Things to Do in Vietnam - page 3
The Royal Antiquities Museum displays a huge collection of ornaments, furniture, jewelry, clothing, and other items relating to royal life during the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). It is housed in the former Long An Palace, which is widely considered to be one of Vietnam’s most beautiful palaces. The striking building has seven compartments at its front, with eight beams covered in sculptures of dragons. The wooden parts of the palace feature elaborate carvings depicting various scenes, along with poems and essays written in Chinese script.
Having been relocated from the An Dinh residence to its original setting on Le Truc Street, the Royal Antiquities Museum sits just outside Hue’s Citadel (Imperial City). The building was used as a place of worship and a library before being established as a museum by King Khai Dinh and presented to his son, the last reigning emperor. The purpose of the museum was said to be “to revive generations of artisans who had built up the glorified Hue royal court.”
Originally built by the French in 1868 to commemorate the establishment of the colony of Indochina, the Reunification Palace (formerly Independence Palace) as it stands today was built during the 1960s. Known in Vietnamese as Dinh Độc Lập or Dinh Thống Nhất, it was most famously the symbolic site of the liberation of Saigon by communist forces that reunited the nation on April 30, 1975.
The Saigon Opera House (Opéra de Saïgon), aka Ho Chi Minh City Theater (Nhà Hát Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh), is a landmark piece of French colonial architecture. (Saigon was the colonial name for Ho Chi Minh City.) Built in 1897, it is home to the Ho Chi Minh City Ballet and Symphony Orchestra, but is best known for evening cultural shows, such as A O and Teh Dar.
Nestled among the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta, Cái Bè is a riverfront village that is most famous for its floating market. All week long, vendors crowd into the harbor to sell fruit and vegetables from ramshackle boats. Visiting the market offers travelers a glimpse into local life in southern Vietnam.
Clustered around 13 miles (21 kilometers) from Hoi An’s Cua Dai harbor, Vietnam's eight Cham Islands are known as Cham Island or Cù Lao Chàm. They offer white-sand beaches, granite cliffs, and coral reefs ideal for diving and snorkeling. The islands’ rich marine life and ecosystems have earned them UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status.
Located between Hoi An Ancient Town and An Bang Beach, Tra QueVegetable Village is an agricultural district that still uses traditional techniques to produce Vietnamese crops. The fertile farmland, which provides a welcome break from the crowds of Hoi An Ancient Town, is awash with fragrant herbs and home to numerous independent workshops.
The art form of water puppetry originated at least 1,000 years ago in the rice fields of north Vietnam. Particularly if you’re traveling with kids, you’d be remiss to leave Hanoi without catching a show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre. A Vietnamese orchestra accompanies the water puppets, with some modern special effects.
One of the most visited attractions in Hanoi, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the final resting place of “Uncle Ho,” the beloved founder of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. He lies here in state, embalmed and in a glass case, with a military honor guard watching over him and the many visitors who come to pay their respects.
A key landmark in the historical center of Hanoi, charming Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) offers a peaceful escape from the hectic pace and crowds of the city. It’s a popular meeting spot, and also makes a great place to people watch and experience local culture.
Along the mountainous coastline north of Nha Trang, Hòn Chồng (Husband Rock) is made up of huge rock formations piled on top of each other that run from the land down into the sea.
The views are what people come here for, with a fantastic landscape of rocks, beach, ocean, and neighboring islands to feast your eyes on. Around 300 meters south of Hòn Chồng lies the tiny Hon Do (Red Island), which features its own Buddhist temple. To the northeast is Hon Rua (Tortoise Island), so called because of its tortoise shape, while the two islands of Hon Yen (Bird’s Nest Island) lie out to the east.
As the area is not particularly large and won’t take long to see, many visitors combine a trip here with a visit to the Po Nagar Cham Towers, which are around a five-minute taxi ride away.
More Things to Do in Vietnam
Right in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City is the Ben Thanh Market (Chợ Bến Thành). More than a place to go shopping, the market is also an architectural landmark, a center of local Vietnamese life and commerce, and a meeting point all rolled into one.
South of Hanoi, the Trang An Landscape Complex is considered Vietnam’s “Ha Long Bay on land.” A UNESCO World Heritage Site for both nature and culture, the complex features a spectacular landscape of caverns and tunnels among limestone karsts, rice paddies, villages, and historic sites.
A distinctive pair of karst islets jutting out from the calm waters of Halong Bay; the unique Hon Ga Choi Island (Fighting Cocks Island) has become one of the bay’s most memorable landmarks and among the most photographed attractions for cruise visitors. Located right in the heart of the bay, the jagged rock formations loom 12 meters over the water, improbably perched on narrow, weatherworn bases and appearing to lean towards each other.
It’s this peculiar creation of nature that afforded the island its name - Hòn Gà Chọi (Fighting Cocks Island), or Hòn Trống Mái (Cock and Hen Island), depending who you ask. For the full effect, pass by the islands at sunrise or sunset, when the dreamy sunlight casts a red hue over the rocks, further enhancing their cockerel-like appearance.
Few truly historic buildings exist in Vietnam, which makes the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam) extra special. First built as a Confucian temple in 1070 AD, it became Vietnam’s first university (Quoc Tu Giam) and operated as one for more than 700 years. Between ponds, gardens, and tranquil courtyards, it’s a haven in the heart of the Hanoi
Hailed as one of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam, Sao Beach is the epitome of coastal beauty. Shallow waters lap fine white sands backed by lush jungle and palm trees. The beach’s remote location makes it a less crowded alternative to Long Beach for travelers looking to spend the day sunbathing and swimming in relative tranquility.
Often referred to as the “rice bowl of Asia” for its emerald-green rice paddy fields, the Mekong Delta is surrounded by fertile land. On Vietnam’s mighty Mekong, sleepy floating communities live alongside an abundance of tropical fruits, buffalo wallowing in paddy fields, and mangroves rich with birdlife.
Built on a single pillar and rising out of a square-shaped lotus pond, the One Pillar Pagoda (Chua Mot Cot) is said to resemble a lotus flower. Originally built in the 11th century, the pagoda has been rebuilt over the years, most recently in 1955 after it was destroyed by the French, and remains one of Hanoi’s most iconic pagodas.
The National Oceanographic Museum of Vietnam is located around five kilometers from Nha Trang’s city center in a grand old French-colonial building. It has a large collection of marine life and other items, including numerous jars of pickled specimens, stuffed birds and sea mammals, plus plenty of fishing related artefacts.
The displays are arranged across two floors. The ground floor is home to various sized tanks housing countless varieties of marine life, including reef sharks, turtles, anemones, pufferfish, lionfish, clownfish, seahorses, and a whole array of colorful coral. Upstairs is where to find the exhibiting specimens, local boats, and various fishing articles, not to mention an 18-meter-long skeleton of a whale.
Themed rooms chart the history, science, and technology associated with marine life, with exhibits focusing on things like algae and phytoplankton, as well as the history of fishing in Vietnam, plus natural disasters at sea and around the coast.
Overshadowed by famous Hoi An Ancient Town, Cua Dai Beach (Biển Cửa Đại) is a pristine, white-sand strand flanked by turquoise waters and backed by rustic Vietnamese seafood restaurants. The laid-back beach provides a relaxed break from central Hoi An and offers white-knuckle water sports to appease thrill seekers.
One of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam, and the oldest in Hanoi, Tran Quoc Pagoda (Chua Tran Quoc) was built in during the reign of Emperor Ly Nam De (AD 541–547) and moved to its present location in 1615. Located on an islet within West Lake, Tran Quoc Pagoda offers beautiful architecture, historic relics and artifacts, and a serene and scenic environment.
Unlike the famed Cu Chi tunnels—which served as supply caches and strategic combat routes for Viet Cong soldiers and today are swarming with tourists—the Vinh Moc tunnels served a different war time purpose and receive far fewer visitors. Stretching almost two from the coastal town of Vinh Moc to a beach overlooking the South China Sea, the Vinh Moc Tunnels were dug in the late 1960s to serve as a live-in bomb shelter for more than 60 families. The families lived their lives underground, some for up to six years, and one frequently-cited figure says as many as 17 children were born in these underground tunnels their occupation.
Today, visitors can enter the dark and earthen tunnel complex, via a rock-wall rimmed stairway, and, unlike at Cu Chi, walk upright through them. Nooks notched into the sides of the main tunnel served as family quarters or meeting rooms and are today populated by strategically-placed human-sized dummies that show how cramped the villagers must have been. Two deeper layers, up to 70 feet below the ground’s surface, served as storage for weapons and supplies and as a deeper subterranean hiding space from direct bombing attacks. There are more than 10 separate gated entrances to the tunnels that visitors can see along the route. A small on-site museum has photographs and memorabilia that help to paint a picture of life in the tunnels and a map depicting the extent of the Vinh Moc tunnel system.
Though the name sounds old, XQ Historical Village was actually founded in the early 1990s by artists Vo Van Quan and Hoang Le Xuan as a way to showcase needlework and painting to travelers from overseas. More than 2,000 women work to create the intricate masterpieces that are put on display in this and other villages like it through Vietnam.
Quan and Xuan utilized age-old needlework traditions that hale from China and were once used to tell stories of the Orient, to instead tell the tales of Vietnam through brightly colored, handmade items. Visitors to this historically inspired village can witness craftswomen working in pairs over silk-draped tables creating some of the most colorful and intricate designs around. Travelers can purchase lavish wall hanging for their home or decorated scarves and greeting cards from the local shop. The picturesque tea garden offers the perfect place to check out more of the handmade works and relax in the natural beauty of XQ’s picturesque surroundings.
Thien Hau Temple (Chùa Bà Thiên Hậu), built by Cantonese immigrants in the early 19th century, pays tribute to Thien Hau (sometimes called Mazu), goddess of the sea and protector of seafarers. Situated on a busy street in Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown, the active temple displays intricate porcelain dioramas from Chinese mythology both inside and out.
Designed by the same architect responsible for the Eiffel Tower, Long Bien Bridge (Cau Long Bien) was the first bridge to span the Red River in Hanoi, providing a vital transport link between cities and towns in Northern Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, the bridge was bombed in American air attacks, and yet today, it still stands as a testament to the nation’s tumultuous history.
- Things to do in Hanoi
- Things to do in Hoi An
- Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
- Things to do in Hue
- Things to do in Nha Trang
- Things to do in Da Nang
- Things to do in My Son
- Things to do in Phu Quoc
- Things to do in Vung Tau
- Things to do in Laos
- Things to do in Cambodia
- Things to do in Central Vietnam
- Things to do in Southern Vietnam
- Things to do in Northern Vietnam