not just double but already tripple the price.

Credit/Debit card – though cards are not as widely used daily as cash, you can find an ATM almost anywhere in big cities. Make sure you withdraw enough money for use before moving to the more rural areas. Carry a large sum in your pocket can be quite inconvenient and unsafe.

Mekong-Delta-Experience-Cai-Rang-Floating-market-from-drone-1

Transportation & Traffic

Flight – compared to travelling Thailand, flying in/out/around Vietnam is more expensive, yet as cheap as South East Asia can be. Once you enter the countrC, living cost and travel cost are quite low, as long as you don’t fall for the scams and overpriced activities. I often use Baolau.com to book my itinerary as to receive my flight, train and bus vouchers all at once, to the same email. 
Must-know: 
Priced shown on the website are yet to add tax and service fee. Airline companies do run promotion campaigns of 0 fares, which is honestly an advertising trick for me because most of the tickets cost at least couples of hundreds of thousand VND. In general, traveling by plane in Vietnam is a lot more expensive than going by trains and buses.
Tip: Go for decent airlines like Vietnam Airlines or Easy Jet (a cheap airline with ‘okay’ reputation). VietjetAir staffs do have a bad reputation for horrible customer service occasionally.

Train – I enjoy getting around by train the most. Besides viewing the landscapes surrounding railway tracks, you get your own space, get to walk around, and enjoy your meal at the canteen. Night trains have helped me save a lot. Some of the most impressive train rides I took are:
– Luxurious five-star night train from Hanoi to Sapa ran by Victoria Express
– Breath-taking track through Hai Van Pass between Da Nang and Hue
– Short train ride from Hanoi to Ninh Binh, running through beautiful countryside landscape and limestones

Bus – getting around Vietnam by bus is not the most convenient way to travel, as the infrastructure is quite bad here. On the bright side, buses connections between cities are everywhere. Bus companies quite often arrange connecting minibuses to tranfer passengers between their accommodation and the stations.

Motorbike – A South East Asia adventure cannot be completed without a trip on the motorbike. But if you are inexperienced with driving in SEA, tag along with a local or pay for a motorbike taxi driver (xe ôm).

Traffic: I must mention that traffic is a little too crazy in Vietnam. It took me months to get used to the traffic in Hanoi. And I am not completely comfortable with riding the scooter around, still, after 5 years of living abroad and moving back for over a year already. Honestly, just go with the flow. Don’t drive too slow or go too crazy. Vietnamese drivers can be, honestly, retarded and short-tempered, more often than not. Be patient. Dont get yourself into violent situations. Getting in a Vietnamese hospital during your vacation is NOT FUN AT ALL! So stay bold, stay adventurous, but wise!

Vietnam independent Travel guide - Victoria Hotel

Accommodation – where to stay?

Booking – one of the most popular platforms to book accommodation in SEA is Agoda. I personally use Booking.com more often. Traveloka is also a reliable website/application to book your flight+accommodation in VN, with lots of promotion from time to time.
Hotel, hostels or homestay? – depending on your travel style, whether you like fancy resorts, authentic places or just a bed to crash, book your accommodation just a few days in advance is fine enough.
Couchsurfing – the Couchsurfing community in big cities like Hanoi and HCM is pretty massive. I found that most locals like to hang out to learn English. If you travel long term, it’s fine to stay in their homes (most likely with the parents too) for a few nights. Local hosts tend to live outside the old quarter, so think twice about the location first before considering saving that money for the bed.

About Huong Nguyen and Asia's Nomad

What’s the weather like?

North – there are 4 seasons in almost every cities/towns in the North, equivalent to every quarter of the year. Whilst the summer (between May and August) may get super hot and humid, Autumn (from late August to October) is the best time to travel Northern Vietnam. Winter can get quite cold and breezy, though the minimum temperature in Hanoi, for example, can get only down to about 5 to 10 Celcius degrees. In mountainous areas like Sapa or Ha Giang, it definitely gets colder and drier during the night.
Tip: Don’t travel Vietnam with a bag full of shorts and t-shirt. Locals and expats do sometimes make fun of backpackers in shorts and flipflops in the middle of the winter here. Whilst it may look quite ridiculous that locals are in huge coats and jackets under the weather of 15 degrees, Vietnamese people just simply can’t tolerate the cold.
Centre – the rainy and stormy season in central Vietnam lasts from July to October (Northern Central Coast) and from October to December (Southern Central Coast). It’s best to avoid traveling VN within this time of the year. Every year, flooding has caused hundreds of deaths and houses to crash down. 
South –
 there are only 2 seasons in Southern Vietnam: the dry season and rainy season (October to March). The temperature is  stable throughout the year.
Western Highlands/Central Highlands – 
the weather in famous regions like Da Lat (Lam Dong) can be highly unpredictable. The locals like to claim that you will experiences 4 seasons in Da Lat within a day. It can get pretty cold and humid in the early morning and late night in Da Lat, whilst warm and sunny during the day.

Top experiences traveling Vietnam - see rice terraces in Sapa

Culture & lifestyle – what are the must-knows?

Language – Vietnamese language is not an easy language to learn, keeping in mind that we have 5 different tones. However, the latin alphabet and frequent use of English words do make it easy to get around without much vocabs. Some basic words you need to know are: Xin Chào (Hello), Cám Ơn (Thanks, which sounds like come on), Xin Lỗi (Sorry), Bao Nhiêu (How much), Tôi tên là (My Name Is), etc. By the way, we dont really say phrases like how are you or could you please. That does not sound very polite but we do have different ways of expression. And to be honest, I dont find Vietnamese people polite in many situations 🙂

Lifestyle – you will be surprised to find out the diversity in lifestyles across Vietnam. In one corner you may bump into cocky rich old man in the city, stepping out of a Mercedes or Porsche, yet in another witnessing the genuinely sad and poor life of local villagers. Though the typical image of VN can be associated with third world, developing country or low life standard, it is undeniable that VN is growing drastically. The booming of technology use, tourism and F&B industry is indeed impressive! You will be amazed by the density of high-end hotels, Michelin-star restaurants, contemporary cafes and modern co-working spaces. There are also plenty of art hubs around the country.

Daily manner – Vietnamese people are NOT generally friendly and kind as you imagine, only to foreigners yes! At least most of the time they are. Only because there’s a so-called western obsession here. People who have never been outside the country probably consider all western people to be rich and beautiful for being tall, white and exotic. And I mean blond hair and blue eyes. Yea! Vietnamese people are just in love with the Westerners here. This does not mean all Vietnamese people are nice and kind to each other. After all, traveling in SEA can be quite intensive. I mean one day you get treated like royalty, the next you end up at an ethnic village lost in the middle of nowhere.

Is it safe to travel alone?

I traveled alone in Vietnam several times and did not encounter any danger. Simply keep in mind the basic safety rule and you will get around the main touristy areas (listed below) just fine. However, despite being a local, I personally experienced a few times being discriminated or bullied here. To avoid these situations, go around with a decent local. Or act like a local, as much as you can. Pay extreme attention to your dress code too!

Best places in Vietnam – where to go?

Experiences traveling Vietnam - Ninh Binh Valley Homestay

Northern Vietnam – the best mountains and rice paddies of the country

Hanoi – capital city known for well-preserved cultural heritage, excellent and delicate cuisine, an important gateway to other cities in the Noth
Ha Long (UNESCO Heritage) – a must-visit because of breath-taking limestone mountains above water but too touristy and over advertised
Cat Ba – the archipelago is absolutely dazzling, ideal for a relaxed getaway from the touristy Ha Long nearby
Ninh Binh – famous filming location of Kong movie, known for gorgeous limestone mountains on land and rice paddies along beautiful rivers
Sapa – touristy area famed for the ethnic villages, gigantic rice terraces and the Fansipan mount
Ha Giang – another mountainous area famed for rice terraces and amazing tracks through the mountain passes, less touristy than Sapa
Other – Mai Chau, Moc Chau, Tam Dao, etc. are nice countryside areas to explore around Hanoi

Art in Vietnam - Rehahn Art Gallery

Central Vietnam – historical, art and cultural center

Hue (UNESCO Heritage) – prior royal capital of Vietnam, an important historical and culinary center of VN
Da Nang – third largest city in VN, an important gateway to centre Vietnam, a fast growing city of beautiful landscapes
Hoi An (UNESCO Heritage) – my favourite town in VN so far, famed for its beautiful old town filled with colourful lanterns, lots of art and cultural influences from both the East and West, slow pace of life and excellent cuisine.
Quang Binh (UNESCO Heritage)- home to some of the most impressive caves in VN and the largest cave in the world (Son Doong) 

Ninh Vân

Southern Vietnam – stunning coastlines and modern cities

Ho Chi Minh – biggest city in VN with impressive skyline and dynamic vibrant lifestyle strongly influenced by the West
Phan Thiet – bustling port city known for beautiful fishing village filled with vivid boats and massive sand dunes
Nha Trang – touristy coastal town filled with resorts, attractive a huge number of Russian and Chinese not only to travel but also settle
Phu Yen – famous for the interesting topography of Da Dia Reef
Quy Nhon – home to some of the best beaches in VN

Tam Thanh

Best times to visit Vietnam – when to go?

January to February: Lunar New Year’s Eve (or Tết) is the biggest holiday season in Vietnam, meant for family celebration and gathering. For me this is like Christmas in the West. During Tết here, we take weeks even a month for planning ceremonies, organizing events and worshiping ancestors. Though many people recommend avoiding traveling this time in Vietnam, many must-see cultural festivals take place in February (January according to Vietnamese calendar)
March – May: personally my favourite time to travel Vietnam because of the low season
June to August: the summer and also peak season in Vietnam, avoid if you dont like tourist crowds
September: Harvest season, best for visiting Sapa and Ha Giang
October: Full moon festival is the time for children to celebrate with their families
December – Vietnamese people also celebrate Christmas in big cities

Hai Van Mountain Pass – Experience the Spectacular Train Ride from Da Nang to Hue

There’s something about traveling by train that somehow always catches my breath away as passing through the forests and mountains on the train is adventurous, thrilling and soul-stirring. Traveling by train in Vietnam is a unique experience. One of the best train journeys in the country, which I must always encounter when recommending to my foreign fellow travelers who like to visit my hometown, is the ride between Da Nang and Hue through Hai Van Mountain Pass. The spectacular 21-kilometer long pass, Hai Van, one of the most gorgeous mountain passes in central Vietnam, is located just 500 meters above sea level.

Hai Van Mountain Pass - Da Nang station

I started in Da Nang from the train station. Da Nang’s train station is, interestingly, well designed with a mixture of contemporary and vintage interior. This resembles Da Nang city, shifting itself from a previously less known destination to one of the fastest growing city of Vietnam. Nevertheless, the station was very crowded and rather unorganized. The entrance was full of taxis flooding in all directions. Our friend dropped us in a random spot in front of the main door.

Hai Van Mountain Pass 2

In order to avoid the queue and common exhaustion of waiting for train ticket officers, I booked our tickets on Baolau.com. They sent me a voucher which is also the e-ticket that can be used straight for boarding on the train. Vietnam’s train seems very old from the outside, but the modern cabins have specifically been renovated, are clean and organized. Considering the facilities, some of the most high-end train routes in Vietnam are Sai Gon – Phan Thiet with Vietnam Railways or Hanoi – Sapa with Victoria Express.

Hai Van Mountain Pass 1

Our train was departing from Da Nang for approximately 15 minutes till our arrival through the pass. You will be amazed through the whole journey, passing through dark halls, led to bright and thrilling hills above the blue and tranquil ocean, repeatedly.

The whole journey lasts for only about 15 minutes. I went to the windows in between cabins to take photographs. Since the windows aren’t clear to actually capture the breath-taking scenes, I went to the canteen carriage for better views. An ideal spot to enjoy Vietnam beer and immerse yourself in the stunning ride.

Omega Mountain Pass – A Scenic Bus Ride From Da Lat To Nha Trang

Da Lat and Nha Trang are some of the most beautiful travel destinations in the South of Vietnam. Whilst Da Lat’s famed for its striking French colonial architecture throughout the central area, surrounded by gorgeous mountainous areas and brightly flower fields spreading throughout one of the greenest towns of Vietnam, Nha Trang’s stunning and diverse shorelines will take your breath away. There are plenty of bus connections between the two cities. I booked mine online via Baolau.com from Da Lat to Nha Trang with Phuong Trang Bus – one of the largest bus provider in Vietnam between these two destinations. The journey went through Omega  Mountain Pass, one of the longest mountain passes of Vietnam. 

Phuong Trang bus Da Lat to Nha Trang - Da Lat station

Our group arrived at the station about 30 minutes before the bus departure. Surprisingly, Da Lat’s main bus station seems to be taken over by Phuong Trang. You can notice their massive number of buses here from the signature orange colour visible from miles above. Baolau previously sent us an email with all the e-ticket, which we exchanged at the station for physical tickets within only a few minutes. The staff were very friendly to us and profession, all dressed in uniforms, and ready to stuff our bags to the storage room and let us board.

Phuong Trang bus Da Lat to Nha Trang bus station 1

Phuong Trang runs bus from Da Lat to Nha Trang almost every hour or two throughout the day from 8AM to 5PM. Once you arrive at Nha Trang, skip the typical tourist sights and make your way to Ninh Van Bay – one of the most soul-stirring natural seaside landscape of the region, yet an undiscovered hidden gem near Nha Trang.

Da Lat to Nha Trang through Omega Mountain Pass to Ninh Van Bay

Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort – A Backpacker Getaway To the Rural Seaside

Lying just about 1 hour away from the famous UNESCO Heritage cultural town of Hoi An, Tam Thanh is an undiscovered art and cultural gem, a one-of-its-kind destination worth taking a look. Tam Thanh is the home to untouched seasides, local villages, and amazing countryside landscapes. Our trip to explore Quang Nam province in the central Vietnam was a great getaway, thanks to awesome accommodations like Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort. That was a great place to just sit down, chill and relax with a bicycle ride around the beautiful Tam Thanh Mural village.
Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort 5

Location – how to get there

We took the train from Dieu Tri station in Quy Nhon, and arrived at Tam Ky station within less than an hour. Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort is in the middle of Tam Thanh village, close to the famous Tam Thanh Mural Village, an art project for the community joint by Korean and local artists. From here, take a taxi to the resort. If you travel in a group or find someone going in the same direction to tag along, it’s much more affordable. The taxi ride will take you around another 30 minutes to get there or 45 minutes if he gets lost in the area like ours did.
Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort 3
Book you train from Quy Nhon to Tam Ky with Baolau (recommended by Lonely Planet).

Atmosphere

The whole resort area seems very simple and untouched, surrounded by white sand and lines of coconut trees. There are not any fancy services going on like in other high-end resorts. The concept of Gowhere is to create a simple get-away space to relax with just the basic necessities. I love the idea because since I am not going to spend much time indoor anyway, why would I need to pay so much for a fancy resort in the middle of nowhere?
The seafront is just at my doorstep, ideally for waking up with a warm swim in the morning or simply enjoying breakfast whilst sunbathing.
Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort 6

Facilities

Like I mentioned, most of the facilities at the resort are really simple. We were 7 people, staying in a family room with 3 double beds and 2 single beds. There’s only one indoor bathroom.
Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort 4

Service

Motorbike rental service is available. If you travel in groups, contact them in advance in order to book a short tour around the area. The manager there was very welcoming and helpful throughout our stay. The food provided there was great value for money. There are not many places nearby to eat except for the morning market in the village. Hence eating here is of course recommended.
Tam Thanh Natural Beach Resort 1

Getting around Tam Thanh

Lang Bich Hoa – Tam Thanh Mural Village

A small village of more or less 20 households, of which house walls are filled with stunning vivid mural paintings. These artwork reflect the local life and culture of the people of Tam Thanh. It is a joint project between the Korean Community Art Exchange Program and the Vietnamese People’s Committee of Quang Nam Province.

Tam Thanh Mural Village

Tam Hai Island

Another well-known spot for camping, famed its nearby area of distinct rock topography. Ban Than Reef, lying just a few inches above the sea level along the seaside of Tam Hai village, are like gigantic sets of charcoal rocks of all shapes and sizes.

Tam Hai Island

Discover the Mekong Delta Experience In Vietnam

One of the top must-try when visiting South East Asia is definitely the Mekong Delta experience. Compared to playing with elephants on the river and watch the sunset by the bank in Luang Prabang, my experience with the Mekong Delta in Vietnam differ a lot. I personally enjoyed getting to know local music arts and cultures of Mekong people in Vietnam, always with curiosity and adrenaline. Hence on my trip to go explore Vietnam starting in the South from Ho Chi Minh city, I could not miss the tour to Mekong Delta.

Mekong-Delta-Experience-Cai-Rang-Floating-market-from-drone-1
photo by Phu Nghia

Top experiences – Places you expect to see

Our 2 day 1night tour with TNK throughout the Mekong delta started from Ho Chi Minh city, continuing towards My Tho, Ben Tre, Can Tho and ended up in Ho Chi Minh. I went with 3 friends of mine, and a mixed group of Westerners and some Vietnamese elders. They were all very easy to talk to and interactive throughout the whole tour. Here are the top experiences I had and favourite places we visited.

Mekong-Delta-Experience-Cai-Rang-Floating-market-from-drone-2
photo by Phu Nghia

Floating along the river bank of Mekong Delta

In the beginning of the itinerary, I already got immersed in the fantastic Mekong Delta experience. The first time is definitely always a thrill. I have been to Bangkok already but missed the floating market experience, so this was a must-do for me when getting back to Vietnam from Europe. We took a boat ride along the river, view the stilt houses and the fruit plantation along the river bank, then headed towards the Tortoise island and have lunch in the orchard.

Mekong Delta experience - Asia's Nomad on the boatMekong Delta experience - floating

Listening to Vietnamese folk music

Following the boat tour, we went to visit a family business of making all kinds of products from honey. They also formed a band that play and sing incredible Vietnamese folk music. You will get to watch the performance, enjoy fresh fruits from their garden and drink tea with honey, all at the same time. They do offer honey both as food and beauty product, at a good price.

Mekong delta experience - folk music

Mekong delta experience - folk music 2

I did not buy the honey there because though they seem like very green and clean local home-made products great for either souvenir or self-use, their trademark and hygiene certificate didn’t really seem trustworthy to me. But I supposed that’s the common case for most of the traditional home-produced products in Vietnam. Plus, I am very sceptical with the products I use for my facial skin. And I easily get skin allergies from time to time. Just make sure to test their product first before buying. 

Mekong delta experience - play with bees

Hanging out with a new friend, or more like a new friend hanging on you! 

After lunch, you will get quite a long break and time to meet up with a new friend – the local home pet!

Out of the all the reptiles, I hate snake the most. Those creepy creatures without leg could kill you instantly within just the blink of an eye. And I did let them hanged on me, unbelievable. That was probably one of the funniest and most extreme experiences of the entire tour. Would I never do it again? Nah.

Mekong Delta experience - scary snake

Watching the locals of Ben Tre making coconut candies

Coconut candy has always been one of my childhood delights. And to actually see how they were made from fresh coconut to a creamy and thick mixture, and eventually the end-product of square-shaped candies wrapped within eatable thin rice papers.

Mekong Delta experience - making candy in Ben Tre

Mekong Delta experience - drinking scary alcohol

Making Vietnamese noodles by yourself

The tour guide decided to put me in the spot to be his ‘free labour source‘ in demonstrating how to make Hu Tieu – a sort of local Vietnamese noodle. The machine ran extremely fast, and fortunately neither cut off my hand or messed up with my work. I made my first hu tieu ever! Success!

Mekong Delta experience - making hu tieu 2

Mekong Delta experience - making hu tieu

Food

Lunch provided by TNK was okay, not a highlight though.
Dinner by choice – We went for the popular Da Ly Lau Mam (a.k.a fish sauce hotpot), which was great in terms of how much vegetables they served. We almost finished all the vegetable, and trust me, we do eat a lot! Many people told us it’s gonna be super crowded there but it was empty as we arrived pretty late, compared to the local dinner time, which was probably around 6 to 7 PM.

Mekong Delta experience - breakfast on Cai Rang floating market
Breakfast on Cai Rang floating market was excellent. We had bun thit nuong (Vietnamese noodle with grilled pork, herbs and dipping fish sauce) and soy milk, literally on the boat floating in the middle of Cai Rang market.

Mekong Delta experience - old lady on the boat Mekong Delta experience - boat selling watermelon

Accommodation

In the evening, you will have 2 options of accommodation, meaning either staying in a hotel in Can Tho city or a riverside homestay in Cai Rang rural district. Both of these are great. For foreigners coming to Vietnam, I’d recommend going for the latter option, which is more authentic as you will get to experience cycling around the suburb, sharing dinner with a local family from the Mekong Delta and enjoy perhaps even an evening of traditional folk music.

I was travelling with a group of 3 Vietnamese guys. We then decided to stay in a hotel downtown so as to explore the city’s cuisine and check out some impressive modern buildings and construction of Can Tho. We walked through the night market, had some dessert and fortunately even found a local boat driver who offered us a great deal for the group so we can leave to Cai Rang Floating market earlier than the tour group on the following day.

Mekong Delta experience - man on the boat

Tour guide

Our tour guide was extremely funny, supportive, and fluent in English. One of the best tour guides I have ever met in Vietnam so far. He was very calm and experienced with a good self-presentation.

You would be surprised how many tour guides in Vietnam you’d come across, who are really bad in English, having a terrible accent or just no charisma at all, not to mention the lack of knowledge about the destination. Please keep in mind that tour guides in Vietnam must be certified before working with any company.

Mekong Delta experience - TNK Travel guide

Customer service

All of the customer service arranged by TNK was excellent, in contrast to a couple of situation I have experienced in Vietnam so far (which I will dedicate another article to write in Vietnam). Book your Mekong Delta experience with TNK Travel here. 

 Mekong-Delta-Experience-Cai-Rang-Floating-market-from-drone-4
photo by Phu Nghia

Top Destinations to Seek Art In Vietnam

If you asked me if I would ever quit travel blogging, the answer was probably yes. A few months ago, I slowly stopped blogging on my own site, meaning not to produce any content of good quality, gradually switching to travel writing on different companies’ websites, simply to make money, which was a big motivation back then as I needed money to travel. Being constantly on the road makes it such a huge challenge to keep the blog updated.

Till now, it took me quite awhile to get my writings back on track. Plus I was never close to a tech person, making it brutally difficult for me to run a blog, whilst maintaining my presence on social media. After launching the ‘Go Explore Vietnam’ Project, traveling throughout my home country for a month, which was initially to find out if travel blogging was really for me, as a surprise, I found out how much I was into arts and cultures while traveling instead of running blogging businesses and keeping the site commercial.

So here’s my list of the top destinations to seek arts in Vietnam. And I mean really cool arts, music and cultures!

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1. Hoi An – the top-rated art hub

I love slow and peaceful vibe in Hoi An. Suddenly after few hours train ride from Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi, you are completely taken aback away from the noises, crowds and traffic jam, all of sudden surrounded with lots and lots of art galleries, old vintage coffee shops, ancient French and Japanese architecture, authentic design and craft shops. Rehahn’s fine art photography gallery – COULEURS D’ASIE is one of its kind. His award-winning portrait photography style will take your breath away.

Hoi An is also famous for the 3 craft villages, specializing in producing local pottery, silk, and wood. These traditional products are amazing authentic souvenirs, convenient to carry around. You can see, and even learn how to make our own product there.

Art in Vietnam - Rehahn Art Gallery

2. Tam Thanh – the beautiful mural village

Situated in a rural area, only about an hour bus ride away from Hoi An, Tam Thanh is another must-see art hub, famed for its mural village created by the Korea-Vietnam joint project – Art for a better community. For some reason, the Koreans have discovered the isolated town of Tam Thanh and probably loved the village so much that they dedicated a massive amount of stunning artworks on the walls surrounding the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the quality of the paint was deteriorating so bad due to the weather that some of the walls were forced to crash down.

Art in Vietnam - Tam Thanh mural village

3. Hue – the ancient art capital

The peaceful and quiet town of Hue may look a bit boring at first glance, nevertheless wakes up at night as the Imperial city is lightened up with tons of musical and performing activities. You can even play traditional Vietnamese games with the local students at the main yard of the Imperial City. Make sure to arrive on time between 7PM and 10PM in order not to miss any arranged show. If you have already visited the Imperial city during the day time, keep in mind to get the 50% discount by night.

Art in Vietnam - art in Hue

Art in Vietnam - Hue Imperial City by NIght

4. Hanoi – the communist-influenced capital

Tons of friends asked me if Vietnam is still in communism regime, or simply assume such fact since there’s only one party in the government. Yet we are a socialist country, living with the diverse culture strongly influenced by a mixture of the East and West, of the past communists and present westerners. You’d be either excited or surprised to see many propaganda stores on Ly Quoc Su street in the old quarter of Hanoi, lying beside plenty of fine art galleries. What I love most about Hanoi is probably the vibe from entering the 36 old streets of Hanoi, which was recently turned into a pedestrian area every weekend, nowadays filled with a bunch of performing and playful activities at night.

5. Phan Thiet – the impressive Fisherman show

The one and only fisherman show happening every evening in Phan Thiet is breath-taking and soul-stirring. The story-telling theatrical acts of the local performers are well combined with a water show and a wide range of international artists are great values for money.

Art in Vienam - Fisherman Show in Phan Thiet 1

Art in Vietnam - Fisherman show in Phan Thiet 2

6. Da Lat – the place to rest your soul with art

XQ Su Quan Art Gallery is famous not only for its handmade sewing fabrics and artworks, but also the culturally unique arrangement of outdoor space and architecture style. The way local culture is presented with different artistic spaces here is one of its kind.

Art in Vietnam - XQ Su Quan Art Gallery

7. Ho Chi Minh – the chaotic & dynamic art hub

Despite living in the most dynamic and fast-growing city in Vietnam, strongly affected by the Western culture, the people in Ho Chi Minh (a.k.a. Sai Gon) has their own way to show the love for arts. À Ố Show is one of the best performing acts in Ho Chi Minh city, embracing Vietnamese culture with a strong combination Live Music By Folk Instruments, Acrobatics, and Bamboo Cirque. A must-see theatrical show in Ho Chi Minh.

À Ố Show - Art in Vietnam
Source: Divui

Despite being located in South East Asia, which is well-known for cheap travel, getting around Vietnam to genuinely explore arts and culture could be expensive due to high accommodation fare during peak season, high tax and service fee for airlines, overpriced entrance fee to tourist sights. I’d highly recommend booking your flights at least 4 weeks prior to your departure in and around Vietnam via Traveloka, as they offer incredibly tempting discounts from time to time. Accommodations can be booked few days in advance via Agoda, Booking or Airbnb.

 

4 Quarters Homestay in Da Lat – Simple & Happiness

If I have to choose one top unique destination in Southern Vietnam to visit, it takes few seconds to pick Da Lat from the endless list of beautiful places to see in Vietnam – from the western part along the Mekong Delta to stunning seaside resorts in Nha Trang, from adventurous sand dunes in Phan Thiet to the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh.

Da Lat is famed not only for its breath-taking natural landscapes filled with gorgeous mountains surrounded by lush forests and flower fields but also its interesting mix of architecture and culture, strongly affected by the French colony influences. Due to the booming of tourism, there’s a wide diversity of homestays and hostels in Da Lat. One of my favorites so far is 4 Quarters, a hidden gem located in a town corner just a few minutes ride from the night market and city center.

4 Quarters Da Lat 4

4 Quarters Da Lat 3

4 Quarters Da Lat 2

4 Quarters Da Lat 1

With simple design and the happiness concept, 4 Quarters would let you feel like home here. TV, kitchen equipments, scooter and laundry service are fully available!

July Homestay Tuy Hoa – Vintage Design. Where Asia Meets Europe

On our way to go explore Vietnam from Nha Trang to Quy Nhon, where lies the famous beach of Ky Co, we had a quick stop at Tuy Hoa (Phu Yen) to discover Bai Xep (a filming location of the famous movie ‘Tôi thấy hoa vàng trên cỏ xanh’) and Ghenh Da Dia. Spending the night at July homestay (rather than Nau as planned since it was fully booked), we were amazed by the hospitality and interesting interior design of the homestay.

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