Hanoi Kids tours.
Sign up for a free tour with Hanoi Kids, an organisation that pairs travellers with students learning English. It’s free and you’ll get a local’s perspective on the city, culture and cuisine. Your student guides will fill you in on Hanoi life, their ambitions and the Korean pop stars they like over lunch in their favourite cafe. At the memorial to Communist leader Ho Chi Minh, talk about politics and what the place meant to them. The tour is free apart from any entrance fees – if you give money to the guide they’ll pass it on to the organisation.
Hanoi Kids: www.hanoikids.org
Food tour in Hanoi.
Vietnam is a food lover’s paradise, with countless tasty and affordable options, but the sheer amount of things and places to eat, especially in the big cities, can be overwhelming. Taking a food tour with a local guide is the perfect way to sample a wide selection in a relatively short amount of time. Your guide will take you to some of their favourite eating places in the city and order a variety of dishes. Bun cha (pork with rice noodles), mi quang (fantastic noodle dish), happy pancakes, spring rolls, pho, beautiful steamed fish, sticky rice and egg coffee (yes, you read it correctly) are some of the highlights of the region. You will be taught how each should be eaten and which sauces go best with each dish and the correct dipping order. You will also gain some great tips on specialities to seek out in other regions of Vietnam.
Hanoi Street Food Tours: http://streetfoodtourshanoi.blogspot.co.nz/
OK, so the town of Ninh Binh (two hours’ drive south of Hanoi) is no looker, but the surrounding countryside will seduce you. Once there you can hire a bicycle and set out early morning to explore the karst limestone scenery (think Halong bay with rice paddies replacing the sea). Spend a peaceful day exploring villages, picnic by the side of rice fields and watch the locals at work.
Lunch and trekking with the Black Hmong.
By far one of the most amazing experiences in the north of Vietnam, is a day spent with the Black Hmong Tribe. Your host will meet you at your hotel in Sapa and take you shopping for ingredients. These will be taken back to their village by moped whilst you hike for around three hours amid brilliant Hoang Lien national park scenery to the village where your guide lives. You will have the opportunity to learn about the Black Hmong life, their beliefs and their village as well as help prepare (and eat!) traditional Hmong food.
Dai Lanh Beach and Hon Gom Sandbar.
Dai Lanh beach, 80km north of Nha Trang, where the lush Annamite mountains meet the ocean, is a brilliant place. Once there, I suggest you hire a scooter and make your way down the 30km-long Hon Gom sandbar. On a scooter you can ride past the sand dunes and over the sand-smeared tarmac of a new road leading to the Vuon Xoai restaurant in the floating hamlet of Son Dung. Here you can dive off the pontoon, go on a tour of the village by boat, and dine and sleep under the stars in a hammock. You can travel overnight there from Ho Chi Minh City - it takes about 12 hours – on what is officially referred to as a “sleeper bus”. After we did this trip, we re-named it the “non-sleeper bus” but it was still a great experience!
Water puppet show in Ho Chi Minh City.
If your experience of puppet shows consists of Punch and Judy-type performances you are in for a welcome surprise. Take in a traditional Vietnamese water puppet show at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre in Ho Chi Minh (tickets $7.50 which can be bought at the door). The stage is a large pool of water in which the puppets act out tales from Vietnamese folklore with a traditional Vietnamese orchestra playing throughout. The puppeteers are extremely skilled and great artistry goes into the puppets themselves. The theatre is usually filled with local families enjoying the show and only a handful of tourists. This really is something you can only experience in Vietnam, but is an activity that seems to get overlooked by many visitors.
Journey from Ho Chi Minh City into the heart of the Mekong Delta on a small-group tour led by an experienced local guide, cruising along the mighty Mekong in a private long-tail boat. Experience this important river delta first hand as you explore both jungle-shaded canals and wide waterways to see fishing villages, exotic fruit farms, and the rhythms of daily life. You’ll also enjoy a lunch of traditional Mekong Delta dishes and sample local specialties along the way.
Les Rives: https://lesrivesexperience.com/tours/mekong-delta-tour