The “5 H”: Hanoi, Halong, Hue, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City are often included on anyone’s Vietnam travel itinerary. However, escaping the crowd to explore the more quiet and more exotic locations will absolutely allow you to experience the ‘rough beauty’ of the country. From scenic hill towns and imposing limestone landscapes, to seaside beaches and picturesque villages — Vietnam has something to offer for every type of traveler.
So if you have the time and are feeling adventurous, here are some suggestions to take you off the well-worn trail.
» Bac Ha
Tucked away high in the hills some 80 kilometers from Sa Pa in northern Vietnam lies Bac Ha, a small and relatively untouched town.
Most people travel to this hillside village just to visit its colorful Sunday market; but unlike the weekend market, most of the week is quiet tranquil. If stay a bit longer though, you would discover that Bac Ha and its surrounding areas offer magnificent landscapes and deeply rewarding cultural experiences – all without heavy tourism.
» Ba Be
Recognized as one of 20 largest freshwater lakes in the world, Ba Be is situated amidst a vast limestone mountain region and owns an unspoilt and romantic beauty. It is home to a great diversity of ethnic people including the three main groups of Hmong, Dzao and Tay. The lake shore is where the ethnic minority people gather to trade, selling their farming products such as fish, rice, corn and fruit in addition to some local handicrafts.
Coming here, guests will have a chance to hear the legend of Ba Be Lake. And to fully admire the beauty in Ba Be Lake, a dugout canoe is the most suitable way to do so.
» Bai Tu Long
Halong Bay, without a doubt, is incredibly beautiful. We know. But because of its fame, more and more tourists flock to this place.
So if you still want to see fantastic limestone karst seascape, head over to Bai Tu Long instead. You get the same soaring jungle-topped cliffs, hidden caves and sculpted mountains — only minus the hoards of tourist boats. You surely won’t be disappointed.
After all, a few junk boats that do trips in Bai Tu Long promis the same majestic scenery with quieter thoroughfares and a chance to observe the everyday lifestyles of local fishermen.
» Dien Bien Phu
Rows of jagged karst mountains cutting it off from the coast, Dien Bien Phu is set deep in the northern corner of the country so it is certainly not an easy one to reach.
It was a site of the heroic battle in the independence wars with the French Union which created a great echo in the world. Today, the relics of the battle are historical witnesses reminding younger generations to respect the history and understand the price of peace.
Dien Bien Phu is also the birthplace of different ethnic groups like Black Thai, H’Mong, and Khmu… whose traditional way of life hasn’t changed. So it will be a good chance to get a flavor of local life in this region!
» Chau Doc
Chau Doc takes us to the deep reaches of the Mekong Delta. The site of Chau Doc was known in history as the territory of the Kingdom of Funan and now is home to a fascinating fusion of Khmer and Cham folk.
Large parts of the place stand on stilts above the waters of Mekong River and you’ll get to delve into markets, huge pagodas and even mosques, or just hit the nearby bird sanctuaries around the floodplains.
Chau Doc is a gateway to Cambodia too, so you as a traveler can take a speedboat and cross the border toward Phnom Penh.
For seeing hill tribes and traditional ways of life, for a rich history lesson or just for a breath of fresh air, if Vietnam wasn’t already on your list, I hope it is now.
So when traveling around Vietnam in search for off the beaten path adventures, come and check out some of these gems — you may just have the trip of a lifetime!
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I am Aileen Adalid. At 21, I quit my corporate job in the Philippines to travel the world. Today, I am a digital nomad (entrepreneur & travel writer) living a sustainable travel lifestyle.
My mission? To show you how it is absolutely possible to create a life of travel, and I will help you achieve that through my detailed travel guides, resources, and tips!
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