Posts on Vietnam by Kyle the Vagabond:
The further south you move in Vietnam, the better the country gets. Everyone seems to have a love/hate relationship with Vietnam. There are places in this country that
make you want to get out as fast as humanly possible, while there are others that leave you trying to devise plots so that you never have to leave. A large country with a turbulent history, much of this divide is associated with the massive rift that exists between the north of the country and the southern half. While north Vietnam boasts beautiful Halong bay, the mountains of Sapa and various hill tribes, much of North Vietnam is mired in a Communist mentality that is angry and dreadful. Central Vietnam plays host to charming towns such as Hue and Hoi An, as well as the center of most of the conflict from the “American War” and the still ordinance riddled DMZ. Southern Vietnam is where the country begins to turn into a tropical beauty, with warmer temperatures, heaps of sunshine, and laidback beach towns such as Nha Trang and Mui Ne, where watersports and good times dominate daily life. Add to this the southern reaches of the Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc island, and Vietnam becomes a massive adventure riddled with all the good–and bad–that Southeast Asia’s most populous nation has to offer.
Vietnamese Dong; Exchange Rate: $1= 19,420 Dong (Sept. 5, 2010). For more currency conversion info visit xe.com
When To Go:
A large country that can see either snow or stifling heat, depending on the region and the time of year, the best weather overall can generally be found in the southern part of the country. While the northern half seems to be prone to both the summer AND winter monsoons, the southern areas see ample sunshine and warm weather during the winter months of November through February, making the laidback beach towns that much more pleasant. While the north in the winter months at sea level can simply be cloudy, wet, and gray, venturing up into the mountains around Sapa in the winter months can bring snow and ice–especially on towering Fansipan. Cyclone activity is most common in the late summer months, and is a gamble no matter what part of the country you are based it. Best bet: Stay south in the winter and get some sun. It’s better down there anyway.
All is not as it seems in North Vietnam, and unfortunately nearly everything is a scam. Double and triple check everything. Also, there is no such thing as a “lost and found” program in Vietnam–especially the North. If it’s left behind it’s officially gone.
The Vagabond’s Personal Favorites:
1. Get active in Mui Ne
This expat watersports commune on the beach is one of the best places I have ever been. Hordes of windsurfers and kitesurfers take to the waves on a daily basis, and there are other adventures such as sand dunes, waterfalls, and temples located a short moto ride away. Add to it cheap beers, happening nightlife and a relaxed atmosphere, and it’s one of the best places you’ll find yourself while in Vietnam.
2. Dive Nha Trang
While the visibility is not the best at certain points of the year, the islands around Nha Trang are bathed in sun and offer much more laidback diving than the dive machines in southern Thailand–without sacrificing much quality. The beach in the city is nice as well, and it has that energetic feel of a city without the chaos and trash of a blown metropolis.
3. Climb the Marble Mountains outside Hoi An
A short taxi ride away from the charming colonial old town of Hoi An (fantastic deals on tailored clothing), the Marble Mountains are actual mountains made entirely of marble, with various caves and passageways burrowed into the slippery cliffs. Right next to China Beach and a great view from the top.
4. Take a motorbike around Hue
Get a personalized historical tour in this central city that has seen its fair share of war action. Ring the Peace bell outside of town for a little traveling karma.
5. War Remnants museum, Ho Chi Minh City
A gruesome, albeit educational, exhibit that highlights the atrocities of war. Guaranteed to make you feel like crap, but such a powerful experience.
6. Cruise through Halong Bay
Careful with this one, as the majority of the services offered in Halong Bay detract from the splendor of the bays surroundings. The less you involve tours, guides, or any sort of that business, the better off you will be. Stunningly beautiful Bay, total haven for scammers.
Posts on Vietnam by Kyle the Vagabond:
–Cruising Halong Bay (2009)
–Hue by motorbike (2009)
–Hoi An (2009)
–Nha Trang (2009)
–Mui Ne (2009)