Here are 10 things to add to your Vietnam solo trip bucket list

Patricia Lao

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Here are 10 things to add to your Vietnam solo trip bucket list
There were so many sights and stories waiting to unravel at every corner!

The beauty of solo traveling is that it allows you to discover what you desire in the absence of other people’s influence. You’ll also be able to test how you handle challenges all on your own. You’d be surprised by how much adventure you’re in for when you’re exploring in solitude!

For my solo trip, I wanted to get off the grid to somewhere that was both familiar but exciting. I decided to embark on a journey to the charming city of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. The plethora of activities, food options, and sights allowed me to unlock many interests I didn’t know existed in me. Here are some of the fun things you can try!  

1. Feel like a daredevil riding a motorcycle around the city
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VROOM. The author and her motorcycle ‘gang.’ Patricia Lao/Rappler

Vietnam is dubbed as the center of the motorcycle industry in Asia. This is the best way for you to explore the city because it’s fast and convenient. Most of my tours were on a motorcycle and for unplanned side trips, I simply had to access my Gojek app which connected me to a rider within minutes! As I rode around the city, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of freedom and exhilaration. There were so many sights and stories waiting to unravel at every corner. I had a handful of days to tour around but I knew I wanted to make the most out of it. 

2. Tickle your taste buds with a street food night crawl
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TABLES. A view of a local night market. Patricia Lao/Rappler
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TREATS. There are tons to eat at local night markets – both sweet and savory! Patricia Lao/Rappler

One of my favorite tours was definitely my Vietnam street food extravaganza. I booked this tour on Klook and certainly did not regret it, because it allowed me to catch a glimpse of what it was like to be a true Vietnamese local. I have this belief that the heart and soul of any Southeast Asian country will always be its street food. This is because you get to see the tedious preparation and the unique quality of the dishes the Vietnamese are able to come up with using locally sourced ingredients. Some of my personal favorites were the Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich), Banh Trang Nuong (Vietnamese Pizza), and Che (Vietnamese Sweet Dessert).

3. Fold lotus flowers at the flower market
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BLOOM. The author holding a lotus flower. Patricia Lao/Rappler

Did you know that Vietnam’s national flower is the lotus flower? They say that the lotus flower is the best representative of the qualities of their people. A lotus flower symbolizes purity, strength, and elegance. Despite being exposed to mud and dirt, the flower emerges and manages to bloom beautifully. After interacting with the locals, I can certainly attest that they exhibit the qualities of a lotus flower – able to bloom in adversity. When you learn about their rich and challenging history, one can only be amazed with how much the country and its people have continued to prosper. 

4. Relive the horrors of the Vietnam War at the Cu Chi tunnels
TIGHT FIT. One of the tunnel entrances. Patricia Lao/Rappler

One of the more heart-pounding and eye-opening parts of my Vietnam solo trip was learning about the struggles of the Vietnamese during the Vietnam war. It gave me a deeper sense of appreciation of the peace that we have now. I was able to go through the extensive Cu Chi tunnels and experience the tiny spaces that soldiers went through to survive the bombings of the Americans. I couldn’t believe those tunnels were all dug up manually! 

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TRAP. One of the booby traps made by Vietnamese soldiers. Patricia Lao/Rappler

The Vietnamese proudly showed their collection of booby traps that helped them triumph against the Americans. I definitely kept my distance as the locals demonstrated how each one worked.

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GIVE IT A SHOT. Your trip can even include trying out guns. Patricia Lao/Rappler

I don’t know why, but I felt absolute excitement at the shooting range! I couldn’t let my Vietnamese war immersion pass without firing an AK47 for myself. One could even say I got a bit trigger-happy. Some of my fellow solo travelers said that the best way to improve my aim was to imagine an ex. I found this hilarious but they were actually right!

5. Try Vietnam’s exotic snake wine
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SNAKE WINE. This delicacy is not for the faint of heart. Patricia Lao/Rappler

Whenever I visit new countries, I always try and make it a point to taste different exotic food. It turns out that the Vietnamese like to drink snake wine because of its medicinal benefits. According to the locals, snake wine actually helps cure several diseases, helps with back pains, fights hair loss, and even improves sexual performance! It actually tasted a lot like tequila. I liked how it slid smoothly down my throat. I enjoyed it so much that I bought one bottle as a souvenir. 

6. Spend an afternoon at the Mekong Delta
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FLOAT ON. The author on the Mekong River Delta. Patricia Lao/Rappler

If you happen to be in Vietnam, taking a picture at the Mekong Delta wearing the traditional conical hats is a must! The vast Mekong Delta flows through six countries – Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It is home to many fishes and carries sediments that contribute to its yellowish brown shade. As our boatman rowed gently down the river, time slowed down for me. The atmosphere was charged with gratefulness for the simple yet serene moment I was in.

7. Drink Vietnamese coffee and hide out in secret bunkers
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CUPPA. Vietnamese coffee packs a punch. Patricia Lao/Rappler

Since my four-day solo trip to Vietnam was so jam-packed, I needed to have my daily caffeine boost to stay alert! Vietnamese consider coffee drinking as a social pastime. As a solo traveler, I wanted to make the most out of my trip by putting myself out there. I was lucky enough that a friendly Filipino family welcomed me in their group tour. Together, we got to try different types of coffee and explore the secret bunker in Ca Phe Do Phu! This quaint café’s bunker used to house two tons of Vietcong weapons.  

8. Visit the Shrine of the Burning Buddha
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SHRINE. Visiting this spot can be an emotional experience. Patricia Lao/Rappler

During one of my city tours, one of the most striking monuments I visited was the Shrine of the Burning Buddha. I felt goosebumps on my arms as I heard the story of the monk who burned himself in protest against the government’s prosecution of Buddhists. My guide showed a video of the monk and how he remained absolutely still as he was being burned alive. He neither screamed nor moved from his position. It’s quite remarkable when you realize the sacrifices people are willing to endure for their beliefs and principles.

9. Buy pasalubong at Ben Thanh Market
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PASALUBONG CENTRAL. Stock up on small gifts here. Patricia Lao/Rappler

In true Filipino fashion, I could not let my trip pass without buying my loved ones pasalubong to let them know I was thinking about them even while I was away. Ben Thanh Market is the ideal place to find all sorts of gifts to take home. They sell premium kopi luwak or civet coffee, hats, bags, bottle openers, cashews, and many more! It’s the go-to place for traditional handicrafts and delicious delicacies. My haggling skills were really put to the test here but I was happy that I was able to get good deals for my purchases. 

10. Get a glimpse of Saigon with a scenic dinner cruise 
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CRUISIN. This is a relaxing way to cap off a night of touring. Patricia Lao/Rappler

On the last evening of my solo trip, I wanted to feel a little bit spoiled so I took myself on a dinner cruise on Saigon River. Indochina Queen offers a one-of-a-kind experience. The cruise is relaxing and lets you take in the sights of the city as you have your “Titanic” moment on the different viewing decks. I also stuffed myself with delicious Vietnamese food which was accompanied by traditional song and dance performances. 

The two-hour cruise allowed me to reflect on the trip that was. I felt proud of myself for putting together a vibrant itinerary of the things that I wanted to try and would make me happy. Moreover, the core memories I made from my travels were priceless. I felt giddy thinking about how much fun I was having as a first-time solo traveler. I savored every moment of freedom and solitude because I knew that nothing felt better than just simply enjoying my own company. – Rappler.com

#ShareAsia highlights the best and most sought-after experiences in the Asia-Pacific region. It’s a content and resource hub for tourists and locals alike seeking new, exciting experiences in the region.

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