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Take a cooking class
From Pho to spring rolls, one of the best things about Vietnam is its delicious and varied cuisine. Join in a cooking lesson and try your hand at whipping up some dishes yourself. Small groups will often go to the market in the morning, before spending the day learning to cook their way around the nation’s hearty and aromatic dishes. Hoi An is a particularly good place to do this. It’s great fun, and a skill you can take home with you.
The markets themselves are also worth a day of exploration. Try to find the strangest looking or smelling food (and be warned about the pungent Durian fruit!). Finding out what people in different cultures consider a delicacy is always interesting to see. And the Colonial French presence means if you want something a bit different, you can also sample the delights of French-Vietnamese fusion cuisine. A personal favourite is Cho Lon market in the Chinese influenced District 5 of Saigon or the ever-lively Dong Ba market in Hue -lots of “interesting” stuff.
Get some glad-rags
Hoi An is famous for its tailors and the ideal place to get some swanky clothes made up on the cheap. The city’s wealth of tailor shops will make you any thing from a made-to-measure ball gown to a winter coat in just a few hours. The clothes are cheap to buy and quick to make, so if you have the time this can be a fun and useful thing to do!
Get on track
To make your way off the beaten track! Go by overnight train to somewhere exciting. The trains are not for everybody but are a novel way to travel and make the journey feel like an adventure. There are a range of travel options to suit, whether you want a private cabin, or to share and meet other travellers and locals on the train. The trains in the north, and between central & northern Vietnam offer the most comfortable options. The Victoria Express to Sapa is Vietnam’s answer to the Orient Express though…not quite the same, but an amazing experience.
Visit the Mekong Delta
The overnight river cruises down in the Mekong Delta are lovely. The best way to explore the delta is by boat, and taking a 2 day overnight cruise will allow you escape to the remoter areas of the Delta and see local floating markets. This is also the perfect place to experience a homestay with a local family for the evening, and see how a traditional home is run in Vietnam. Staying in a village or at a small community gives you a different perspective on life in rural Vietnam. Most homestays are very basic, offering just simple accommodation but make for a great experience.
Get on your bike
Take a cyclo bike trip around the old town Hue with its colonial style. After sightseeing and walking around the Citadel and tombs sitting back in a cyclo is a relaxing way of seeing this town. Whilst in Hue, take the opportunity to take a boat trip down the possibly misleadingly named Perfume River.
Have a well-earned break on one of Vietnam’s beautiful beaches. The stunning and unspoilt Cham Island is arguably one of the country’s most beautiful and undiscovered: white sands, palm trees, monkeys, snorkelling and sun. Lovely.
Get back to nature
Tour around the beautiful UNESCO world heritage site, Halong Bay. You can rent a Junk and take a trip around the bay. An even better option is to stay on board a boat for a night or even two and get out to some of the less visited areas of the bay to really appreciate the magic and serenity. You are more likley to see the bay at its most picturesque too.
Grab some cheap eats
Vietnam’s answer to the pop-up shop, tiny makeshift eateries known as ‘dust cafes’ will appear on the pavements, serving bowls of noodles for around 60p or $1. Can’t argue with that. The street cafes are some of the best places to eat and Hanoi’s old quarter is home to some of the most lively street cafes visited by locals and foreigners alike, testament to their authenticity and quality.
Experience Saigon like a local
Brave the hectic streets of Saigon, by scooter and see how the locals get around. Intially quite scary, but lots of fun and the best way to get around. Approximately 10 million motor bikes hit the streets of Vietnam everyday, and Saigon is no exception.