It is a great feeling to be able to witness the various landscapes, sunsets and wonders of nature in my country and I feel even more blessed when I am able to travel overseas and discover just how uniquely beautiful each and every country is that I visit. There’s no shortage of awe-inspiring places around the world and Vietnam is no exception. Below is a list of some of the places in Vietnam where Mother Nature truly shines in all her glory.
1. Visit Ha Long Bay
The stunning UNESCO World Heritage site of Ha Long Bay is just four hours from Hanoi on the east coast of vietnam. Spread over an area of more than 1500 square kilometres are thousands of limestone karsts and isles, each completely unique in both shape and size. I highly recommend staying on a junk boat to explore the picture-perfect serenity of Ha Long Bay and you can find great packages through Majestic Cruises who manage to combine comfort, style and affordability. If you are running on time restrictions, you can stay just one night to get a great taste of the bay however, if time permits you can also stay longer to get a little more out of your trip. Ha Long Bay has so many hidden wonders to discover such as beautiful limestone caves, hidden lagoons and quaint tidal beaches. Visit the Pearl farm and learn how Pearls are grown and extracted from Oysters, then hang a squid jig over the end of the boat in the evening to catch lunch for the next day. They say that a trip to Vietnam is not complete without visiting Ha Long Bay.
2. Take a tour of the Mekong Delta Region
Situated in South-west Vietnam, not far from Ho Chi Minh city and encompassing roughly 39,000 square kilometres is the well-known region of Mekong Delta. It is in this region where the Mekong River breaks off into distributaries that empty east into the South China Sea. A region of strong traditions and beautiful scenery, it was once ruled under the Khmer empire. These days it is home to a population of over 17 million including the world’s largest population of Khmers outside of Cambodia. Tour companies run day trips from Ho Chi Minh City but I would recommend a longer trip for those who have more time to really see the charm of the region. These trips give an insight into the landscape of the Mekong as well as the entrenched culture that finds it’s roots here. Get a taste of some lovely fresh seafood sourced locally and visit rice paddy fields, buffalo farms and floating markets. As this area revolves heavily around the Mekong River, you will find that many villages are only accessible by boat rather than road so taking a trip down the river itself in a Sampan boat is an absolute must.
3. Day trip to Mui Ne’s famous sand dunes
Mui Ne is one of the four wards of Phan Thiết, which is the capital of the Bình Thuận province on Vietnam’s east coast. Mui Ne itself was originally a fishing village where fisherman would use the cape to shelter their boats from storms and it is now home to a number of resorts along with two quiet and superb beaches. Mui Ne boasts two large areas of sand dunes – the red sand dunes just 20 mins from the town centre and the white sand dunes which are roughly 10 to 15 mins further north than that. There are tours that will take you to these sand dunes, however it is just as easy and a lot cheaper to hire a bike for the day and head out there yourself as it makes for a very cruisy, scenic ride. If you want to try a bike in Vietnam but are worried about the busy traffic that encompasses the cities, Mui Ne is the perfect place to hire them. Once at the sand dunes you are able to hire tobogganing mats as well as a few types of vehicles including jeeps, quads and motorbikes. The Quad bike selection is quite impressive, giving you three options for size and power. Once on top of the dunes you will be absolutely amazed at the sheer size of them and the view is breathtaking in every direction. Just a little west of Mui Ne and also worth adding onto your day trip is the “fairy stream” where a stream has carved a canyon through the dunes resulting in the display of many coloured layers of sand. Mother nature has truly blessed Phan Thiết with the gorgeous gift of Mui Ne.
4. Rent a jetski at Bai Dai Beach in Nha Trang
Half an hour south of Nha Trang city centre and completely hidden away, is a beach named Bai Dai. This secluded beach stretches for many kilometres down into Cam Ranh and I only managed to find out about it in the deepest depths of the internet when I was looking through surf forums, hoping to find mention of somewhere in or around Nha Trang where my boyfriend could surf. Although the surf was relatively small the day we went, the beach still managed to exceed our expectations. To the north, we could see beautiful mountains covered in lovely greenery and to the south we could just see sand and ocean. What makes this beach so secluded is the long row of wooden shacks that stretch along the edge of sand blocking out anything behind them and it feels as if you have the whole world to yourself. We were the only people on the beach apart from a few staff in their shacks and we were only joined later on by one group of very friendly Chinese tourists, so in our eyes, the serenity was paradise. We made ourselves comfy on the deck chairs in front of a shack called “the shack” which had it’s own Bob Marley themed bar and I had read online that it is owned by an Australian man. From this same place we were able to hire so many different things including bodyboards, surfboards and even a jetski. This place undeniably goes down as my favourite beach in the world so far.
5. Hike to the Ba ho (Three Lake) waterfalls in Nha Trang
Roughly 45 minutes north of Nha Trang city centre, at the end of a narrow dirt road is the opening to a jungle clad mountainous area in which you will find the Ba Ho Waterfalls. The hike takes roughly 3 hours all up and the best part is that you don’t just get to see a waterfall but multiple waterfalls and you can even swim underneath them. Make sure to wear appropriate footwear as the terrain is quite rough in parts and clambering up and down rocks in a pair of sandals is going to make it even harder. Finding the first “lake” is pretty easy and straightforward however take careful note of every trail marking after that since they are not always as straight forward as they are at the beginning. I would also like to put a warning up about local scammers considering we managed to easily fall prey having not been warned ourselves. After visiting the first “lake” there was a local guy there who started chatting to us which did not think anything of as it is fairly common in friendly Vietnam. He began to walk with us and point out certain plants and insects, almost like a tour guide and we were actually pretty grateful to have someone showing us the way. It was only at the end when we thought to give him some money for his troubles that he said the money was not enough for his services and we realised we had just been victims of a scam. Looking back, he was quite informative and helpful (even taking photos for us) so had we known his intentions from the start, we probably would have tried to work out a fairer price with him rather than just doing the confusing hike alone. Apart from getting ripped off, the scenery was unbelievable and it was one of the best things I have done in my life, I very much recommend adding it to your itinerary when you visit Nha Trang.
6. Go Scuba Diving and/or Snorkelling in Nha Trang
Nha Trang is famous for the beautiful islands it has dotting it’s coastline and is a diving hotspot among tourists. There is no shortage of tour boats ready to take you out to marvel at the hidden spectacle of reefs off the coast of islands such as Hon Mieu. Whether you’re just trying it out, wanting to do your open water course or are already qualified, there are companies that can accommodate you. My partner and I had never dived before so we chose to do a trial dive that went down 6 metres while the other people on our boat were either snorkelling or doing one day of their open water course, which meant they were able to dive to 12 metres. We couldn’t have asked for a better day with clear blue skies and even clearer water, we pulled up next to Hon Mieu island and were taught the basics on a sand bank before our instructor took Eddy and myself one by one through the reef. Even at just 6 metres, we were able to see such a diverse range of aquatic life. We hopped back on the boat for lunch before going for another dive and when we were done, whilst waiting for others to finish, everyone had a great time making our own fun by jumping off the top deck of the boat. If you’re in Nha Trang, make sure you check out some of it’s reefs, you won’t be disappointed.