From laughing yoga and speakeasy cafés, to mystical desert landscapes and the most expensive coffee in the world, check out our favourite secret things to do in Vietnam.
1. Ho Thuy Tien abandoned theme park
There’s something about abandoned places, and the no longer used Ho Thuy Tien theme park a few kilometres outside of Hue is one such spot. Previously a multi-million dollar theme park with giant dragon sculptures and magnificent attractions, this is now a ghost town that intrepid travellers like to pay a visit to.
2. Laughing yoga
This isn’t a total secret if you happen to be in the locality and hear the noise, but it is definitely an original local experience in Hanoi. Hoan Kiem Lake is a popular place in the city for people to exercise early in the morning, and there is one group that practices laughing yoga at around 6am every day. Join in, or just watch and smile.
3. Mui Ne desert
Vietnam isn’t a country known for its desert geography, but Mui Ne on the southern coastline of the country is home to a desert-like landscape. Bao Trang is also known as the White Sand Dunes and is an unusual sight in Vietnam. It’s not a heavily visited area either, with just a few shepherds and cows going about their daily business together with some intrepid visitors.
4. 3A Station
Ho Chi Minh City has an arts scene that is rapidly gaining traction, but there are still plenty of hidden gems to be found. One of them is 3A Station, a group of three warehouses that date back to the 19th century. Abandoned when the French left, they’ve now been transformed into art spaces, cafés and galleries – covered in graffiti.
5. Bai Tu Long Bay
Just along the coast from the UNESCO World Heritage Halong Bay is Bai Tu Long Bay. The bay has the same amazing scenery of jungle-clad limestone karsts emerging from the rich blue waters, but nowhere near the same number of visitors venture here. This means a true corner of paradise is waiting just for you when you arrive.
6. Vinh Moc Tunnels
In a coastal region north of Hue in central Vietnam is a network of tunnels known as Vinh Moc. While most people have heard of the Cu Chi Tunnels, used by the military during the Vietnam War, much fewer people have heard of the tunnels at Vinh Moc. These tunnels were actually home to normal families during the war, who took shelter down there and ended up living there for years on end.
7. Era Café
Ho Chi Minh City is embracing the speakeasy theme trendy in other countries in the world, with cafés and bars located in the most unusual and hidden locations. This café in District 3 is one of them, with no outdoor signage and retro jazz played in a moody environment. Go for a coffee or cocktail, but no mobile phones or laptops are welcome!
8. Huong Sen Healthcare Center
When in Hanoi, pay a visit to this centre, which is actually a traditional Vietnamese spa. It’s not an obvious choice for relaxation compared to all the massage parlours you’ll see more explicitly advertised, but it’s a truly authentic experience. From a bath in a barrel to a ginger foot treatment and massage, the experience is totally new.
9. Buon Ma Thuot
Vietnam has made a name for itself as a coffee destination, thanks to it being one of the biggest coffee exporters in the world. Café culture is a trend in cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, but the heart of the country’s coffee action is actually in the inland region of Buon Ma Thuot. This is also a place where world famous weasel coffee can be tasted at the source of its production. This coffee is made with the help of civets, who eat coffee berries and excrete them to create coffee with an exquisitely bitter taste, that makes this coffee one of the most expensive in the world!
10. Bun Cha Hurong Lien
You might not think to pay a visit to the Hanoi branch of this Vietnamese noodle chain. If you do, there’s an unexpected surprise in store. President Barack Obama and the late chef Anthony Bourdain dined here together in 2016…and their table has been enshrined in a glass case ever since!
Beyond the well-trodden traveller trails, check out these secret things to do in Vietnam for an altogether more authentic experience.