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9 essential things to take to Vietnam


9 essential things to take to Vietnam

story by: Anna Sarjeant

1. Smart phone

Why? For Hoi An’s abundant Kodak moments.

Ditch the filters, you won’t be needing them in Hoi An. Vietnam’s most enchanting – and historical – town is as retina-pleasing in real life as it is through any camera lens, even without the image trickery. 

2. An Instagram account
An eclectic fusion of Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese elements, Hoi An’s a former 15th century trading port and stands almost un-changed. Canal banks are lined with Asian-styled merchant shops and traditional town houses; in various hues of yellow, with sloping tiled roofs and paper lanterns swinging from the external rafters. Winding lanes are shared by scooters and bicycles, various merchants – including their produce – spilling into the dusty tracks and nudging the wheels of surrounding food carts. Snap it, share it and get a tonne of likes. 

3. DSLR camera (or your most fancy-pants camera)
For images worthy of blowing up and slapping on a canvas, head to the town’s Japanese Covered Bridge. Like an over-sized trinket, the overpass is incredibly ornate and delicate, famed for its animal statues, gentle curves and dusty-pink masonry, which blushes particularly romantically at dusk.

4. Set of togs & gogs
Why? For Mui Ne Beach and its water sports. Shaded by coconut palms and defined by thatched parasols and flat golden sand, the water at Mui Ne Beach is the only element that doesn't embody complete calm. To the contrary, the sea boasts the perfect conditions for surfing, windsurfing and an energetic swim.

5. Rash vest
In Mui Ne, surf’s up from August through to December, while the surrounding sand dunes help make a unique microclimate, so the heat’s up too. Windsurfing is also popular, as is kitesurfing along the extensive coastal strip. Traditionally a fishing village, the beach resorts are still mercifully low-rise in their aesthetics and an old-town seaside vibe prevails. If you’re up in time, complement your early-dawn surf with a stop at the morning market in Mui Ne Village. You’ll find lots of fresh fruit, Vietnamese staples and of course, just-caught seafood.

6. Summer dress (boardies if you’re a shorts lover)
Come sun down, by which time you’ll surely be all watered-out, take an easy stroll along the Mui Ne bay and stop for a drink at a beach-side café shack. With water facing tables frequently lapped by the high tide, you can dip your toes in the ocean while throwing back a cold beer and ordering a giant bowl of noodles.

7. An appetite
Why? For Hanoi’s endless culinary highlights.

Food - and consuming it - is integral to the Vietnamese lifestyle, no more so than in the nation’s capital, Hanoi. Here you’ll find the flavours are sweeter and more fragrant than many other parts of the country, but much like its neighbouring towns and cities, the choices are exhaustive.

8. An open mind
In Hanoi, residents will ‘set up shop’ pretty much wherever they please, which means every alleyway and secret side road becomes an enticing dining establishment. In this city, the street is your dining room, and the curb is where you’ll eat. Street food abounds and local specialties such as pork crepes and flame-grilled meats with leave you hankering for more. Sometimes you’ll know what you’re eating, sometimes (read as ‘most of the time’) you won’t. Sampling Hanoi’s vast array of dishes is as much of an adventure as navigating its labyrinth of back-alley lanes.

9. A haggling mindset
If you’re after an authentic market experience, visit Hanoi’s largest covered market, Dong Xuan. Not so much a locale for souvenirs or knick-knacks, this is where you’ll find hundreds of vendors selling and bartering for produce. Don’t go at lunchtime or in the early afternoon, most sellers will be enjoying a quiet nap - and they won’t take fondly to being nudged awake. Sample as much fresh fruit, street food and delicacies as you can possibly manage, especially the local speciality of fresh fruit served in a cup with crushed ice and condensed milk. Nom!

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