A “winter” hideout, but not really…
Let me try to read your mind. You’re thinking the next few words will be: “Vietnam is a beautiful tropical land, with stunning sandy beaches and perfectly warm weather. This is where you’re going to enjoy your dream winter escape, get tanned while your friends suffer the snow and hail back home.”
You’re right, it is and this is no assumption. Vietnam is a wonderful tropical country and makes a flawless destination for sunbathing. But here’s the twist. The country also includes snow and piercing winter “breeze”, just in case you ponder about missing the annual “White Christmas”.
Of course when you google "What to see in Vietnam?", snow is not the first thing that pops up, but allow me to explain. Vietnam has two separate climates, and some in between. Southern Vietnam, where Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc and all those marvelous beaches lie, is usually either sunny or rainy, which means it’s always hot.
On the other hand, in the North (which means Hanoi, Sapa, and Moc Chau), the temperature can go way down to 0oC (32oF) with strong winds, rain, and even snow, specifically in Sapa (which is why this northern town is so crowded this time of the year).
The cold is not so much that it’d prevent you from exploring, so this is the perfect time to hike up romantic foggy mountains, take in a lungful of that refreshing air, then end up stuffing yourself full of steaming hot street food, and warm drinks in the comfort of your hotel room. Once you’re bored of the same old “White Christmas”, it’s time to pack up and move South, bathe in sunlight and get your annual “Tropical vitamins” intake.
Doesn’t that sound like what holidays are supposed to be like?
Christmas in a Buddhist community
Speaking of Christmas, that’s the second reason why your holiday in Vietnam will be wonderful.
Yes, Christmas is Christmas anywhere in the world, but Christmas in a Buddhist country is different. From odd looking Santa Claus to extravagant Christmas decorations in cities, Christmas in Vietnam is as bizarre and fun as Halloween!
With only 7% of people being Catholic in the country, Christmas is surprisingly respected and celebrated nationally. On the 24th of December, Christians and curious people alike flood the streets, gather at their local church or nearest Christmas trees to sing or listen to carols. No one complains of the crowds no matter how close they stand and children are happy, even if they don’t get a Christmas gift.
If you find such a holiday inviting, don’t be shy to join in the festivities. Find a spot outside a famed gothic church, listen to the familiar hymns, all the while being shoulder to shoulder with strangers of different races, religions and nationalities, wonder about what to see in Vietnam no more when you meet locals who give you the best answers! Where would you find such a warm and impartial Christmas?
Street food is never better
Cuisine is one of the decisive aspects that lure people to Vietnam. The country’s colorful culinary culture is undeniably magnificent and should be enjoyed all year round. But in winter especially, when people of the tropical country are overly excited for the rare winter chills, they go all out in their culinary game!
Coming to Vietnam, and especially the Northern area this season, you are in for a treat of heart and belly-warming specialties.
Starting with hotpot, a go-to gathering food of Vietnamese people. Hotpot in Vietnam can vary from plain old chicken stock to frog, crab, and even fish sauce flavor!
To bánh đúc – an umami explosion of steamed rice cake soup, Vietnam’s capital city’s winter specialty. Hot stretchy rice cakes swim in pork broth and minced pork, and each bite is a heavenly unforgettable experience.
To hot sweet soup or chè. This is a dish usually eaten in summer with ice. But its cold day version is even more superior. The soup is cooked from sugar water cooked with black beans, mung beans, cassava (a type of root vegetable) or bean filled rice cakes and eaten hot with coconut milk. The steaming sugary indulgence is vital if you ever plan on coming to Vietnam on winter days!
And don’t forget wine! Similar to any other country in the world, Vietnamese use wine to warm up on freezing days. But wine in Vietnam is no ordinary business. There is no “Vietnamese wine” because each region has its own specialty. From bitter herbal wine of the Northern Highlands, the iconic tube wine from ethnic minorities, to the one-and-only mulberry red wine of Dalat. Make sure to try all of them if you’re offered some on your holiday trip.
Beside those mentioned above, typical world-famous Vietnamese dishes such as pho, bun cha or banh mi are all guaranteed to taste better with your holiday craving of comfort food. Imagine being warmed from head to toe from these cuisine experiences, bonding with your family and friends over the unique cultural and culinary essence each of them brings. Definitely better than the same old family dinner!
Ideal time for ideal experiences
As mentioned above, December and January in Vietnam, with the North and Central getting chilly, while the South’s temperature fluctuates at around 20-30oC (70-80oF) at the end of its rainy season, it is the perfect time to travel the country.
But the weather, besides making your trip comfortable, also creates the year’s finest scenery. In addition to Sapa’s “White Christmas”, this is also the season of flowers. White colza in Moc Chau, yellow colza in Thai Binh, sunflowers in Nghe An, cherry blossoms in Y Ty and of course, the kingdom of flowers itself, Dalat, and it’d take days to list all of the flowers blooming in December. So coming here, you definitely won’t lack in selfie backgrounds and things to see!
The floral hue also becomes a backdrop for the biggest and most interesting cultural events of December and January, which include the Lim Festival, the Tran Temple Festival, Yen Tu Festival and so many more. All of which have vital meanings in Vietnamese spiritual life and culture, and thus are excellent opportunities for tourists to understand Vietnam’s colorful heritage in depth.
Holiday is all about family
It is not a stretch to say that holidays in modern times have become a type of mild phobia for a lot of people. Parents have to try to entertain kids, find the perfect gifts for every single family member or simply, struggle to spend your off time doing something besides watching TV. Why not escape this torturing and boring holiday cycle by doing something totally different, a perfect end-of-the-year relief for everyone in the family?
The trouble is, most of the time, family members can’t agree on holiday destinations. However, this is no problem in Vietnam as the country is literally the ultimate versatile destination!
Whether it’s days lying on sunny beaches, an exploration of the country’s thousand-year-old heritage, or fun times at world class amusement parks and educational farms, Vietnam can make your dream vacation come true whatever form it takes.
Here are a few examples of what to see in Vietnam that will please everyone:
- Danang – Hoi An (Central Vietnam): Culture, Beach, Amusement Park & World famous Bridge
Danang is a city among the top 10 most liveable in the world. Tourism services here are always rated best and scams don’t exist!
The seaside city includes postcard-worthy beaches where the freshest seafood is abundant.
Coming to Danang, you also can’t miss the fascinating Ba Na Hills Amusement/Resort Centre with dozens of games, rides, and the world famous Golden Hand-Bridge.
While Hoi An is a multi-colored lantern kingdom, an ancient commercial center packed full of cultural and historical relics.
- Cat Ba – Halong Bay (Northern Vietnam): Cruise a World Natural Heritage site, tropical forests and wild animals expedition
A mention of Vietnam tourism is a mention of Halong Bay – UNESCO World Natural Heritage.
This is the perfect destination to hop on a yacht and cruise the bay, enjoy sumptuous entertainment such as kayaking, parasailing, or deck jumping, all the while taking in the beauty of this charming aquatic gem.
But people coming to Halong usually forget about Cat Ba, the island with a gorgeous beach and an even more dazzling nature reserve, Cat Ba National Park.
Coming here is a chance to meet the country’s most endangered flora and fauna, as well as learning about how they’re protected against poaching. If you’re adventurous enough, you can choose to trek through the park, whereas for families, a special educational tour is usually offered.
- Mekong Delta region (Southern Vietnam): rainforest eco-adventure, abundant fruit orchards, and mind-blowing floating markets
If you’ve ever dreamed of waking up to a vine covered window, or float a small boat down a mangrove-surrounded stream, Mekong Delta is the destination for you.
The floating market is not only for shopping, but also a complete picture of agriculture, economy, culture and a different way of life.
While beautiful, the region is also Vietnam’s largest fruit supplier, so don’t forget to splurge on mangoes, grapefruits, bananas, coconuts, durians and hundreds of bizarre tropical fruits.
Mark Twain used to say “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime”.
So if you want yourself and your dearest people to have a view of beautiful and good things, why not take them on an adventure these holidays? Ideally in Vietnam - the country where every dream adventure comes true!