Best cities to visit in Vietnam - Saigon

to visit Vietnam 2020

Best cities to visit in vietnam ? Vietnam ?

When I ask my friends, who have not travelled to Vietnam, what they know about the country, most will say “Oh, the Vietnam War” ……..

But having travelled the length of Vietnam and visited several times, there is, and still is for me, so much more to this country and it’s people that is a constant draw to keep me returning time after time.

As everyone gets older, we see more and more of the world and it’s harder and harder to find things to surprise or excite us, things we weren’t expecting but that are a welcome addition to our knowledge and a new experience.

Katherine Lunn

Indochina Specialist

Hi! i am Thi - local guide in Vietnam. Please, keep in touch with Sagomeko & make your trip better with local tour-guides'advises. Cheers !

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Best cities to visit Vietnam

Vietnam is a country that stretches approximately 2,100 miles from its northernmost border with China down to the South China Sea and when you travel from North to South it changes along the way. The words you learn as general greetings in the north don’t work so well in the south. The weather, the culture and the landscape changes and the journey is the most wonderous awakening of all the senses.
The constant throughout the country is the warm welcome local people give you and their keenness to help you enjoy all the best cities to visit along Vietnam.

Best cities to visit in North of Vietnam

In Hanoi, the capital there’s a real cosmopolitan feel that is one of the best cities to visit in Indochina. Young Vietnamese want to live here as it’s the in place and the most expensive too. Take a walk in a flower market and see the huge fresh exotic flower arrangements for sale at what we see as ridiculously low prices. Visit the water puppet theatre show and experience traditional music and Vietnamese tales played out by the clever puppeteers, hidden behind a screen in the water. (Although watch your bags as you queue at the ticket office, as pick pockets can queue too).

Sample the street food, but take a reputable tour guide to make sure you eat at good places. Tripadvisor is great for this. I don’t remember the names of all the things I tried on my street food tour, but it’s nothing like European food and a great experience. (Beware of the chili and squid sauce. Try a little to begin with to see if you like it) I discovered and fell in love with Pho. I sat on a tiny stool (4 inches high) on a street corner, traffic (1000’s of mopeds) hurtling by, at a ladies street cafe, where she had been cooking pho for locals for breakfast and lunch for 25 years. The dish is the most amazing soup/broth with some chicken strips, beansprouts, rice noodles and herbs. I came I saw, I conquered heaven. From that day on I passed on the full English breakfast at my hotel and went in search of pho.

eat Phở in one of the best cities to visit Vietnam
Pho - the most popular dish in Vietnam
Just outside of Hanoi there is Halong Bay and it’s worth a detour to take a junk boat with a good tour guide and cruise for a couple of days, listening to the wild life on the towering limestone islands as you are moored up at night, exploring the islands (steep hill climbs) and little beaches by day. Ask your tour guide to take you to the pearl jewellers and fair trade centre where silk weavers, painters and lacquer ware makers have workshops just outside the bay. Here people are trained to make the gifts you might like to take home and they get a fair wage for their work. You can watch people at work on their crafts. The goods are also quality checked and are good prices. The pearl jewellers is separate from this, very upmarket, one of a kind an they have pictures of famous patrons who have purchased their jewellery in their sale room.
Halong Bay - best cities to vist in Vietnam
Ha long Bay - wonder of the world

Best cities to visit in Central of Vietnam

Going south, stop at Hoi An, one of the best cities to visit & keep your feet stay. A change of vibe and so many colours of the silk materials in shops, tailors to make you fitted clothes, rice paddy fields with water buffalo grazing, You can hire bicycles and cycle for miles across the paddy fields. There are also so many historical places to visit, including the old town of Hoi An and nearby Hue. In the old town enjoy a beer on a screet corner café and watch the world go by. Street sellers will try and sell you hand made pop up greeting cards, but they go away, you only have to ask politely. I have actually bought a few cards on occasions and they are lovely cards to give to family who’ve never been to Vietnam. They have 3d pop ups of the historical buildings and bridges in Hoi An.

Hoian - one of the best cities to visit vietnam
Hoian - the ancient town of Vietnam
how is rice grown in Vietnam
Take a train and see the countryside and farmsteads along the way. People living on the land and the villages have no barriers on the railway crossings! Take a pack lunch if you’re travelling a distance, as the on board snack and refreshments staff may not speak English and it’s local fare that may not be to European tastes. You might see farmers ploughing with their ox and cart. Ladies planting out or harvesting rice (and many other crops) or tending rows and rows of herbs and fields of vegetables. Everything grows well in the sunshine. It’s fascinating to see how self sufficient people are, how they live and how nothing goes to waste. If you ever visit a local family at their home they will always offer you a cup of refreshing herbal tea. It’s almost a ceremony making the tea and offering it to visitors and I’ve loved being not just invited but welcomed in.

Best cities to visit in South of Vietnam

Then to Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon as it used to be when it was the capital of Vietnam. There is such a buzz about the city that to me it still feels like the capital. The city is huge, so why not take a ferry down the river to get an overall idea. See Sagmeko’s recommendations for the ferry in our separate blog article. And another way to see the city is by moped tour at night, when the City’s all lit up, travel pillion with an experienced local driver, visit local restaurants, have a beer and a sing along at a local bar and be delivered back to your start point at the end of the evening.

Go shopping in the many markets selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, to material (my favourite! All my curtains at home are made from material bought in the big China Town market) to herbs and spices, Vietnamese coffees, household goods and fancy cutters for making flowers out of vegetables, coconut sellers – fascinating to watch them making pulp from the flesh of the coconut with a manual machine. The pulp is used in cooking, fish and meat markets, although be warned many of the fish are live in tanks, it’s the best way to keep them fresh with no refrigeration, although there’s also tons of dried fish available too. Try a bag of dried chilli chicken. Sounds gross? Tastes delicious!

Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh market - an icon of Saigon

What I love about HoChiMinh or Saigon, one of the best cities to visit Vietnam is “the Bustle”. Everyone is busy, from the laundries, dressmaking and clothes repair shops, on the street barbers, bike repair garages, street food sellers, people selling fresh fruit juice made as you watch, beautiful gardens, busy museums, thousands of mopeds driving in all directions at every turn and in contrast the 5 star hotels, hidden gem restaurants, like The Temple Club, seriously good shopping in the newly built Vincom Centre. See Segomeko’s blog on Vincom for more details. Many designer shops here Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Hermes among many others.

And if you’re into architecture you’ll find all different periods from the different occupations of Vietnam in the city, French colonial being one of the most prominent.

If you have time to travel a little outside the city ask a guide to take you to the rubber plantations and see latex being farmed, literally tapped from the trees, or if you do want to learn about the war … from both sides, visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. Not for the faint hearted, as there is a lot of detail and relics from the war. Oh and by the way the Vietnamese call it “The American War” Some of the original tunnels have been widened so Europeans can crawl through them. For a small fee you can pay one of the tunnel guides to take you through, but it is crawling space only. And when you’ve finished have some pandan tea and sample some cooked tapioca … not like the frog spawn dessert we had at school. Properly cooked tapioca is the same consistency as boiled potato and was the staple diet of the Viet Cong. I’m a peace maker myself, but I had to see the tunnels and hear the history to understand the country and the culture better and it’s certainly an eye opener.
cuchi tunnels in Vietnam war
Cuchi Tunnels - A must to know The Vietnam War

Having written this article I realise I have barely scraped the surface of all the things I could say about Vietnam and why it’s such a great place to visit. But if this little bit of information has helped you and you do take a trip to Vietnam I wish you a truly amazing holiday.

Please let us know if this article has been helpful, share it with your friends and let us know if you have any top tips you’d like us to share on our site.

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