Life throws curveballs sometimes, but it also gives surprises and rare opportunities! In early 2012 a bit of extra vacation time was dropped on my lap, I booked a little trip to Vietnam within the hour.
Vendors float right up to your boat in the Floating Markets of the Delta
It was only later that afternoon that it dawned on me, Vietnam is Southeast Asia but it is not Thailand or Malaysia - I wonder if I need a visa???
Oh my word, I did.
Today the process for a Vietnam tourist visa is far easier, but still not 100% straightforward. You get a visa on arrival, sure, but you need a digital process to be completed before you leave home. That part still takes a little wrangling and the options today remain as confusing as they were in 2012...
About as local life as it gets, kids on the way to school and a water buffalo... moored up?
Regardless, Vietnam is a great place to visit with tasty food and features a huge variety of topography. It's surprisingly long (or tall?) at just over 1,000 miles from north to south! That means it can be a bit cooler in the north at certain times of year, despite being classified as a tropical destination.
The Mekong Delta in Vietnam, however, is about as tropical as it gets.
I took an escorted tour which got me away from some of the more heavily touristed areas, such as Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon), and although there was some touristy stuff to do, it felt more like exploring local life in the Delta. Which also means more authentic food and fewer touts.
The Floating Markets are quite large and unlike some around Bangkok in nearby Thailand, actually require a boat
There are floating markets in a number of cities and although the cities aren't as well-developed in terms of tourism infrastructure, a good escorted tour should make sure anyone gets the most of their precious time in Vietnam.