Organised Or Independent? by Patrick van der Meer. Exclusive for Offroad Vietnam.
Vietnam has a turbulent history of wars. After the American war (known to westerners as the Vietnamese war), the new communist regime closed the borders for foreigners. Over the years, however, the government opened the borders for foreign visitors and influences. Nowadays, Vietnam is a great destination, especially for Adventure Travel.
A commercial attitude has always been part of Vietnamese culture. So it’s no miracle that after the years of isolation, Vietnam quickly changed into a unique mix of communism and capitalism. As soon as you will arrive in Vietnam, you will be offered all kinds of services, including postcards, shoeshine, and different Vietnam tours.
Independent adventure travellers, however, do not fancy organised tours in buses with many tourists. But the lack of public transport almost requires taking such a tour. Unless, of course, you have your own means of transport. In that case, try to reach the following exciting Vietnam destinations on your own.
Northern Hill Tribes
In the mountainous regions of North Vietnam, several different hill tribes still live their traditional lives. The village of Sapa and the valleys around it are great for exploring. For independent travellers, it can be reached by train and a minibus, but it is also great for touring around on a motorbike. Make sure, though, to make trekking, too.
Tours From Hanoi
From the capital of Hanoi, different tours can be made. Before exploring by yourself, however, take into account that for instance Halong Bay, but also the Perfume Pagoda, require boat transportation as well.
In the centre of Vietnam, between the cities of Hue and Hoi An, lies a small mountain range, causing a change in climate, especially in winter. Where Hue is the wettest place in Vietnam, and still pretty cold in winter, Hoi An sees a lot of sun and is warm year-round.
In these regions, there are a lot of interesting sights. Independent travellers, however, need to take care since a lot of landmines are still around. This is the area of the former demilitarized zone, and a lot of fighting took place here. The remnants of the once flourishing Champa Kingdom at My Son have suffered from it but are still worth a visit. While on the road, you can see more sites with Cham towers, though.
Moving south, it’s best to move away from the coastal road into the Central Highlands around Dalat. This area is well suited to visit with your own means of transport, visiting waterfalls, hill tribes, nice scenery, etcetera. Without transport, you are stuck to another Vietnam tour to visit those sites.
The most challenging area for independent adventure travel is in the south of Vietnam. The Mekong Delta area mainly has waterways. The roads alongside the water are connected to the water by monkey bridges. The Vietnamese take their motorbikes over these bridges, but can you?
So many places in Vietnam are worth a visit. But visiting those independently is often a challenge. For some regions, you may want to stick to a Vietnam Tour. For others, consider having your own means of transport for the best adventure travel. The choice is up to you.
Patrick van der Meer is the creator of Adventure Travel Tales and Tips, a website composed of his experiences during a 15-month world journey and other trips. Visit his website for exciting travelogues, tips on preparations, means of transport, a wide range of destinations and much more.
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