From Ha Long Bay to Saigon: Hazy Days Backpacking Vietnam

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Humour me for a second. Have you ever returned from travelling and felt like everything you experienced was all a distant dream? All the mouth-watering food you ate in tiny plastic chairs in the middle of busy pavements, the drinks you consumed on warm summer nights, palm trees you gazed up at, swaying in gusts of wind, and the friends you shared all these experiences with? Your memories become hazy, and as you flick through photos of your trip of that night, that time you went on the boat, that time you had that campfire and jumped in the ocean illuminated with bioluminescent plankton. 

Remember those times? You almost can't believe it all happened. You were actually there, just last week. 

Three days ago I returned from my first trip to Asia. Backpack on my shoulders and birkenstocks on my feet, I spent just over two glorious weeks in 35 degree Vietnamese heat, sipping Vietnamese iced coffee with sweet condensed milk and munching on juicy mangos. BUNAC run a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) programme in Vietnam, which is essentially a teaching internship for just over four months. The programme is based in small village communities and gives young children the opportunity to be taught English by fluent speakers, thus providing them with invaluable life skills and providing YOU with incredible life experience. And with Vietnam literally being one of the most beautiful and untouched countries I’ve ever seen (nope, not exaggerating), the destination is just as rewarding as the programme.  

So whilst you’re helping the world to become a better place, bringing communities and cultures together, and generally being an all-round good egg, I want to share with you all the TOP CITIES to visit in Vietnam, and what you should do there.  

Hanoi

With wide open streets made for exploring and colder weather, (although not England cold, I’ll be honest), Hanoi is a modern, artsy and wonderful city to behold. You’ll find some of the best vegetarian and vegan food in the world at the Hanoi Social Club and Mum’s Street Food (where you can gobble a hearty traditional Vietnamese dish for $2 or less, washed down with a bottle of Saigon or Tiger beer). Get to know women’s role in Vietnamese society in the super informative Women’s museum, full of floors and floors of interesting information about Vietnamese marriage, child birthing rituals, fashion and cooking. You’ll gain a whole new perspective that’ll blow your mind. 

Saigon

Officially renamed “Ho Chi Minh City” in 1975 after a Vietnamese revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh, expanded the Saigon provinces with the outer city after freedom over a century of French rule. Although locals still widely refer to it as Saigon, its rich history means the city, like much of Vietnam, is full of beautiful French inspired architecture. Take a stroll towards the famous yellow and green Saigon post office to see for yourself. Check out the Chủ Chi war tunnels deep below ground level. Prepare to have an eye opening experience at the War Remnants Museum, bargain some goodies at the night market, and of course – no trip to Saigon would be complete without a tour on their most popular form of transport: motorbikes!  

Hue

Pagodas, Ancient tombs, Mighty Citadels and AMAZING food? Huế has got it all! This stunning city, also known as the ‘Forbidden Purple City’, was once the Imperial capitol of Vietnam, it is rich in culture and hearty in food.  Take a walk down the river banks of the Perfume River, wander around the ancient palace grounds and eat meals which are fit for the Emperors of old. This city will impress travellers far and wide looking to get a taste of the ‘real’ Vietnam… like you. 

Phu Quoc

Located in the Gulf of Thailand, Phu Quoc island lies south of Cambodia. Surrounded by the gorgeous white sand beaches scattered with palm trees and mountain views, this is about as far away from Brighton Pier as you can get. 50% of the island is a national park, promising days of exploring in a true natural wonder. Although most tourists stay in the hostels in the Long Beach area, I’d definitely recommend you hire a motorbike and check out Sao Beach in the south and kick back and relax in absolute paradise. Lazy beach days are coming your way. 

These are just four of a long list of incredible destinations that you should visit in Vietnam. BUNAC’s TEFL programme in Vietnam is an incredible way to do this, combining unforgettable travel adventures with community work AND getting a TEFL qualification for doing it. Do something amazing this year, ay? 

Obviously there is no valid reason for you to NOT want to visit Vietnam. Why not give us a call on 0333 999 7516 to find out more about the programme?