5 Reasons To Love Vietnam

5 Reasons To Love Vietnam post image

Relative to it’s neighbors, Vietnam is short on superlatives for people planning trips. Want great beaches? Thailand. Want amazing temples? Cambodia. How about great surfing? Bali. Business opportunities? Philippines. Awesome big city? Bangkok. And so on.

Pile on the somewhat salty reputation of the Vietnamese, and the indisputable reality that low level vendors will try to rip you off (it’s getting better…), and we’ve got a little bit of a PR problem.

Even though those superlatives are essentially true, I think if you are planning a short to medium length trip to South East Asia, Vietnam is where I would suggest you focus your time.

Vietnam was the first place I expatriated to back in 2009, but my love affair with Vietnam and it’s culture started way back in 2001. At that time I recall the immigration officer in Hanoi slowly looking at my passport, and then up at me and I sort of got the “what are you doing here?” look.

A few days later my friends and I were effectively detained for 4 hours for for taking a photo of a government building from a busy street. That kind of thing won’t happen much anymore. A few weeks ago I decided to sneak back to Vietnam to have a look and to visit some old friends.

I was only going to stay for a week, but I ended up extending my trip. I pretty much had to be drug out of the place.

Here’s 5 reasons I love Vietnam:


I can’t walk by a food vendor in this entire country. I’ve never been anywhere where I enjoy eating more. I’m certain I gained 5 pounds in the past week just looking for excuses to eat. Mealtime in Vietnam is every time I walk by something that smells good. Elemental and fresh, Vietnamese food is a concert of elegant herbs, noodles, lovingly prepared broths, and expertly prepared meats– and best of all– it’s eaten on the street.

The food intelligence of the average Vietnamese person is astounding.


WIFI in South East Asia is improving rapidly. The speeds in Vietnam were easily 3 to 4X what they were when I lived there in 2009. We all know it’s possible to run your world-class web business from Singapore (duh) and now Bangkok– I’ll officially add Hanoi and Saigon to the list. I can run conference calls from both (randomly selected) hotel rooms I’ve stayed at. I didn’t ask if they had “good” WIFI– I just asked if they had WIFI at all.

Cafe culture.

For those of you not familiar with Vietnam, you might be surprised to hear that it has the best cafe culture I have yet to experience. Coffee and tea are a huge deal here. There’s a cafe on every corner. Pick your taste– hip joints that are open 24hours, secluded garden terraces, business cafes– they’ve pretty much got it all. WIFI signals are abundant and you won’t get the stink eye for camping out at a cafe– it’s a national pastime.

Great cities.

I’ll try to give you an impressionistic tag cluster:

Hanoi: cafes, tree-lined streets, backpacker beer joints, Ho Chi Minh’s moseleum and the temple of literature, lakes and seasons, chilly winters and summer floods, NGOs and government officials, festivals and boutiques on the street, proud.

Saigon: nightlife and big bowls of Pho, China Town and markets, American Chamber of commerce and HSBC capital managers, motorcycle madness and the biggest mall in a mini-Singapore, international airport, rich, loud, and friendly.

Aside from the numerous places I’d suggest you visit while in Vietnam, there probably aren’t too many places entrepreneurs would want to base themselves outside of the two major cities. One notable exception to this would be Nha Trang– a beachy ‘lifestyle’ oriented town that’s great fun, just an overnight bussride or short fligh from Saigon.

If you do plan to visit Vietnam, I’m happy to answer any questions you might have. Also if you’ve got some favorite spots in Viet, I’d love to hear them. I’m heading back in July for some serious traveling! :)




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Published on 05.30.12
  • Deano

    Yeah, love Vietnam myself, will probably spend three months somewhere by the coast (Mui ne perhaps) from the end of June and knock a book or two out. Hope to bump into you :-)

  • Vietnam sounds like an awesome place to live for a digital nomad.

    Especially how you mention the great cafe culture, with great Internet connections where they expect you to sit and work. I’ve also head great things about the drip coffee from a travel blog and the soup is meant to be great as well. I’ve tried a Vietnamese soup restaurant in Perth, Australia and it was great.

    I’m just curious: how is the cost of living in the big cites compared to somewhere like Bali/Thailand?

    I was thinking of Chiang Mai as a place where I could live cheaply to build my business once it gets up and running, only because it’s so cheap with good Internet.

    I’m betting the nightlife will probably be a lot better in Vietnam.


  • Oh I’m homesick for SEAsia after reading this. I’m currently in Switzerland where the cheapo takeaway Asian restaurant is selling basic noodle dishes for around $13USD…ouch!

  • calebvear

    I would also love to know what the cost of living is like. I’m considering going to SE Asia for a month or two later this year to work on my business.

  • Oh man oh man!

    Vietnam is where it’s at I miss that place so much!

    I spent a month traveling the country from north to south last year from november to december and I have basically nothing bad to say about Vietnam or the people, ok maybe the Russians.. but that’s it haha.

    I would love to see more meetups in Vietnam in the future I would definitely attend or maybe next years startup event in Vietnam.

    I posted some pictures to you from Brett in the DC’s chat did you manage to check out the cafe?!

  • I found Vietnam to be the cheapest of Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia(Bali).

    You can basically walk around and find the best deals even sites like agoda have hotel rooms for like $10 a night. I stayed in one in Hue that was $11 a night king double bed, Ensuite, Wifi and breakfast included 24 hour reception as well, it was one of the best sleeps I’ve ever had. But the cheapest place I stayed in was $6 for a double bed that you could karate chop in half it was that hard but still comfortable with an ensuite and good wifi. In fact everywhere had great wifi!

    Food is so damn cheap you can get a good bowl of Pho for a dollar or less. I recommend Pho 10 for good Pho especially in Hanoi!

    Traveling around is easy as hell they have busses for super cheap for traveling the whole country but don’t get it if you get claustrophobic, I remember having to take a couple of valium to relax on those bus trips. I never ran into any danger except maybe a couple of fights between locals.

    Sorry for the ramble but I really love the place!

    All the best,


  • Jamie, I’m living in Saigon now, and I’m a digital nomad.

    Vietnam is indeed an excellent place to be a nomad. As Dan mentioned, the cafe culture is incredible (I’m writing this from a great cafe right this moment), the internet is fast, and the cost of living is one of the best values I’ve experienced for living in a big city.

    I’ve lived in NYC, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Taipei, and on, so I have a lot to compare this city to.

    I live in a modern, super clean, furnished apartment with a balcony, we have house keeping service 3 days a week, they do our laundry and dry cleaning, and we have all utilities included for $750/ month. We could have paid a lot less than that, but i had myself set on this place.

    The nightlife is awesome, and affordable. You can get a martini with good vodka at a poshie rooftop bar for $5 – $7 or even cheaper at another bar if you don’t need ambience.

    Bottle service at a club runs about $60+.

    We lived in Thailand for four months prior to here, and found the costs to be about 30% more in Thailand. The food options are WAY BETTER here in Saigon in my opinion, and way better value.

    I’m always surprised people talk so much about Thailand, particularly Bangkok.

    *THIS* is really the place to be for a nomad who wants an urban lifestyle, who wants to get Sh* done.

  • Thanks Jon,

    You’ve just made it sound even better now if that was possible :)

  • Ha dude.. that’s amazing. $10 for all that? I can’t wait to go to Vietnam.

  • Spot on. In terms of sweet places to check out next time around, I highly recommend the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park if you haven’t been, about 40 minutes outside of Dong Hoi. We just got back from there and it was incredible. Massive caves, beautiful scenery, lovely people. If you want to stay with other western travelers, check this place out: http://phong-nha-cave.com/. Bring your own moto though. Otherwise, plenty of places to stay in the town right outside the park: http://ow.ly/bom7A. Dong Hoi was pretty sweet too. We only spent an evening wandering around, but cool little fishing/beach town with few tourists.

  • Dan

    THANK YOU for the great links. I’m hitting up this thread next time I return to Viet (very soon!).

  • Dan

    Cheers, I didn’t manage to check out the cafe, but there was no shortage of awesome alternatives. Yeah I do think Viet is a front runner for future TMBA activities. Ian and I are planning a scouting trip (read: excuse to eat more) as we speak.

  • Dan

    wow great stuff!!!

  • Dan

    if you are in/out for less than a quarter, I’d budget between 1,500 and 2,000 all in. You should be able to do much better than that, though, if you need to.

  • Dan

    what a rip!!! :D

  • Dan

    Great stuff John.

    Jamie, a lot of people talk about Chiang Mai as the pinnacle of digital nomad cost savings, but my sense is that Vietnam could easily compete. The main difference between Viet and Thailand in terms of getting great rates is that Viet is still a little bit more opaque and difficult to manage. That’s not to say it’s hard– you just can’t walz up and get an insane deal on an apartment like I’ve heard you can do in CM. Those deals are there, however, and if you are a Viet lover like me, it would be worth the week or so it would take to figure out how to get it done for ‘travelers’ rates.

    That said– if you just rock up to a really nice 3/4 star hotel, stay there with fast WIFI for 30 bucks a night (or negociate monthly), your eating/entertainment expenses will be cheap, and the value you receive will blog your mind.

  • Dan

    Yeah buddy. Had my eye on Nha Trang. SOUNDS GREAT.

  • Sounds amazing. Can’t believe how cheap a decent hotel is in Vietnam. I love how the beach is only a quick flight away too.

  • Lê Chí Nghĩa

    I am Vietnamese!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Dan

    you are reason number 6 !!!!!!!

  • Aisha

    I am looking to go and live in Vietnam for 6-12 months and teach English, do you think it is easy to spend an extended time in one place. Is it easy to meet people that aren’t on the move all the time? Any advice would be much appreciated!

  • Dan

    yeah there’s tons of places to meet up, good place to start is the expat groups on facebook.

  • zoya

    I agree, Vietnam has many amazing place that make us fall in love with the Vietnam.

    Vietnam Tours

  • nomadcapitalist

    Good analysis, Dan. Ho Chi Minh is definitely a more livable city for westerners, and expat entrepreneurs should get a warmer welcome here.

  • nomadcapitalist

    Is that per month? There are days I spend quite a bit, but as a guy who likes to walk, you could work online in a couple cafes for $10 a day I think. That’s no booze, dates, etc., though.

  • nomadcapitalist

    Yeah, Hoi An – and to a lesser degree, HCMC – are really the only places that didn’t have $10/night hotels popping up at me. You’re not going to get the world for that, but if you have to go that route, it’s a lot better than sharing a bathroom with five people.

  • nomadcapitalist

    Yeah, I had trouble finding a nice-looking, sit down, non-family-run-Chinese place in Geneva or Zurich under $60.

  • Dan

    cheers thanks!

  • me

    I’m 15 and from Australia and came with my family to Hanoi as my mum is a english teacher. I absolutely love Vietnam! its such a wonderful country. The food is amazing, I use to look forward to our morning tea at school- a delicious bowl of Pho Ga. And its just so, so beautiful! While here we also went to Saigon, Nha Trang, Sapa, Da Nang and Hoi An. All were so amazing and so different from each other. The people are so friendly and welcoming and so proud of there country! Where ever i go and who ever i ask Vietnamese always happily tell me about the beautiful places to visit and the history and legends of them. I have been so openly excepted and never wanted to leave! I will admit my Vietnamese is very very basic ( understanding isnt terrible but my pronunciation of tones is awful) but i really really wanted to learn and was encouraged by everyone! Unfortunetly my prents are die heard westeners and didnt learn to love Vietnam like I did, they did not try to learn vietnamese did not eat the food, i had to drag them out of the house to go around to look but then they only complain about the traffic and how they were getting ripped off (fairly ripped off though, as the refused to haggle or bargain for a price) so i guess its not for everyone, but im so disapointed to be leaving such a wonderful place i really would love to stay but since im 15 i have to go with my parents. i hope to go back one day but with fluent vietnamese.

  • Dan

    wow rock on it sounds like you caught the bug, i can totally relate !

  • Võ Thị Bích Nga

    Jamie Alexander, you can build your bussiness with very cheap price. Actually, The cost of living in HO Chi Minh city is much cheaper than Bali/ Thailand. In Viet Nam, the Internet is very very good. Coming to any coffee shop, only order a cup of coffee with only 3-4 dollar, you can connect free wifi( in a luxurious coffee shop). And if u order a coffee in a normal, small coffee shop It costs only u 1 dollar or lower to use the wifi of the store. You can’t imagine the cheapness of the using of the Internet in VN and the speed of the line is very fast. What about food? It is very delicious. You can try all with a very cheap price…
    Welcome to my country!

  • Võ Thị Bích Nga

    You can visit Nha Trang, Vung Tau, Sam Son, Cua Lo, Quy Nhon…. It is very beautiful

  • Harry Tran

    I’m Vietnamese but used to live in AU. I don’t know why some people think Vietnam still in wars when it’s over nearly 40 years ago and they always think I was a Singaporean or Taiwanese, not Vietnamese lol. Now this is very peaceful, just come and enjoy your life ^^.

  • Yo

    What are your thoughts on learning a new language? I’ve started learning Vietnamese. It’s hard but I think it will worth it. It’s a rather unpopular language among foreigners but I think it has an enormous potential in the future. And it’s also a kind of challenge for myself and it could open mind on new perspectives.

  • Nguyễn Thanh Lâm Trần

    wow I’d be great. I have lots of foreign friends and they also learn Vietnamese. My advice is when you have chances to talk with Vietnamese. don’t be shy if they will be smiling or laughing because Vietnamese always smile. They may help you and correct your speaking. So don’t be shy if someone laughing when you speak. they will be more friendly and become interested in you.

  • CPH

    Hey Jamie, I include a few links to a few videos showing cafes in Saigon so that you may have some ideas why many people rave about the cafe culture in Vietnam:





    At these cafes, they also menus for lunch and dinner, not just coffee.

  • thangco11 .

    You are only 15 but you sound a lot more mature in your love for my homeland. I am now a 56 year old immigrant from VN in Los Angeles and I am like Howard Hughes in his old age who take 2 showers a day. I wish to go back and visit Saigon or Đà Lạt. I dont care too much for Hanoi because they are the start place of communism in 1945.The weather here in California is very comfortable and I find a good use for the Presto Heat Dish 1 year ago when someone left it outside the house when they moved away. Just by turning it on a little bit for a little warm and lean toward with your fingers gently massage your eyes,you can achieve deeper breathing. My crazy sister preach about practice for Deep breathing meditation which is very hard to do but now I can get fuller sleep just by placing the Heat dish next to my bed and position my face to be near the warmth..I was having trouble falling asleep and now taking temazepam at bed time but Michael Jackson was miserable and die from propofol and did not have the warmth of this heat dish or the warmth of VN music which is not like the crazy metal .Go to youtube Khanh Ly or Trịnh Công Sơn and find the beauty of their music. My only unhappiness now is the very quick speed of time when Megan Kelly ask Trump tough questions in 08/2016 and now it is Jan 2017- As you get older the speed of time get faster and now it is ridiculously fast for me

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