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Vietnam: From a quiet nation to one of the best tourist destinations in the world


“People are put on Earth for various purposes. I was put on Earth to do this: eat noodles here. –

Anthony Bourdain during his visit to Vietnam

Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018) has always felt a special connection with Vietnam. The first time he featured Vietnam was on his 2002 show, A Cook’s Tour (season 1, episode 3). Little did the world know that the door opened by Bourdain at that time would come as a blessing in disguise to the country. The quiet seaside country would see such a big transformation that it swept away generations of travellers, all curious to know what Vietnam was all about.

About 20 years ago, Vietnam was not popular with international travelers. In general, people still traveled the traditional (if I may say so) way, that is, trips based on ready-made information. In the case of Vietnam, food has played a major role in boosting tourism. Main credit goes to celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain. The world took inspiration from the traveling chef and became interested in the taste and curiosities of a new country. Enter Vietnam’s first group of travelers who also started the first generation of tourism in Vietnam – adventure tourists, those who made hiking a thing.

Vietnam: From a quiet nation to one of the best tourist destinations in the world

The early 2000s were slow due to social and political unrest in the area, but local businesses got the idea that western travelers will come and want to explore. To make it more accessible and welcoming, cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi have started opening up backpacker-friendly options for this small tribe of international travelers. Other small towns have followed suit and started making their locations traveller-friendly. Air access has been made easier with the opening of airports in places like Danang and Nha Trang. These picture-perfect places were now being made accessible to the world, and now they had beautiful places and interesting food to offer visitors.

Vietnam: From a quiet nation to one of the best tourist destinations in the world

While Western adventure travelers have been on a mission to take as many off-the-beaten-track trails as possible, Asian travelers have noticed the shift in trends. The curiosity to ascertain what attracted Western travelers in the first place gave rise to middle-class Asian society travelers with disposable income. With that came mass tourism. Places like Hue (for its history), Quang Binh Province (for caving), Sapa (iconic rice fields), Nha Trang (scenic beaches), Mekong Delta (iconic waterways), Phu Quoc (underwater adventure) marine), among many others, began to become popular destinations that everyone wanted to discover.

Now, with all things beautiful and awe-inspiring covered, travelers yearned for more immersive experiences. Thus, paving the way for another tribe of travelers, in search of healthy experiences. Enter sustainable tourists.

To put it simply, this tribe of travelers fell into two categories:

  • Travel on a budget, go local.
  • Look for specific local experiences, price is not an issue.

Whatever the approach and price range, the focus has always been on the community, the people and their culture. These days, it would be considered weird if you couldn’t find homestays in small towns and villages that would also give you the opportunity to experience local life during your stay. Enter gastronomic tourism.

Vietnam: From a quiet nation to one of the best tourist destinations in the world

Anthony Bourdain’s love for
Pho comes to mind when talking about the food tourism scene in Vietnam. Over the past decade, Vietnamese cuisine has become such a hit around the world. Through various cooking shows on TV, YouTube and other social media platforms, rice paper rolls (gỏi cuốn),
banh m
I have become popular restaurant food choices. And why not, when they are both delicious and healthy! One of Vietnam’s biggest attractions is the street food scene. Affordable, readily available, and not lacking in variety, street food in Vietnam has a charm of its own. Experiencing a destination’s unique culture through its food has to be a great thing to do.

In less than two decades, from an overlooked destination to a tourist hotspot, Vietnam has come a long way in a relatively short period of time, and with a bang! Attracting the interests of photographers, foodies, culture and history buffs, and thrill seekers, it’s safe to say that Vietnam is here to stay.