Teaching English in Vietnam is a dream come true—and not just because your students are *next level* awesome and your coworkers are fast becoming friends. We know you’re ultra-committed to your teaching job abroad (and applaud you for it!), but we also want to make sure that you take some time to really get to know your host country.
From natural wonders to historic sites, Vietnam is teeming with adventures that you’ll want to book ASAP. We’ve talked to past teachers in Vietnam to come up with our list of the seven “must see’s” for all TEFL teachers in Vietnam!
Must-see places while teaching in Vietnam
1. Ha Long Bay
Are you even a list of top things to do in Vietnam if you don’t mention Ha Long Bay, the most visited and loved tourist attraction in all of Vietnam? The epic coastline of the “Bay of Descending Dragons” has enchanted tourists and TEFL teachers in Vietnam alike for years. Here, you can kayak amidst karst mountains, wander natural caves, take in the sights (and—sometimes unfortunate—smells) of the fishing villages, or just sit on your big bum and enjoy the sights all day.
If you’re more of a city slicker than a nature fan, be sure to practice your haggling skills at Ha Long City’s Bai Chay market in between your third and fourth bowls of pho that day.
2. Cát Bà Island
If being surrounded by tourists isn’t quite your jam, then consider checking out the “little sister” of Ha Long Bay—Lan Ha Bay. It’s home to Cat Ba island, which is a perfect, budget-friendly destination if your TEFL in Vietnam bucket list includes an overnight cruise.
While here, you can also hike in the national park, whose steep climbs will reward you with epic, sweeping views of the bay. Sitting on the beach is totally fair-game too—after a week of classes, that might be all you have the energy for, anyway! If you’re looking for a fun and adventurous way to get around, grab yourself a scooter and soak up every corner of the island that you can.
3. My Son Sanctuary
Museums and history tours are great, but what about ancient architectural ruins deep in the heart of a jungle? If you’re visiting Hoi An for a few days (definitely recommended!), then tack on a side trip to the nearby My Son sanctuary, constructed by the kings of Champa between the 4th and 14th centuries.
The Chams were mainly Hindus, so don’t be surprised if you see lots of nods to the god Shiva in the temples. My Son was added as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, and the complex contains multiple groups of temples, amount to nearly 75 monuments! Pro tip: Head to the sanctuary early in the AM to beat the crowds and watch a peaceful sunrise over the area.
4. The Marble Mountains
Another amazing day trip from Hoi An, the Marble Mountains are an unusual monolith—technically limestone hills—that aren’t necessarily, um, towering. Instead, these small peaks aren’t meant to be scaled, they’re meant to be explored!
Choose one of the five mountains, all named for natural elements (water, wood, fire, metal, earth) then hit the road. Wander afoot to discover a multitude of hidden shrines, temples, and pagodas, not to mention sky-high views of the surrounding rice-paddied countryside.
Be sure to peak into the caves that you come across, as these are where you can find a ton of shrines and religious artwork. Wear some sturdy hiking shoes as you get to know a unique part of Vietnam on foot!
5. Ban Gioc
If you’re already making a trip to the northeast to take in the staggering scaffolded hills of Sapa (HIGHLY recommended!), then continue your journey northward for a stop at Ban Gioc Falls. Covered in jungle, these natural limestone falls straddlers the border with China—be sure to send a “ni hao” to your friends across the way!
While some waterfalls have bragging rights from their height, Ban Gioc boasts a remarkable width. It’s more than 300 meters wide—that’s like SIX football fields!—and is surrounded by rock walls, bamboo groves, and waterfalls of many shapes and sizes. Take note from the locals and journey to the falls on motorbike—just be sure to keep your eye on the road despite all the tempting 360 degree views of rice paddies, green valleys, and mountain passes. 😉
Try to spot a snub-nosed monkey while you’re here, too!
6. The War Remnants Museum
While it’s easy to get caught up in the iced Vietnamese coffee and the happy faces greeting you on the street, it’s important to remember that Vietnam has a tough—and recent—past. It would be a dishonor to the country, and the resilience of its people, if you didn’t take the time to explore the Vietnam War and its impacts on modern society while teaching abroad in Vietnam.
To that end, we highly recommend that you spend time in the War Remnants Museum and/or visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels in southern Vietnam. These visits aren’t always fun and easy, but you will be grateful to learn more about your host country and its recent struggles. It wouldn’t be the country it is today without them.
7. Yok Don National Park
Did you dream of teaching English abroad in Southeast Asia because of the fun and funky *animals* that you might cross paths with? We don’t blame you! One of our favorites are Asian elephants, the small-eared cousins of the African elephant.
Thanks to conservation efforts in recent years, new ethical tours have been launched in Vietnam to visit, play, and appreciate its local pachiderms. Visit an elephant sanctuary and tap into your inner child—it’ll help you when you’re back in the classroom next week!
Take a break from your ESL jobs in Vietnam sometimes
Teaching abroad is important and meaningful, and you can add extra color and fun to your experiences there by getting out of your comfort zone and exploring hidden corners of your host country. These seven destinations are only scratching the surface of what to do while teaching abroad in Vietnam—what did we miss?!
Thinking of starting your own Vietnam TEFL adventure? Check out these articles for inspiration!