Transformational Things to Do in Vietnam – 15 Travel Bloggers Share Their Picks

Discover the life-changing experiences you can have in Vietnam

main blog image transformational things to do in Vietnam

Looking for transformational things to do in Vietnam? We believe every trip should be transformational, so we asked travel bloggers from around the world to share their most life-changing experiences in Vietnam. Read on to make your Vietnam trip truly special!

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If there’s one country that I credit with completely transforming me as a traveller, changing my perspective, and expanding my perception of the world, it’s Vietnam.

I have been to Vietnam at least a half-dozen times in the past 10 years — it was the first Asian country I visited, it was the first place I travelled solo, and it was the first place I feel like I got to really know local people, going beyond the customer/business relationship.

selfie of jane trekking in Sapa Vietnam
I’ve travelled all over Vietnam and it has truly changed my perspective on the world.

Vietnam is incredibly deep and diverse. I’ve spent more than a year there in total and still feel as though I’ve only scratched the surface.

Culturally, there are more than 50 ethnic groups, many with distinct languages, dialects, and styles of dress. The natural world is equally varied; you can climb mountains, lounge on beaches, explore hilly karst landscapes, and visit the flat expanse of the Mekong Delta.

And if food is your thing, well, there are more than 2,500 Vietnamese dishes — but you’ll have to travel to try them. Food in Vietnam is regional, offering dramatically different flavours in each region.

rice noodles and tofu on bamboo basket son la vietnam
This made a nice change from tomato tofu in Son La.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to have a cookie-cutter experience in Vietnam, going where others go, Instagramming the same scene as everyone else, and forgetting to open yourself to the breadth and depth of activities available.

If you long for the kind of experiences that thrill in the moment and then leave a lasting impression for years to come, this post is for you.

We asked a group of intrepid travel bloggers to share their most transformational experiences in Vietnam so that you can experience them too.

Read on for their recommendations of…

15 Transformational Things to do in Vietnam

For more help planning your Vietnam adventures, get our Vietnam itineraries for 2 weeks, get help deciding between Vietnam and Cambodia, or see our Vietnam travel tips.

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For more help planning your Vietnam adventures, get our Vietnam itineraries for 2 weeks, get help deciding between Vietnam and Cambodia, or see our best Vietnam travel tips.

What Makes Travel Transformational?

art project with raglai vietnamese children
Jane at a Rock-Paper-Scissors art class in southern Vietnam with (Cham) Raglai children in Khanh Hoa Province.

When we talk about transformational travel, we’re looking for experiences that:

  • Are deeply moving in the moment
  • Teach you something new
  • Show you a fresh perspective on something you already knew
  • Lead to further discussion and thought
  • Have a lasting impact on you as a person
  • Become life-long memories

Of course, it’s all in how you approach the experience. One person could be transformed by a simple street food meal while another may be unmoved by a walk on the Great Wall of China.

No matter what you do while in Vietnam, no matter where you go or how long you spend there, be sure to let yourself be open. Keep your senses tuned to the moment — let sights, sounds, and smells invade you.

But above all, let your heart be open to receive the majesty of the natural world, the vibrance of the cities, and the smiles of the local people!

Transformational Activities in Northern Vietnam

Visiting Ethnic Markets — Hà Giang

by Sabrina Brett of Moon & Honey Travel

women in the market in ha giang vietnam
Visiting the markets of Ha Giang will teach you the meaning of community. Photo via Moon & Honey Travel.

Often called Vietnam’s final frontier, Hà Giang province in northern Vietnam is a remote region that impresses with its natural beauty and diverse cultural heritage. Hà Giang is home to 17 ethnic minorities, including Tay, Dao (Yao), White Hmong, and Black Lolo.

Today, you can get a glimpse into rural life in Hà Giang by visiting a traditional ethnic market. Here, different ethnic groups, all clad in unique traditional dress, intermingle and engage in buying and selling livestock, vegetables, meat, clothing, and everything you can possibly think of.

Marketplaces are common enough, but the markets of Hà Giang are a particularly vibrant display of culture, commitment, and family because of the ethnic minorities who congregate there.

Some locals will walk up to 5 hours each week to attend these regional markets that continue to be a centrepiece of society and life in the north. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?

After hours of walking around the markets and witnessing lively acts of commerce, I felt profoundly moved. This is one of the poorest regions of Vietnam, and yet it’s not poor at all. It’s rich in diversity, culture, and kinship.

Seeing so many people, who speak different languages and dress differently, show up and commune together on a weekly basis is a tremendous act of diplomacy and peace.

I recommend visiting these three markets:

  • Bao Lac Market
  • Meo Vac Sunday Market
  • Dong Van Sunday Market

As a visitor, remember to be respectful. If you want to take portrait photos, please ask for permission!

Read Sabrina’s guide to the best things to do in Hà Giang.

3-Day Trekking Tour — Sapa, Vietnam

by Alex Trembath of Career Gappers

woman hiking in sapa with tour guide
Hiking in Sapa is not only beautiful but will let you get to know how people live in the mountains of Vietnam. Photo via Career Gappers.

Vietnam was our last stop on a one-year travel career break around the world. In those last few days before we flew back home to ‘reality’, this beautiful country gave us one final transformative experience to savour.

We set off from Hanoi amid a violent rainstorm on an overnight bus north to Sapa, where we would embark on a Sapa 3-day trekking adventure through lush green countryside and sprawling views of agricultural terraces.

Our trekking guide was Pham, a 33-year-old woman who had grown up among the communities of these rural valleys. She rarely left the countryside; she had never been beyond the town of Sapa and had never seen a city the size of Hanoi. So it was difficult for me to explain what it was like to live in London!

solo travel in Vietnam
The guides are one of the best things about any Sapa trekking experience.

As we trekked, Pham told Lisa and I all about the customs and culture of her community. How families — usually large — live together on small farms and everyone contributes.

It is radically different to the lifestyle we know at home. Conversely, Pham found it bizarre to hear that Lisa and I live in our own small home, hundreds of miles from our family.

On each night of the trek we were welcomed warmly and enthusiastically by two wonderful families at their homestays. Both nights we were treated to tables overflowing with authentic local food and had the chance to try some ridiculously strong rice wine, or ‘happy water’ as they called it.

The people we met seemed happy in a way I’ve never seen in western cities. It was an eye-opening experience that gave us a window into a completely different life philosophy, rooted in the pillars of nature and family.

Want to take a career break to travel? Alex and Lisa at Career Gappers explain everything you need to know.

Staying in a Homestay — Sapa, Vietnam

by Emily of Wander-Lush

hmong woman embroidering a colorful cloth in vietnam
A homestay in Sapa is a perfect way to get closer to local people and start to understand their way of life. Photo via Wander-Lush.

When I lived in Hanoi and travelled all around northern Vietnam, some of the most impactful and rewarding experiences I had involved spending time with local families.

If you’re searching for a unique travel experience that will leave a lasting impression, I highly recommend trying out a homestay in Vietnam.

My favourite homestay experience took place in Ta Van, a Hmong village located about 45 minutes south of Sapa town via rough-and-tumble dirt roads.

Riding pillion, hanging onto my motorcycle driver’s hips for dear life as we sped through a monsoon season downpour, my first impression of Ta Van was of an utterly peaceful village surrounded by verdant rice paddies.

Throughout the weekend, I enjoyed unbeatable scenery and pure comfort in my wooden bungalow for one. But it was my host family who made my first trip to Sapa special.

sapa vietnam mountains
Sapa’s dramatic mountains are a beautiful backdrop to the transformational experiences you’ll have there.

Owner Sue decided to open her family’s home to travellers a few years ago and is now the proud matron of one of the area’s few businesses owned by a Hmong woman.

After hearing that I’m a fan of textiles, Sue’s mother, Zizi, appeared at my door one morning, perched herself on the little blue stool she was carrying under her arm, and pulled out a cloth.

Moving slowly and stopping to show me how each stitch is made, she started embroidering. Though we couldn’t communicate with words, it was incredibly meaningful that she shared such a precious element of her culture with me.

It’s easy to become jaded when you’re living as an expat or travelling long-term. My homestay experience reinvigorated my senses and awakened me to how generous and welcoming people can be to outsiders.

Given reports of how over-tourism and unbridled development have transformed Sapa, a once-sleepy hill town, I approached it with caution. But I discovered that fulfilling travel experiences can still be found in the most unlikely of places, provided you’re willing to stray a littler further from the beaten path.

See Emily’s 8 reasons to stay in a homestay in Vietnam.

Cruising Bai Tu Long Bay

by Jen Ambrose of Passions and Places

karst mountains rising out of bai tu long bay vietnam
Bai Tu Long Bay offers all the views of its more famous neighbor but with fewer crowds. Photo via Passions & Places.

Halong Bay had long been on our bucket list, but once we arrived in Vietnam and talked to other travelers about it, we started questioning whether we still wanted to go.

We heard so many stories about the overcrowding, filth, and lack of sustainability — but we also found out about an alternate destination, Bai Tu Long Bay.

Connected to Halong Bay, it offers all the same jaw-dropping scenery, but tourism has been heavily restricted there, so it has none of the crowds, pollution, or environmental degradation.

The more I dug into online research about Bai Tu Long as an alternative to Halong Bay, the more I learned about the history, culture, and economy of the area and about the issues that affect sustainability there and elsewhere.

Everything I learned really helped me think more about what makes travel ethical and why.

Not only that, the experience of cruising Bai Tu Long Bay was incredible in itself. Our ship, the Dragon Legend, didn’t have Wi-Fi, and the area didn’t have strong cell service either. So, we had no choice but to disconnect, take a break, and absorb the beauty of the landscape with no distractions.

After two days on the bay, I felt less stressed and more connected to nature than I had in ages.

As it turned out, the chance to fully relax was just as memorable and impactful as the jaw-dropping scenery we cruised past.

Learn from Jen why Bai Tu Long Bay is the perfect Ha Long Bay alternative.

Kayaking La Han Bay — Cat Ba Island

by Cat Smith of Walk My World

yelllow kayak on a white sand beach in la han bay
Kayaking La Han Bay will get you to places like this! Photo via Walk My World.

Halong Bay blew us away, but it was neighbouring Lan Ha Bay that was truly transformational. Whilst Halong Bay gets the fame (and the tourist numbers to go with it), Lan Ha Bay, near Cat Ba Island, offers a much quieter and more intimate experience.

This part of Vietnam is famed for its hundreds of limestone karsts that jut out the South China Sea in a mesmerising archipelago unlike anywhere else in the world.

Many people don’t realise that the karst islands stretch far beyond the UNESCO world heritage site of Halong Bay.

The best way to experience this incredible area is by kayak, and in La Han Bay you can paddle to your heart’s content without worrying about bumping into masses of cruise ships.

Kayaking in La Han Bay, you can go wherever you want, and it is one of the few ways to explore the Halong Bay area with full independence and freedom.

kayaking cat ba island
You might get to see floating villages and local fishermen hard at work on your Cat Ba kayaking adventures.

You can find your own island or private beach, experiencing a true wonder of the world in a way that few other tourists do. You feel the true significance of your place in nature when you are in a tiny boat with the karst towering over you.

It’s a feeling you’ll never forget and not one you could experience on a larger ship controlled by somebody else.

We realised that this was close to the experience people would have had before mass tourism, when places like Halong Bay were untouched by tour groups and cruise ships.

It was one of those moments when we felt that travel wasn’t so much about seeing the greatest places in the world, but truly experiencing them.

Let Cat show you the best things to do in Cat Ba Island.

Boat Tour of La Han Bay — Cat Ba Island

by Shimona Carvalho of Sidecar Photo

small boat in halong bay vietnam
A small boat tour from Cat Ba Island is a great way to discover the beauty of Halong Bay. Photo via Sidecar Photo.

In April, we went to Cat Ba Island to visit the Halong/Lan Ha Bay area for 3 days. We had seen a lot of amazing karst formations in Vietnam already, having visited Ninh Binh a couple of weeks before, and believed these would be similar.

We were not prepared for the grand and silent mountains hovering over the water.

To see the karst islands we took a day trip from Cat Ba Island on a small boat that held about 30 people. We headed out into a cloudy morning, watching the karst appear and then fade into the mist.

water and karst mountains off cat ba island
If you want to live among the karsts for a few days, a visit to Cat Ba Island is ideal.

It was hard to gauge the distance until we saw a tiny rowboat dwarfed by a vertical cliff face. It was almost comical how minuscule the boat looked compared to the karst islands.

By midday, the mist had receded and we saw veins of color coursing through the white limestone — yellows, greys and blacks, topped with green bushes to match the green sea below. The sky cleared and our boat stopped so we could take a dip in the cold but refreshing water.

By sunset the karst was glowing in the low light, the tourist chatter had died down, and we were spent from mentally ooh-ing and aah-ing at the scene. We couldn’t help but feel insignificant in comparison to this landscape.

It brought to full focus the sensation of being tiny beings on this great planet and, finally, I had to put down my camera to truly savor the feeling.

Let Shimona show you the best photo spots in Vietnam.

Volunteering in a Rural Classroom — near Hanoi

by Alex Schnee of The Wayfaring Voyager

vietnamese students in a classroom with a santa claus
Immersing yourself in the energy of a rural classroom in Vietnam is a transformational experience. Photo via The Wayfaring Voyager.

My husband and I traveled to Vietnam and wanted to get more of a local experience than simply enjoying the cities. We were recommended the organization of Better Life Vietnam, a nonprofit that works to promote literacy in rural areas.

We met some amazing kids about an hour outside of Hanoi who had never seen foreigners before – it was exciting for us to see how excited they were to receive the books we gave to them.

They asked us all thoughtful questions about what it was like being American citizens, while also letting us into their daily lives and hopes and dreams for the future. After spending the day there, we shared our Facebook contact info, and we’re still in touch with them today.

You have to be careful when looking into volunteer options abroad, especially to make sure that you aren’t exploiting children.

As someone who writes about sustainable travel, this was especially important to me when choosing an activity that involved volunteering. We were so happy that this experience was incredibly professional and we felt as though we were actually giving back in an ethical way.

We did not pay for the experience and spent the day volunteering and handing out books. If you are looking to make some memories that are likely to stick with you more than the most popular attractions, then volunteering with Better Life Vietnam can be a great option.

Learn more about sustainable tourism from Alex.

Countryside Cooking Class — Hanoi, Vietnam

by Efia Sulter of Effy Talks Life

woman at a market stall in vietnam
Cooking classes in Vietnam usually include an unforgettable trip to the local market.

Attending a countryside restaurant and cooking class in Hanoi was one of my favourite activities of my whole trip.

After exploring the city alone, I was desperate to spend some time socialising, so I booked a cooking class. Except, when I turned up on the day of, I discovered I was the only one who had booked for that session.

In the hours that followed, I was shown around local markets in parts of Hanoi I’d have never known existed if it wasn’t for my guide, Tham. As well as buying ingredients we needed for the class, she bought fruits I’d never even heard of for me to try.

banh xeo vietnamese speciality
You might learn to make our favourite dish, banh xeo, during your cooking class in Vietnam.

Although it was fun learning about all these new flavours, it was equally rewarding to learn more about Tham, who dreamed of becoming an English translator when she finished her studies. By the end of our market trip it felt like we’d been friends for a lifetime.

When we arrived at the cooking school, Tham stayed to help translate for the chef. Again, this was a private experience where I learned various styles of cooking, making crunchy spring rolls, sweet and salty salads and more. Then, when the cooking was done, I headed downstairs to the restaurant to tuck in to my mouth-watering Vietnamese banquet. It was a day I’ll never forget.

Discover Effy’s recommendations for the best of Hanoi.

Bai Dinh Temple — Ninh Binh

by Brittany Wittig of The Rolling Pack

bai dinh temple in the mist
Bai Dinh Temple is a mystical and magical place to learn more about the religion and culture of Vietnam. Photo via Rolling Pack.

One of the highlights of my month in Vietnam was visiting the spectacular Bai Dinh Temple Spiritual and Cultural Complex in Ninh Binh. This is the largest Buddhist temple complex in Vietnam, and Buddhists make pilgrimages from across Vietnam to visit Bai Dinh.

As soon as I arrived at the entrance, it was clear that this temple complex is a very special place. Nearly all of the visitors were Vietnamese, and everyone was dressed in formal clothing to visit the temples.

The Bai Dinh complex is huge (700 hectares / 1700 acres), and in an entire day of exploring I only saw a couple of western tourists, making this a very special experience in tourist-heavy Southeast Asia.

pagoda at bai dinh temple
Visiting Bai Dinh temple will give you a chance to mix with locals and spend some time in private contemplation.

The Vietnamese visitors seemed genuinely excited to share this sacred site with me. At nearly every temple and pagoda, visitors stopped to talk with me about where I was from and what I thought of the beautiful Bai Dinh complex. It was clear that this site was a source of cultural pride for the Vietnamese people.

Visiting the Bai Dinh Temple Spiritual and Cultural Complex was the most authentic cultural experience I had in 6 months of travel throughout Southeast Asia. For travelers who want to connect with Vietnamese people, culture, and religion, Bai Dinh is not to be missed.

Let Brittany take you to the best beaches in Hoi An.

Transformational Things to do in Central Vietnam

One Day Caving Trek — Phong Nha

by Jane Mountain of My Five Acres

two vietnamese guides in the caves in phong nha
Going deep underground in Phong Nha is one of my favourite travel experiences ever.

Just outside a tiny village in central Vietnam lies one of the world’s most expansive cave systems.

Often overlooked on a typical tourist itinerary of Vietnam, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is (arguably) Vietnam’s most impressive natural wonder. And in a country that boasts Sapa’s glorious mountain ranges in the north, a wonderland of karsts falling into the sea at Halong Bay, and miles of untouched golden sand beaches in the south, that’s saying something.

As part a solo trip I did in Vietnam, I opted to go on a one-day cave trek in Phong Nha. Though the experience was more expensive than my typical daily budget allowed, I knew it was going to be worth it!

The expedition started on a muddy track which soon led into a dense rainforest, where the small group of hikers pushed our way between the reaching leaves of close-packed jungle plants — no doubt full of giant spiders, slithering snakes and other creepy crawlies. Soon, we emerged onto a rocky slope and started to pick our way up to the mouth of the cave.

solo travel in Vietnam
Cave trekking in Phong Nha was a Vietnam highlight for me.

After entering, it only took a few minutes until we were in complete blackness, with only our headlamps to light our way.

In the dark, with the cool cave walls dripping and the rush of an underwater river in my ears, I had one of those transformational travel moments. I felt flooded with gratitude at the sudden realization of how lucky I was to be alive on this Earth, so full of magnificence. It was as though, by walking deep into the earth, I had also managed to delve into the deepest, most joyful parts of my own being.

If you like adventure, nature, and caves, then make sure to add a trip to Phong Nha to your Vietnam itinerary.

Motorcycling Hai Van Pass — Da Nang

by Stephen Ewashkiw of My Five Acres

motorbike rearview mirror driving along the hai van pass
Doing the Hai Van Pass by motorbike is thrilling but also strangely peaceful.

I have been hearing about how magical the Hai Van Pass is for more than three years. In 2016, Jane did the motorbike ride from Hoi An to Hué along the Hai Van Pass and hasn’t stopped talking about what a great trip it was. I knew that during our two-month stay in Hoi An I would need to make the trip myself.

I am so glad I did.

Travel is a chaotic business. People are everywhere these days and when you do touristy things you end up surrounded by other tourists. Except on the Hai Van pass!

I had heard it was quiet on the pass, but seeing as it’s supposedly the world’s best ocean highway ride I was expecting ‘quiet’ to be relative. But it was surprisingly peaceful with very little traffic. At least it was in December 2019 when I did the ride.

Bride and groom posing for wedding pics at the top of Hai Van Pass.
It’s almost always misty and cool at the top of Hai Van Pass but that didn’t stop this couple from making epic wedding photos!

There were lots of times when I couldn’t see anyone in front of, or behind, me on the road. That is such a rarity in Southeast Asia.

And the beauty of this freedom, this space, was that I could slow down and take in the view — as much as is possible when piloting a scooter on a super-windy mountain-side hugging road. And I could stop at short notice to take in a view or take a picture without worrying someone would crash into me if I pulled over quickly.

I had to bundle myself up against the misty, damp, and very chilly air but I was rewarded with low cloud cover revealing the different layers of mountains to the west. To the east, mist was clinging to the jungle canopy and the land melted into a grey South China Sea where it crashed into the coast below me.

In that misty, cloudy emptiness I found peace.

Despite the curves and possibility of chaos around each hairpin I found driving the Hai Van Pass an unexpectedly meditative experience. And in the midst of Vietnam, in the midst of travel in Southeast Asia, it is a rare treat to find that calm.

If you’re confident on a motorbike, I highly recommend doing this journey. You can even rent a bike and the company will transport your luggage so it’s waiting for you at your hotel when you arrive. And if you aren’t comfortable driving yourself, you can take a tour with Le Family Riders like Jane did.

Touring the DMZ — from Hue

by Maddy & Chris of Adventure O’Clock

monument to soldiers of the vietnam american war
A DMZ tour is a must to deepen your understanding of the Vietnam-American war. Photo via Adventure O’Clock.

Halfway across the Hien Luong Bridge, we crossed the border between north and south Vietnam. A band just 5 km wide on either side of this border used to be a demilitarised zone, or DMZ. Although there were no soldiers allowed, this area was one of the most heavily bombed during the Vietnam War.

Trying to escape the worst of the bombing, the locals burrowed underground, creating a network of tunnels. We explored some of these tunnels at Vinh Moc. With a tiny alcove for each family, a meeting room and a shower room, it was more like an underground village. There was even a maternity room where 17 babies were born.

Photos of the wartime landscape around the DMZ show a barren, cratered expanse decimated by bombs, napalm and agent orange. It couldn’t be more different now. We drove through verdant countryside, past trees and flowers and fields full of black pepper and taro.

Although the land has recovered, the people are a different story. Visiting a war cemetery, we walked among the graves, most of which were marked ‘unknown name’. Seeking closure, some families hired mediums who used their psychic powers to locate their loved one’s exact grave. Graves identified in this way had a second headstone added later.

Exposure to agent orange caused cancers and birth defects that still affect people in Vietnam today. Unexploded ordnance is another ongoing problem. Even our tour guide had scars to show from a childhood accident with the remnants of a cluster bomb.

Taking a tour of Vietnam’s DMZ was certainly an eye-opening experience. While outwardly it appears that the landscape and country have fully recovered, the lasting legacy of the war has left its mark on the people.

Find out more about Maddy & Chris’s experience on this DMZ tour.

Transformational Activities in Southern Vietnam

War Remnants Museum — Ho Chi Minh City

by Ania James of The Travelling Twins

small girl viewing exhibits at the war remnants museum in saigon
The War Remnants is an eye-opening journey into the long-term effects of war. Photo via The Travelling Twins.

Even though our favourite place to visit in Vietnam with kids is Hoi An, Vietnam’s deepest impression on all of us was made in the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.

The museum is dedicated to the American War. Yes, what we in the west call the Vietnam War is known in Vietnam as the American War.

That was my first jolt of realisation that wars do not have a single story. They are seen very differently by the different sides, even in history. Until that moment, my knowledge about the war came from movies like Platoon, Apocalypse Now or Good Morning Vietnam. Now we had a chance to see it from a different point of view.

And we did. We gained fresh perspective on the facts we’d already known — that the war was unjust, that it was a power play staged in the dying years of French IndoChina for America to prove that Western Democracy was stronger than Eastern Communism. And that eventually the Americans failed and withdrew.

But the biggest shock and eye-opener for us was to see the effects of the chemical Agent Orange.

Supposedly a defoliant for clearing the jungle so the United States troops could see what they were doing, the chemical not only killed anyone who came in contact with it, but it contaminated soil and water permanently.

Agent Orange continues to pollute the Vietnamese soil and poison the people – children continue to be born with birth defects and cancer rates are high.

Besides reading and seeing pictures, we met some of the affected kids, who were selling hand-made goods in the museum lobby. A war that ended over 50 years ago is still damaging people’s lives. Seeing an adult only a meter tall and moving on a small tricycle and another person born without eye sockets gave us a deeper insight into the way wars continue to change the world, long after they are over.

Let Ania show you what to do in Hoi An with kids.

Mekong 1-Day Tour — from Ho Chi Minh City

by Sarah Kim of Lust ‘Till Dawn

woman walking through dragon fruit field in vietnam
Booking a private Mekong Delta tour is a great way to discover a less touristy side of Vietnam. Photo via Lust ‘Till Dawn.

As we rode on the back of a local’s motorized scooter through the coconut trees, the only words running through my head were, “This is magical.” The word “magic” kept reoccurring in my thoughts in one way or another during the Unseen Authentic Mekong 1 Day Tour we were on.

Unlike other Mekong Delta tours, which bring you to shop at the frequently visited boat market and other popular spots where hordes of tourists gather, this Mekong Delta tour is special. It is the first and only tour that goes to this specific island in the Mekong Delta because it is where the tour company’s owner is from.

With no shopping or visiting spots with tons of tourists, you have full, unadulterated time for exploring this peaceful island and really seeing how locals live and work.

At most, you experience this small island with a maximum of 10 tourists, which makes it feel as you have the whole place to yourself (plus the locals). But if you want an even more private tour and the feeling that you are the only tourist there, you can email the company and ask them to create a private tour for two like Mike and I did.

mekong delta tour
On a Mekong Delta Tour, you never know what eye-opening sights you’ll see.

On the island, we got around by riding on the back of locals’ mopeds. We stopped by a coconut farm, watched a woman make brooms in her home for resale, went on a sampan rowing boat ride, tried coconuts and had a delicious home-cooked meal.

Besides how beautiful and peaceful the island is, it was fascinating to see how locals’ lives are centred around their home, which they also use as their workplace.

Get away from the crowds and the usual tourist spots and discover the feeling of pure magic on my favorite day tour in Vietnam.

Get Sarah’s best travel tips for Vietnam.

Dining in the Dark — Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

by Oli Diprose of Not Brits Abroad

sign for noir and blanc restaurants in ho chi minh city
Dining in the dark in Ho Chi Minh City with transform your relationship to food while supporting a social enterprise. Photo via Not Brits Abroad.

Down a quiet side street in Ho Chi Minh City is Noir, one of the few dark restaurants in Asia and one of the highlights of our month in Vietnam.

At Noir, you get to experience eating dinner in a pitch-black restaurant while being served by blind or visually impaired wait staff. The concept is designed to make you think about how much you rely on your sight when eating food and identifying flavours.

When you arrive, you’ll be asked to choose either Asian or Western food and give any dietary preferences (vegetarian and vegan options are available). Apart from these choices, you won’t know what will be on the menu. It’s not only challenging to eat in the dark, but guessing the ingredients is a lot harder than it sounds. Fortunately, you’ll find out after the meal what you ate.

I find dark restaurants to be some of the most interesting and unique dining experiences available.

Not only does it give an insight into the life of the blind but the food is excellent. While eating, you’re not allowed to use any form of technology or light-emitting device.

Without phones or other distractions, people talk more and the restaurant has a lively atmosphere because of it. There’s plenty to talk about as well, with discussions and inevitable disagreements over every dish.

If you don’t like the ambiguity of dining in the dark, Noir has a sister restaurant next door called Blanc. Here, the lights are on and, while the staff in Noir are blind, staff at Blanc are deaf or hearing impaired.

The food isn’t as much of a mystery, but you will learn to order using sign language. And at both restaurants, your money goes towards supporting people who would traditionally have difficulty finding good jobs.

Don’t miss Oli’s guide to a Cu Chi Tunnels half-day tour.

A Final Note About Transformational Things to Do in Vietnam

Just like anything in life, people experience the same things in a wide variety of ways. If you really want your trip to Vietnam to change you — to open your mind, allow you to see things from a different perspective, and leave you a little different than when you left home — it’s up to you to let it happen.

Be mindful while you travel; try not to shut things out. Instead, notice the sights (even the ugly ones), the sounds (even the obnoxious ones), the smells (even the foul ones) and the people (even the other tourists).

mekong delta tour
The sheer variety of experiences in Vietnam will transform you if you let it.

All this sensory stimulation can be overwhelming and exhausting, so make sure you build time into your trip to relax, too. Give yourself a chance to process what you’ve seen and done and absorb all those new sensations.

If you do that, you’ll find that you’ll return home a little — or a lot — transformed!

We hope this guide to things to do in Vietnam has been helpful in planning your Vietnam itinerary and in taking your trip from terrific to truly transformational. If you have any questions about these experiences, please give us a shout on email or Instagram.

♥  Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen

We’re not going to lie, it takes a LOT of work to create travel guides like this. But it’s easy to help us out! If you book or buy something using one of our personal links in this post, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J

Want your Vietnam visit to transform you? We believe every trip should be transformational, so we asked travel bloggers from around the world to share their most life-changing experiences in Vietnam. Read on if you want to transform through travel! #vietnam #travel #transform #adventure #mindful #myfiveacres
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