There are many reasons to visit Vietnam. If you haven't had a chance to visit this amazing country, I have compiled a list for you. Here are 7 reasons to travel as a vegan in Vietnam.
1) Great vegan food
Vietnam is a great place to find vegan food. Many dishes are typically vegetarian or vegan in Vietnam, because of the large Buddhist community in the country. Also, Vietnam cuisine consists of many vegetables and healthy vegetable dishes are common.
Vegetarian food is called 'chay' and is consumed by Buddhist monks and by Buddhists in general on Buddhist holy days. Most restaurants will know what it means and have food ready. It just needs a few tweaks to make it vegan. For instance, you have to ask them to remove eggs. Nowadays there are also plenty of restaurants that cater to vegans specifically, especially for vegan tourists. So, in most places in Vietnam you will easily find something vegan to eat.
2) The natural beauty
The landscape in Vietnam is pretty amazing, no matter where you go. First of all, the country has a stunning coastline, which is several thousands of kilometers long. It features sandy beaches, rocky shores, and enchanting islands. More inland, there are beautiful national parks. For instance Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park with the largest cave system in the world. Or Tam Coc with its beautiful karst mountains and quiet waterways. And don't forget the island paradise of Halong Bay. There is something to see for everyone who loves natural beauty.
3) Friendly people
Most people in Vietnam are very welcoming and will help you wherever they can. Talk to your waiter in the restaurant and they will fix anything you ask for. They are very proud people and will happily tell you about their country. Many are eager to practice their English language skills, especially in the more touristy areas. I have found many friendly people on my travels in Vietnam.
4) Vietnam's rich history
Many people will know Vietnam from the terrible wars that have been waged there over the last century. The Vietnamese people have been invaded many times by many different nations, and that has left its marks on the country and its people. There are great museums where you can learn all about the history of the country. There is also plenty of colonial heritage to be found, for instance in Saigon, Hanoi, and Hoi An.
5) Most things are inexpensive
For international tourists, traveling around Vietnam is very good value for money. Food is inexpensive, especially if you buy it at the market. You can eat your evening meal in a restaurant for less than € 3. And a local bus to travel around Ho Chi Minh City will cost you no more than € 0.25. Even a taxi ride is only the equivalent of a few euros/dollars.
The 'Vietnam' War
The war between Vietnam and the United States of America that destroyed most of the country 5 decades ago, is commonly referred to as 'the Vietnam War', but this is not the case in Vietnam. Vietnam has been invaded by many countries in the past. Among those who tried occupy Vietnam are the Japanese, the French and the Americans. The war that was waged with the USA is, of course, called 'the American War' in Vietnam. When in Saigon I would advise to visit the War Remnants Museum, which describes gruesome detail, the atrocities of that war.
6) Cultural heritage
Vietnam is adjacent to Cambodia, Laos and China. Although heavily influenced by China, it has its own very distinct customs, dress and cuisine. The conical hat or Nón Lá remains the most popular head gear among the people. It is especially useful to shield you from the sun and rain when working in the rice fields.
About 13% of Vietnamese are Buddhist, which makes it the largest religion in Vietnam. You can find beautiful Buddhist temples all around the country. They are a great place to relax on a busy day and find your inner peace.
7) It's perfect for train travel
Vietnam is a huge country and distances between places can be long. To see all of what Vietnam has to offer, you will inevitably do a lot of traveling. If you can't afford a private guide with a car, you are bound to choose either a bus or a train as your mode of transportation. Let me give you one piece of valuable advice: do NOT use long-distance buses. Use trains instead.
Bus travel is quite hazardous. Driving in Vietnam is challenging enough and bus drivers only make it worse. They often take huge risks while driving. They also make long hours and are on the phone all the time. Luckily, most interesting places can be reached by Vietnam's train network. The country stretches from out for many kilometers and the single main train line from Saigon to Hanoi will take you to places like Mui Ne, Nha Trang, Da Nang (for Hoi An), Dong Hoi, and Ninh Binh along the North-South line.
Train travel is as comfortable as you choose it to be, from a simple seat to a two-berth sleeper. Some special trains have luxury sleepers, catering to western tourists mostly. These are expensive and you won't get to meet any Vietnamese travelers, so I would give these a miss.
I always take a 4-berth sleeper train if I travel very long distances, or for a night journey. Both upper or lower beds have their pros and cons. The lower bed tends to be used for sitting during the day, so if there is someone on the top bed, you might find that person sitting on your bed during most of the day. The top bed however is right underneath the air conditioning unit, so it will get very chilly. It is also difficult to sit up right on the top bed.
The views are spectacular. You will get to see different landscapes passing by: endless rice paddies, mountains and rivers, towns and cities, and dragon fruit fields.
What are you waiting for?
Apart from the current Covid-19 pandemic, of course... There is no reason NOT to travel as a vegan in Vietnam in the near future. There is plenty of vegan food around so that should not hold you back. The country has a lot to offer. If you are concerned about traveling as a vegan in general, have a look at these 7 Tips on How to Travel Vegan.