I have just returned from my second visit to Vietnam and have come back loving it even more than last time. The country is spectacular, with such a variety of places to visit and explore. From dramatic terraced rice paddies, to beautiful beaches, bustling cities and UNESCO World Heritage Sites - it really has it all. Since my last visit, there is so much more to do and see. The sorts of activities and experiences on offer are amazing and here are my top five.
1. Cycling in Mai Chau
Mai Chau is a beautifully lush region of Vietnam surrounded by dramatic limestone mountains. Mai Chau is famous for the Thai villages in the area. Cycling through the local villages made up of stilted wooden homes, where the water buffalo plough the fields and farmers working on the fields, you step into a new world here.
2. Trekking in Sapa
Sapa is known for its dramatic terraced rice paddy fields. In May the paddies are being planted, so you can see the local communities working hard planting electric strips of vibrant green. We trekked for five hours through the lesser known Thanh Kim region. The highlight was walking through local H'mong tribe villages, being welcomed into their homes and getting far off the beaten track, whilst learning about their way of life.
3. Tasting street food in the old quarter of Hanoi
Anyone can try street food but with the wonderful Tu and Mark to guide you, you go can explore the real Hanoian street food culture. Tu and Mark have lived in Hanoi for many years and know all the best places to go. Following them, I tried the best of the best! From delicious Beef Pho to Egg coffee being served in a tiny cafe that's been run for generations by the same family; without the guides, I would never have known it was there. Walking through shops, heading up secret stairways, meandering side alleys - this excellent guiding showed me the very heart of Hanoi, its food and its culture.
4. Whizzing through Saigon on the back of a Vespa
In a city known for its crazy traffic, why not jump on the back of a Vespa?! Exploring the city by night, darting through the traffic, stopping off in local restaurants to try the southern Vietnamese street food, visiting local speakeasies where the Saigonians spend their evenings, listening to the most wonderful local singers and feeling the city's pulse as you dart through it - you discover the true Saigon!
5. Discovering the beautiful Ninh Vanh Bay region of Nha Trang
For most people, a holiday is not complete without a beach visit. The region of Nha Trang is home to the amazing Ninh Van Bay where there are three beautiful hotels dotted on the coastline. Surrounded by beautiful white beaches, lush Palm trees, and over in the lagoon fishing villages. Here you get the best of experiencing both the Vietnamese culture and the country's stunning beaches.