Vietnam is a dynamic, vibrant and uniquely interesting place, with Chinese, French and local Vietnamese cultures all blending together in a truly multi-sensory experience. On a holiday to Vietnam with Hoot, you have the chance to land right in the middle of this extraordinary country, visiting the famous coastal towns of Da Nang, Hoi An or Hue.
But what are some of the best Vietnam activities to try when you arrive? Let's find out.
Hoi An is an ancient 15th-century town, recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
1. Take a tour of Hoi An
Hoi An is an ancient 15th-century town, recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Walk or cycle around (the majority of hotels have bicycles for guests to use) the Ancient Town taking in the history of this Southeast Asian trading port, its unique blend of architecture that includes Chinese, Japanese and French Colonial influences and the town's many waterways, rice paddies and temples. You can also book a guided tour with a company, which will show you the 'real' Hoi An - peruse local markets, where yo can chat to some of the hard-working locals, and sample more than a few Vietnamese treats.
2. Explore Hoi An's canals
Hoi An is listed in the top 10 world's most famous canals by popular travel website Touropia, and some call it the Venice of Vietnam. Hire a kayak at Hoi An Kayak Center and make your way up the Thu Bon River - Hoi An's most popular tourist waterway - to explore this famous place from a different perspective. Guided kayak tours are also available.
For a completely unique Vietnamese experience, we recommend trying a basket boat from a company like Jack Tran's Tours. These quirky baskets are synonymous with Vietnam, and an extraordinary amount of fun for visitors.
3. Find your perfect new outfit
Stroll down Hoi An's streets and you'll see countless tailors advertising world-class services - custom suits in 24 hours, hand-made garments of any shape or size, fast alterations. If you want a new outfit, you are certain to find a stellar deal here in Hoi An. Just show them a picture of what you want, choose a fabric type, and come back later!
4. Treat your taste buds to banh mi
As a fusion of French, Chinese and Vietnamese cultures itself, Vietnam is the best place in the world to try its local fusion dish - banh mi. Banh mi is a type of French baguette salad sandwich with a distinctly east-Asian flare. You'll find it sold all over the country, but when you're in Hoi An you have to try either Banh Mi Phuong or Madam Khanh.
Madam Khanh has been selling street food for 50 years, and has had her current storefront for 30 of those - she's known around these parts as the banh mi queen, and for good reason. As for Banh Mi Phuong, this sandwich bar was featured on the late Anthony Bourdain's show "No Reservations", where he touted it as the best banh mi in Vietnam.
5. Explore Da Nang's Marble Mountains
Vietnam's Marble Mountains consist of five marble outcroppings that are named for the natural elements they represent: fire, water, wood, metal and earth. There are many Buddhist temples and Vietnamese pagodas to be seen when walking the Marble Mountain trails, as well as ancient shrines, even more ancient caves, and plenty of take-your-breath-away viewpoints. If you aren't able to walk or climb, there is a convenient elevator to take you to the top.
6. Relax on China Beach
The white-sands of China Beach, Da Nang, are considered the most beautiful in all of Vietnam, originally made famous by American troops who came here for R&R during the war. The troops are gone now, and instead, you'll find luxury resorts, surfboard rentals and plenty of open beaches to lie down and enjoy the sun. Vietnam temperatures are warm all year round, with May through August reaching up to 30 degrees Celsius, and the rest of the year resting around 18-25 degrees.
7. Witness a fire-breathing dragon
We bet you didn't think you'd see a fire-breathing dragon this holiday to Vietnam. But if you visit Da Nang's Dragon Bridge, which links the east and west sides of the Han River together, you can see this gilded Ly Dynasty serpent spit fire and water at around 9 p.m. on weekends and during annual festivals. Dragon Bridge is also Vietnam's longest, at over 600 metres in length!
8. Explore Hue's temples
About 100 kilometres north of Da Nang you will find Hue, an easy day trip from Da Nang and Hoi An. Hue was the seat of authority in Vietnam right up until 1949 when Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) was named the capital. However, Hue's long history - dating back centuries - has left behind numerous buildings of interest for history lovers and casual sightseers alike.
The UNESCO-listed Hue Citadel, for instance, is a must-visit, having been constructed in 1832. It was the seat of Vietnamese imperial rule in the nation's past but was largely destroyed during the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War. However, repairs have since been made and walking tours will take you through this 500-hectare citadel to see its massive stone ramparts, ornately carved bridges and gates, and a variety of inner-sanctum buildings that were once forbidden from public view.