Five Amazing Places to Visit in South Vietnam

I was pleasantly surprised after a 3-week trip in South Vietnam touring some of the cities and attractions. Truthfully, I was not expecting anything glamorous. However, this small Asian country has so much natural beauty and plenty of amazing places to check out - you'll love the experience.

Located on the coast of Southeast Asia, the country of Vietnam has lots of beautiful attractions and amazing tourist destinations to visit and experience. Here are the five amazing places I would recommend to anyone thinking of visiting South Vietnam in no particular order:

  1. Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
  2. Nha Trang
  3. Dalat
  4. Phu Quoc Island
  5. Vung Tau

Before I go into detail about visiting each of these destinations in South Vietnam, at the time I was there, 1 United States Dollar (USD) was equivalent to 18,930 Vietnamese Dong. It is amazing to find out what you can buy with $1 USD in Vietnam compared to $1 in the United States. You will find that traveling, eating, and hotel accommodations are relatively inexpensive in almost every part of this country. So, if you're on a limited budget, this is a great country to visit in Southeast Asia.

Lonely Planet Southeast Asia: On a Shoestring (Shoestring Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Southeast Asia: On a Shoestring (Shoestring Travel Guide)

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Amazing Place #1
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

The first thing you will notice about Vietnam's largest and most crowded city is the amount of motorcycles - add in a few crazy car and truck drivers and after a while Saigon feels more like a riot zone! Some of these drivers like playing chicken with you (yes even the motorcycles!). They'll cut you off, honk their horns all day long, and some on bicycles are brave enough to do the same. There's also plenty of drivers who completely disregard traffic laws like a regular day at the zoo; its complete mayhem out there - but no one takes it personally like they do in the United States.

I apologize if I've given you a negative view of this amazing Vietnamese city so far, but truthfully, the insane traffic actually gives the city lots of energy and vitality; it wouldn't be right without the craziness! I like to compare traffic in Saigon to a human ant-farm. I recommend that if you do visit Saigon in South Vietnam, take a taxicab so you don't end up as roadkill.

Besides the traffic nightmare, there are a plethora of businesses for your shopping wants and needs. Street vendors are everywhere selling everything you can imagine. There are also discount malls, the most famous being Ben Thanh Market selling everything from clothing to souvenirs. There are also other markets selling fresh food items such as fish, vegetables, fruits, and all kinds of animal meat - all as fresh as it gets.

Not into street vendors? There are also plenty of gourmet restaurants, designer malls with air conditioning, and fine hotels. But c'mon you're in Vietnam! I say rent the cheap guesthouses, eat and buy cool stuff from all the different vendors....all with a bit of caution though of course!

For site seeing, check out the Soui Tien Amusement Park, ancient pagodas, Buddhist temples, french-built churches, government buildings such as the Reunification Palace, the HoChiMinh Museum, Saigon Opera House and much more!

Depending on what you want out of your stay, Saigon has everything to offer including an amazing nightlife with karaoke bars and dance clubs.

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To Vietnam With Love: A Travel Guide for the Connoisseur (To Asia with Love)

5/5 Star Rating! A collection of personal essays by expatriates and seasoned travelers. Each reflecting on a favorite dining, shopping, sightseeing, or cultural experience is paired with a practical fact file, so that readers can follow in the writers footsteps.

 

Amazing Place #2
Nha Trang

A city located on the coast of South Vietnam, Nha Trang is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life. Most of the hotels are located along the coastline so you will always have breathtaking views outside your window. I grabbed a hotel for $35 USD per night - an amazing price. Although the beaches along Nha Trang are gorgeous, the beaches and waters off the Islands of Nha Trang are even more amazing.

These are the amazing islands of Nha Trang in South Vietnam:

  • Đảo Khỉ (Monkey Island)
  • Hòn Mun Island (Ebony island)
  • Đảo Yến Island (Swiftlet island)
  • Hòn Tre Island (Bamboo island)
  • Hòn Tằm Island (Silkworm island)

I didn't get a chance to visit every island, but I wish I could have and recommend them all because lots of tourists and visitors talk about how beautiful they are. You can take daily tours of the islands by talking directly to the people working in your hotel lobby and soon enough a tour guide will literally pick you up from the hotel and take you out there - you don't have to worry about planning or any dining accommodations during the tour at all!

I took a tour to see 2 or 3 islands for only $120 USD~!! This was for a 6-8 hours which included a taxi ride to and from the boat from my hotel, the boat ride out to the islands, dining accommodations, snacks, bottled water, and even equipment rental for things like snorkeling - an absolutely amazing deal!

I recommend snorkeling or scuba diving off the beaches of the islands in the crystal clear water. The islands are the important things to see in Nha Trang. There are also plenty of other things you can do such as going for a walk down the coastal road to check out local businesses, restaurants, and the nightlife. However, in my opinion, the islands are what makes Nha Trang special.

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Frommer's Southeast Asia (Frommer's Complete Guides)

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Amazing Place #3
Dalat

This city is located among the clouds and amazing high mountains of South Central Vietnam. You will climb up an incredible 1500-1600 meters in altitude, all while going along gorgeous, curvy, scenic mountain roads before ending up in this breathtaking city.

The weather in Dalat is always cool due to its high location. It was such a relief to visit Dalat and get away from the hot humid temperatures of, practically, everywhere else in South Vietnam. In fact, it can get pretty chilly during the nights so you may need a sweater here if you want to enjoy the night life.

The city is also known as a "Little Paris" since it was colonized and occupied by the French decades ago. Dalat has kept the Paris atmosphere by continuing with the gorgeous French architecture of its buildings.

Some of the amazing tourist attractions to visit in Dalat include:

  • Emperor Bao Dai's Summer Palace (The Last Emperor of Vietnam)
  • The Valley of Love
  • The Hang Nga Guesthouse & Art Gallery (also known as CrazyHouse)
  • Old French Quarter
  • Churches & Temples within the city
  • Many gorgeous waterfalls in and around the city

This city has many flower gardens with the most famous being The Valley of Love. It is an amazing place to visit (with a special someone) filled with lots of flowers, amazing statues, scenic views of the mountains, and a huge pond to pedal boat away in...the boat is in the shape of a swan I might add. A very peaceful and lovely place.

The night life here consists of mainly shopping and karaoke. I was fortunate to have a karaoke bar next to my hotel to put me sound to sleep - I wouldn't know how to tell you to avoid a karaoke bar next to a hotel, but be on the lookout! Anyway, you can shop through the local street vendors who sell everything from handcrafted jewelry to fresh soy milk. In the center of Dalat is where you will find the prime shopping and restaurant locations. It can get very crowded here so be careful!

I would also like to add that during my visit to Dalat, unfortunately, the main lake near the center of the city, known as Xuan Huong Lake, was completely dry and a road was built in the middle of it. I'm not sure if they wanted to fix, renovate, or make room for other things, but it was an unfortunate site to see. I believe it would have been much more beautiful had the lake remained there. Also, the surrounding restaurants and boat businesses around the lake were shut down.

Dalat is still an amazing place to visit in South Vietnam regardless. I would say my expenses were approximately $60 a day during my visit including hotel accommodations and dining. Relax here and enjoy the fresh mountain air!

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Lonely Planet Southeast Asia: On a Shoestring (Shoestring Travel Guide)

Visit Southeast Asia without hurting your pockets! READ this budget guide! Eat Cheap and Sleep Easy with budget beds, cheap eats and places to party. All found in this book.

 

Amazing Place #4
Phu Quoc Island

This is the biggest island of Vietnam. Located at the southernmost tip of Vietnam in the Gulf of Siam, this island is a hidden treasure. I paid an amazing price for a 2 day-1 night visit that included the boat fare (ferry) to the island, hotel, dining, tour, taxi, and tour guide accommodations! It was only $100. For an extra $20, you could stay an extra day and night to see more, but I was limited on time and did not choose this option.

Here are some of the amazing attractions I visited on Phu Quoc Island of South Vietnam:

  • Pepper fields
  • Buddhist temples
  • Vietnam's most popular Fish Sauce Manufacturer
  • Waterfalls
  • Pearls from the local oysters
  • A Prisoner of War camp from the Vietnam War turned into a tourist attraction

What I loved most about this island were the beaches and warm ocean water. The waves next to the hotel I stayed in were huge! I went for a swim when the sun was slowly going down and also in the early morning (FYI - the majority of Vietnamese natives do not swim in direct sunlight, they believe being tan isn't as attractive as being white and pale - this also explains why they wear jackets and cover up when riding around town in the middle of the afternoon).  The waves off Phu Quoc Island made it more fun to be out there and, surprisingly, the water was not very salty. 

Towards the end of my trip on this amazing island, we had lunch at a remote beach location that was more beautiful that I can put into words; it was paradise. I can't remember what the name of the location was, but I remember going through dirt roads and jungle to get there. I went for another swim, rode jet ski's across clear warm waters in between fishing boats, flew a couple kites, and ate as much as I could before leaving on the ferry.

The best part of this whole trip? The clear warm waters! This is a must see island if you're going to South Vietnam. $100!

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Vietnam and Angkor Wat (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

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Amazing Place #5
Vung Tau

This is another amazing coastal destination to visit in South Vietnam. It is known for its beaches and is a getaway for many of the city-residents from close by Saigon (a 2 hour ride away).

Vung Tau also offers a lot of visually appealing architecture scattered throughout the city. There are French style mansions in the hills and elegantly styled homes everywhere. Vung Tau is much more of a site seeing destination; it is like a combination of Dalat scenery with Nha Trang Beaches.

Other popular places to visit in Vung Tau South Vietnam:

  • Statue of Jesus Christ with outstretched arms
  • "Big Mount" landmark
  • Hydrofoil Fast Ferry Station landmark
  • Buddhist temples
  • Ha Long Road overlooking the coast

The sea-food in this city is very tasty. Crab seems to be the specialty and so is the fish.

Overall, Vung Tau, is the place to be if you don't want to take the half day trip to Nha Trang.  It is an amazing city and a popular getaway to relax at one of its many beaches. 


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The great thing about all these locations is that you will always get the freshest food. Fresh food is always the norm in Vietnam. Fresh vegetables, meat, fruit, bread, you name it - its all organic and tastes fantastic! Personally, I had no favorite dish in Vietnam, but I did enjoy them all to the point where my stomach was exploding. The Vietnamese food is inexpensive and I recommend to give everything a try, even all the different types of meats! 

Also, one of the things you should know about Vietnam is that when you are planning to purchase anything, you have the power to ask for a discount. Don't be afraid to do this for food, clothing, even hotel stay! I would say the usual discount price you could ask for is 10-30% off what they ask for. Also, make sure vendors charge what their advertised prices indicate. Many businesses will mark up prices on, for example, a bowl of noodle soup because they know you're a tourist. Every little bit counts!

Personally, I would definitely like to go back someday and visit all the amazing places in South Vietnam again.

Be careful out there and happy traveling!

Lonely Planet Southeast Asia: On a Shoestring (Shoestring Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Southeast Asia: On a Shoestring (Shoestring Travel Guide)

Vietnam is one of the best places to visit on a low budget. This book includes detailed itineraries to help you plan out your perfect budget trip. Eat Cheap and Sleep Easy with budget beds, cheap eats and places to party. Get the low-down on history, environment, culture and current events.

 
To Vietnam With Love: A Travel Guide for the Connoisseur (To Asia with Love)
To Vietnam With Love: A Travel Guide for the Connoisseur (To Asia with Love)

5/5 Star Rating! A collection of personal essays by expatriates and seasoned travelers. Each reflecting on a favorite dining, shopping, sightseeing, or cultural experience is paired with a practical fact file, so that readers can follow in the writers footsteps.

 

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Comments 12 comments

travelespresso profile image

travelespresso 6 years ago from Somewhere in this exciting world.

Seeing your hub on the home pages is quite fortuitous. I'm going to Phu Quoc Island in a week or so!

This is indeed an amazing country and there is lots for the visitor to experience and see.


lilian_sg profile image

lilian_sg 5 years ago from Singapore

I just visited Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon recently. http://hubpages.com/travel/Ho-Chi-Minh-City-Saigon

I do agree with the traffic conditions...it drove me nuts and I had a really hard time crossing the road at first....


vietnamvet68 profile image

vietnamvet68 5 years ago from New York State

Great hub my friend, by what you say Saigon sounds the same as it did 44 years ago, I was at most of those places

you talk about. Would love to be able to go back and see what it's like today.

Thanks for the great hub., check out my hubs and you can see what it was like in the 60's.

God Bless


balihq profile image

balihq 5 years ago

Not a fan of mountaineering but I got to see Dalat myself, looks so good on the picture.


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia

Nha Trang is my favorite place in Vietnam, it is beautiful. I think you should include Can Tho City on your list of places to see in South Vietnam, I had a great time there as well!


Hotel Nikko Saigon 5 years ago

Saigon is the best place for enjoy the food.


Nick 4 years ago

I've been to Vietnam twice now and I plan I going there again soon. I've been to Saigon,The Mekong delta,Vung Tau,Hanoi,Halong bay, and the Sapa mountains. Vietnam is a beautiful country and well worth visiting.


hau 4 years ago

it's great when you love Vietnam. Why you don't try to visit Hoian ancient town (Quangnam province, near Danang city) and enjoy some special foods there. I think Hoian's so special with poetic and beautiful scenery. You can take bicycle along the ancient street and discover simple life of local people. Play games of children; bamboo, rice fields, Quang noodle...wow, it's great.


sue 3 years ago

Can you remember who you did the trip to Phu Quoc with or is that a general price for a trip (going in feb)


ta 2 years ago

just stumbled upon this hub, like sue i would also like to know who you did the trip to phu quoc with and if you have any recommendations?


deweyduck profile image

deweyduck 15 months ago from USA Author

Update: I went back to Vietnam in May of this year 2015. I was able to visit the central cities in Vietnam including Da Nang, Hue, HoiAn. Incredible things to see such as the Forbidden city in Hue, the lantern lit ancient city of Hoi An, the beaches of Da Nang, and all the incredible food. I had to to visit Nha Trang again as well and it's just as incredible as I remember it. $1USD was now equivalent to 22000 dong. Still incredibly affordable. I will be back again one day to see the northern attractions such as Halong bay. I cannot wait!


Sam Shepards profile image

Sam Shepards 6 months ago from Europe

Great hub! Love south east asia!

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