Top 5 Things My Vietnam Guidebook Says that (Beating Chest…) the Others Don’t
Though I have my own Vietnam guidebook, I always pick up the new Vietnam guidebooks and carry at least one (usually Lonely Planet or Rough Guide) when I travel around Vietnam. But there are several biggish things, in my humble opinion, that my site covers that you don’t find in those (yet). Including these five:
1. DIY MEKONG IS POSSIBLE!
That’s right, you don’t have
to take a group tour from Saigon. I wrote for Transitions Abroad
a couple years ago about how the Mekong Delta has changed, and that some guidebooks (and nearly all travelers) hadn’t noticed yet. I went on my own for nearly all of my research trip — and got much more out of even the commonly visited places like Vinh Long and Chau Doc. (Like offers to sleep over on floating house boats, crossing Ben Tre on roads and ferries not on maps, and reaching bird sanctuaries not mentioned in any guidebook.)
2. BACH MA STOP-OFF BETWEEN HOI AN & HUE.
Yes, the buses make the short trip — so does the train — but an excellent $75 or so splurge for a private car with driver gets you on the lovely Hai Van Pass (skipped by the new road), and gives you enough time to visit the overlooked, underrated Bach Ma National Park mid-way between the two destinations. A one-way trip with a hired car reaches that, plus a beach and Danang’s Chan Museum if you like, and will drop you off at your hotel in the early evening.
3. HUE’S DMZ BUS TOUR ISN’T VERY GOOD.
Sorry, but it’s just true. You spend about nine hours of a 12-hour trip on the bus. You’re far better off going by public bus to Dong Ha town and arranging a private trip with actual vets from DMZ Cafe, or with Stop & Go Cafe in Hue.
4. WHEN IN HUE, EAT HUE-STYLE FOOD. Hue is home to approximately 1400 of Vietnam’s 1700 contributions to world cuisine. And most cannot be found outside the former capital for the kings. These are generally served in very local, very cheap places — often in bite-size ‘tapas’-style portions — and with a little extra chili kick.
5. HALONG BAY ROCK-CLIMBING TOURS. American-run SloPony offers all sorts of interesting adventures for those not wanting to cram into another Halong Bay cruise. The past few years, they’ve expanded many rock-climbing routes where you can drop into the emerald waters.
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