Vietnam at a Glance: Why it’s a New Jewel in SEA’s Crown

Vietnam at a Glance Why its a New Jewel in South East Asia's Crown

Vietnam has gone from something of an underdog destination, to a jewel in the Southeast Asia travel crown. It used to be that when travelers fell in love with Southeast Asia, Vietnam wasn’t necessarily the top of the destination list, but time has seen a changing of the guard.

As nations modernize and population areas become more crowded, the once premiere destinations such as Thailand have lost some of their charm. Don’t get us wrong, with modernization comes great accessibility and other benefits, making the famous destinations more accessible than ever and still very popular.

Vietnam has confidently stepped into the space that premiere destinations of Southeast Asia once occupied. 

What does it have in its favor, you ask? Go there and you’ll find:

  • Atmospheric beaches
  • A coastline with a seemingly endless selection of scenery and unique settings
  • A culture whose identity is yet to be heavily swayed by tourism
  • Exceptionally vibrant cities such as Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi
  • History that, while tumultuous, is fascinating to explore

Let’s take a quick look under the surface at Vietnam, so that you know a little bit about what it is like as a destination.

Vietnam Beaches and Coastline

What better place to start than where the land meets ocean? On the shoreline itself, you have everything from the scenic bay in Doc Let, to the busy coastal city of Da Nang. Then, offshore, short boat trips will take you to the likes of Con Dao archipelago or Ly Son Island, both of which are beautiful enough to stop even well-traveled adventurers in their tracks.

Let’s do some exploring:

Con Dao

“Hidden Gem” can be a misplaced term, but not in the case of this set of islands. Con Dao is a group of 16 islands with lush greenery and golden yellow sand on its beaches. Sand that flows into clear waters that almost glow turquois as it gets deeper. In those depths are coral reefs and marine life that will captivate you for hours. The main island of Con Son is where you’ll find hotels ranging from budget to high-end.

Phu Quoc

Another island that just can’t be left off any list when you travel to Vietnam. It has a beach that ranks among the world’s best and whose name translates to “Cream Beach” (Khem Beach) – that kind of speaks for itself. Phu Quoc is the westernmost island in Vietnam and home to the Phu Quoc National Park. Don’t take it from us, just look at a few pictures of this beautiful destination and you’ll feel the tranquil atmosphere of its serene beaches and fantastic scenery flowing from the images.

Nha Trang

To paint a true picture of Nha Trang, one must admit that tourism has played a heavy hand in its development of late. So, while this may not be the place for a traveler looking for the unseen side of Vietnam, Nha Trang is one of those busy locales that still has a very strong grip on its identity and strengths. 

It resides on the south-central coast and its beaches remain stunning, with a great range of coastline and even islands to explore. The plus side of its development is that a visitor will never be left wanting for activities, restaurants or hotels. 

Hoi An

A gorgeous destination with a more-than-healthy dose of history thrown into the mix, Hoi An has heritage that dates back to the 15th century and its Ancient Town boasts enough cultural chops to earn itself the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walk the streets of this old town and the beautifully preserved architecture will hold your gaze from start to finish, with remnants of Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese influence during the town’s reign as a trade haven.

What’s doubly fantastic about Hoi An is that it is still a bustling destination. You don’t feel like you are walking through a quiet museum, scared to get too close to the historical pieces; there are people, things to do, food to eat and sights to see.

The Big Cities

If you can tear yourself away from the sandy coast, Vietnam’s major cities are quite astounding.

Ho Chi Minh City

You would be forgiven if you thought that Vietnam still stands firmly in the third-world bracket. For the most part, the country supports that description, but if you find yourself in the Ho Chi Minh City center and look up, the skyscrapers say otherwise. 

With a population of 9 million, Ho Chi Minh could keep a traveler busy for days, perhaps weeks if one is dedicated. Walking streets, museums that paint a vivid picture of the nation’s history and art, historical sites that (such as the Cu Chi tunnels) stoke the mind, markets, too many restaurants to count, and a lively nightlife scene are facets of the former capital that can each easily fill an article. 

Ha Noi

Vietnam’s capital city boasted a population of just over 8 million in 2023, so it doesn’t live in the shadow of Ho Chi Minh City by any stretch of the imagination. Residing in the country’s north, travelers will find the culture here supremely rich with so many parts to enjoy. 

Love the arts? There’s theater here that showcases everything from puppets to traditional art. The cuisine scene is robust enough to host food tours, while its parks and historical sites can be explored for hours without leaving you bored. 

What About Inner Vietnam?

If you can pry yourself away from the beaches, traveling to Vietnam’s inland attractions will not disappoint. 

Here are a few of the places that stand out:

  • Ban Gioc Watefall: The Cao Bang valley where this waterfall is located is already amazing, with flat beds of farmland encompassed by sheer cliffs that are also predominantly green. Then you reach the falls themselves and its multi-tiered layout set amid lush jungle looks more like a movie set than the natural sight that it is. There is also the Hang Pac Bo Cave in the area where Ho Chi Minh took shelter when he reentered Vietnam in 1941.
  • My Son: Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Vietnam’s south-central region. This Hindu temple complex was built between the 4th and 14th centuries by the Champa. Believed to be the longest inhabited archeological site in Indochina, you don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate the magnificence of the ruins.
  • Cat Tien National Park Ecological Trail: The park is located 150km from Ho Chi Minh city and is home to great examples of Vietnam’s natural splendor. The series of trails takes you between 5 and 8km through the rainforest depending on your chosen route. You won’t see the larger animals who inhabit the land further in, but the lakes, forest and scenery still puts you in the midst of nature at its finest.

Like so many destinations around the world, Vietnam is home to so much that it there is no real way to capture it all in a single article, but we do hope to have given you a glimpse into the vast variety of things to do and see in Vietnam, helping you make your travel choices wisely.