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Visitors to Vietnam should not miss these places: expats

Sunday, March 31, 2024, 12:58 GMT+7
Visitors to Vietnam should not miss these places: expats
Foreign tourists admire peach blossom trees in Lo Lo Chai Village,Dong Van District, Ha Giang Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Nam Tran / Tuoi Tre

With years of experience living in and traveling across Vietnam, some foreigners who consider it their second home believe that there are many underrated places in the Southeast Asian country that deserve to be better known.

Pu Luong Nature Reserve in Thanh Hoa

After more than four years living in Ho Chi Minh City, Hugo Blin has had the opportunity to travel to many places in Vietnam, including Hanoi, Ha Long, Ninh Binh, Hoi An, Da Nang, Quy Nhon, Nha Trang, Da Lat, and Phu Quoc.

Ninh Binh stood out as his favorite among the destinations because, as he put it, "obviously it’s totally different than Saigon, less people, and more natural.”

One underrated place that left a strong impression on the Frenchman was the Pu Luong Nature Reserve in Thanh Hoa, located in north-central Vietnam.

“I was impressed by how beautiful it is,” he said.

“A French friend recommended [Pu Luong] to me.

“So I went with my family in December last year.

“We stayed there one day and did a trek in the morning in the rice fields.”

The Thai ethnic village in Pu Luong ecotourism area in Ba Thuoc District, Thanh Hoa Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Ha Dong / Tuoi Tre

The Thai ethnic village in Pu Luong ecotourism area in Ba Thuoc District, Thanh Hoa Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Ha Dong / Tuoi Tre

According to Blin, the place deserves to be more famous.

“When I talked to some of my Vietnamese friends, they even didn't know it,” he said, adding he would recommend his friends to visit Pu Luong if they travel to Vietnam.

In recent years, Pu Luong has gradually become known to many international tourists. 

Visiting Pu Luong Nature Reserve also ranks number one in the top 20 things to do in Thanh Hoa on TripAdvisor.

Northern mountainous region and Dak Lak 

During his six years living in Vietnam, Indra from Indonesia has devoted time to exploring various destinations across the country.

"During autumn and winter, I frequently travel with friends to mountainous areas in northern Vietnam such as Sa Pa, Mu Cang Chai, Ha Giang, and Cao Bang,” he said.

“During summer months like March, April, May, I usually visit beach cities in central Vietnam such as Nha Trang and Da Nang."

Indra remarked that a lot of places have left a strong impression on him. However, if he were to choose favorites, he would select Cu Vai Village in Yen Bai Province, the countryside of Son La or Ta Xua Commune in the same province, Ban Gioc Waterfall in Cao Bang Province, the Ha Giang loop, and Bac Ha Market in Sa Pa.

Terraced fields on Ta Xua Mountain in Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Nam Tran / Tuoi Tre

Terraced fields on Ta Xua Mountain in Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Nam Tran / Tuoi Tre

"Most of these places are situated in the northern mountain provinces. As tourists, we not only get to admire the stunning landscapes but also gain a deeper understanding of the ethnic minorities, their communities, and the rich culture that often goes unnoticed or receives little coverage on television," Indra elaborated.

“To experience it directly during my trip in the past was an eye-opening experience."

According to his perspective, underrated places in Vietnam are predominantly found in the northern region such as Ha Giang, Mu Cang Chai, and Cao Bang.

He also referred to the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, where he currently resides with his Vietnamese wife, as another underappreciated destination.

"Ha Giang, Mu Cang Chai, and Cao Bang are incredibly beautiful, boasting natural wonders and offering a serene atmosphere without the bustling crowds often found in popular destinations like Ninh Binh or Sa Pa,” he observed.

“Dak Lak is famous for the best coffee in Vietnam but I guess some of the tourists often skip the province.

“While Vietnamese coffee is well known globally, it's not widely recognized that Dak Lak is the primary source of the country's coffee bean supply.

“Dak Lak also has a world coffee museum, which is really nice and a must-visit destination for any coffee lover!"

Moreover, the natural landscapes of Dak Lak frequently serve as a muse for Indra's photography projects.

Serepok River in the Central Highland Province of Dak Lak in a photo taken by Indra.

Serepok River in the Central Highland province of Dak Lak in a photo taken by Indra

Hue

For Don Hough, who has lived in Vietnam for more than seven years, the destination that truly merits more attention from tourists is Hue.

Having occasionally traveled to Vung Tau, Da Lat, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Hoi An, Hue, Dong Ha, Hanoi, and Ha Long Bay, the Australian teacher picked Hue as his favorite place out of its stunning scenery, history, and great food.

“I'm not sure if Hue is underrated but sometimes it seems not to be promoted as much as places like Hoi An and Da Nang,” he said.

Hough asserted that Hue's significance as the former capital, its proximity to Bach Ma National Park, renowned pagodas, scenic cruises on the Perfume River, and delectable cuisine, including vegetarian options, should be promoted more extensively.

“I would recommend that my friends visit Hue if they travel to Vietnam,” he added. 

“I would tell them about the location, the scenery, the historical sites such as the Citadel, the Royal Tombs, Thien Mu Pagoda, and would also tell them to try local dishes such as bun bo Hue, com or bun hen, banh loc, banh ep, banh nam.”

Com hen (rice topped with cooked baby mussel) is served at a shop in Hue City, central Vietnam. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

'Com hen' (rice topped with cooked baby mussel) is served at a shop in Hue City, central Vietnam. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Fellow Australian Ann Tonkin agreed.

“The citadel was amazing,” she told Tuoi Tre News.

Despite not residing in Vietnam, Ann Tonkin has made a consistent annual visit to the country over the past seven years.

Her travels have taken her to various destinations including Tam Coc, Ninh Binh, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Hue, Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Hoi An, Phu Quoc, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Lat, among others.

"Personally, I prefer coming to Vietnam to engage with the locals," she said.

"Over the years, I've formed many friendships with Vietnamese and some expatriates as well.

"I've visited their hometowns, met their families, including parents and grandparents, and even stayed with them.

"Village life may be simple, but it provides everything one truly needs: family, food, shelter, and community."

Tourists visit the Hue Citadel in Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam. Photo: P.Đ. / Tuoi Tre

Tourists visit the Hue Citadel in Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam. Photo: P.D. / Tuoi Tre

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Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

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