With the onslaught of social media travel posts, people telling you where you need to go next, and the impending and much-needed break you plan on taking from work, it’s difficult to choose the perfect travel destination. We, as in the entire Christina’s Editorial Team, are here to tell you honestly and openly why you should pick Vietnam. First, read a little bit about each of us and our passion for this country and then give our reasons a glance, you might find exactly what you’re looking for.

Letter from the Editors

Dear readers,

Anna

I grew up in Denver, Colorado and attended college in my home state. After a winter of living in a faraway mountain town, I decided I needed to see the world. I chose Vietnam as my new home for many reasons. But the most important reasons became apparent after having lived and traveled there. I have since returned to Colorado, but I called Vietnam home for eight months. Vietnam is nothing short of unique. Every day, regardless of my butchery of the Vietnamese language, I communicated and grew comfortable with laughing at my own mistakes when I interacted with the locals around me. It is rare that you meet people so willing to pull you into their homes, people that sit you down at their own dinner table, and people so happy to share. My love for Vietnam may have sprung from the Vietnamese people, but the landscape has created such a wellspring of glistening memories that I return to Vietnam in my head over and over again. I have never left it and in fact, even though I am here in Colorado, Vietnam has found a way back to me every day.

anna
I’m Anna Banana

The single reason that should give you pause to seriously think about traveling to Vietnam is this: Vietnam allows travelers the opportunity to exchange. In my own travels, I often find it difficult to feel as though I am not just a cog in a machine, churning and churning and moving through the motions to see the next destination or knock off another item on my food list. In the beautiful country of Vietnam, you are given the opportunity to interact and exchange your way of life with the Vietnamese people. Sure, you can move from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City having seen the famous karsts of Ha Long Bay, the magnificent caves of Phong Nha, or the fire-breathing dragon of Da Nang, but when you get to the airport, you might find that your luggage is a little more full than usual. And that’s not because there is an abundance of things to buy in Vietnam’s many vibrant markets, and it’s not because the families you have met along the way packed your arms full of their homemade rice wine. It’s because in every possible seam, in every stitch of your clothing, you will find a vivid memory. Here you are talking to the bun thit nuong man across the street who waved every time you stepped from your homestay, the woman in Hue who revealed where to find the best view of the Perfume River, the monks that showed you mindfulness and generosity. You will find memories of young high school students stopping to ask about their pronunciation, the friendships initiated in coffee shops on tiny stools with glasses of thick coffee and condensed milk. The man who stopped to help fix your rental scooter up on Son Tra Peninsula, monkeys overhead snickering at your naivete. You must travel to Vietnam for the memories, the karsts painted in golden light, the organized chaos of Hanoi, the food calling from every stall. But most importantly, you must travel to Vietnam for the exchange.

Piumi

Ever since I was five, I’ve been floating around from one country to another, living on average three years in each country. Thanks to my mom’s work, I’ve been able to live in some amazing countries like Lebanon, Sweden, China (Beijing), Hong Kong and Thailand, in addition to my home country, Sri Lanka. Even if I call it my “home country,” Sri Lanka isn’t really my home. I’ve been so far removed from it that I am akin to a foreigner there. Usually people travel later in their life, after they have formed their identity. However, since I’ve been moving around since I was young, I have formed my identity from a collage of all the places that I have lived in. So I am too much of an outsider in my home country and I feel like an outsider in most other countries. Because of that, I have felt unsettled for basically all of my life. That is, until I moved to Vietnam.

Vietnam feels like home. And this is why you must travel here. I found home in Vietnam’s alleyways, a place that has redefined the meaning of home for me. I love walking around and exploring these small streets, even late at night past twelve–it’s extremely safe. Each alleyway tells a different story and you get an up-close and personal view into the local lives of the Vietnamese people. Despite not having much, the people here are extremely happy, and that’s a lesson we can all learn from. You might return home having gained a valuable lesson.  Everything is so relaxed, people are not judgmental and they welcome you with open arms.

piumi
I’m Piumi (Or Puma the Magical Cat)

I can’t sign off without having talked about the food – an extra bonus is that the food is delicious, things are cheap and the country is full of spectacular landscapes. The expat community is also rather tight knit and everyone seems to know one another. It’s really everything I have craved, all in one long stretch of a country that I call home.

Our Writers

Vi

I was born and raised in a small village in the countryside of Nghe An, a province you have probably never heard of. There is not much to do in my hometown, at least this is what I used to think. Most people in Vietnam leave for a bigger city when they grow up. I was sent to university in Hanoi and yet, I found it fascinating to travel to a new place where you are able to see different lives, experience unique qualities, and grow at the same time. I learn through stories I’ve been told, people I meet, and things I do. I crave traveling. And the more I travel, the deeper I understand the natural beauty of life and the more I love my hometown. Beauty exists everywhere and I decided to become a writer, a career that was not even on my radar, to help other travelers in Vietnam find the hidden love located here.

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I’m Vi (Or Mop. My teammates call me that because of my signature curly hair)

Beauty arises in many aspects of life and for me, people play an important part in making that beauty shine. You must visit Vietnam for the people, and the beauty they emanate. If you visit a local family, you will be treated with the best food they can afford and sleep in the best room of the house. If you can speak the language, they will spend the whole day talking to you and telling you stories about their life. If you walk into a random local shop, the first thing you get is a bright smile from the locals. Vietnamese people are not only nice, they are also very clever. Try egg coffee, a unique and resourceful invention. Look for customized furniture, pay attention to how somebody fixes your bike, or walk into an overcrowded restaurant. Vietnamese people are kind, united, live outside of their head, and are full of happiness and love. Come to Vietnam to meet our people.

Eleanor

My name is Eleanor, a Saigonese who loves singing, traveling and writing. The romantic and energetic identity of Saigon has seeped into my personality. I describe myself as a crazy dreamer who believes that I can change the world with the power of words. My career as a writer actually started quite early. When I was ten years old, I was not given enough pocket money to buy a comic book. I came up with the idea of writing the stories that I usually imagined in my head on paper and selling it to my friends. Later, word of mouth spread so fast that other people at school bought my work.

I found Christina’s through two university friends of mine working as Onetrip tour guides. At first, I applied to work part-time as a host to earn money for my bike trip around Vietnam. Luckily, I was chosen to work as a writer instead! I share my knowledge and travel experience in and around Vietnam. I find great happiness in receiving direct messages from Christina’s readers asking for advice and thanking me for my articles. This is my motivation to keep writing! I hope to one day travel the world and write a book, maybe it will fall into the hands of my friends who used to read my comic books, or even you.

eleanor
I’m Eleanor (Or Ellie-alien). Spot me if you can 😉

Whenever someone asks me why I love Vietnam, I answer this: Saigon. I feel lucky to have grown up in this energetic city. This is where my family and I have lived happily together. Even though the generation gap sometimes creates arguments, we still love each other so much, which is exactly how we love this city. Saigon is also where I have made a lot of close friends. They are the coolest people in the world and every day in Saigon is a joyful experience, which is full of surprises. You can find all sorts of people from around the world ready to meet you. Last but not least, Saigon is also where I found the one I love. From the other side of the world, destiny brought us together in Saigon. Therefore, Saigon in my heart is the city of love. I believe that it is not a matter of where you are but who are you with, and Saigon contains everything that matters to me in the world. Visit Vietnam for Saigon- travel there to meet new friends, find new family, and discover a specific type of love that is only grown in this city.

Sal

I graduated with a business management background, under the impression that business means maximizing profit, and to live was to save for future enjoyment. But then I met team Christina’s. The majority of people here embrace a great hope of bringing Vietnam’s beauty to the world! The true beauty of this country has long been covered by the fog of war times and the smoke of factories in recent days. If you have ever wondered where on this earth do people live and work in sympathy and love for their home country, Ho Chi Minh City is the place, and team Christina’s is your home!

sal
I’m Sal (or Salt) 🙂

The reason you should travel to Vietnam is for the stories. We have maintained a 4,000 year-old civilization and with that comes stories from the people, the vast landscapes, and our language. Our civilization focuses on training one’s morality, flexibility and an intense love for the community. This culture made Vietnam a small but strong country during the wars of the past. There may not be brilliant architectural structures built by the Vietnamese still standing. There have yet to be any world-famous artworks made by the Vietnamese. But there are millions of beautiful stories about the people who have sacrificed their own interests for the sake of the community. There were brilliant generations of generals who lead this small country to stand tall and win battles against giant invaders! Today, there are also many happy people who enjoy living, working and contributing to this country – those who love to share their stories, who love to show you where their story began, and allow you to create your own. If you ask me why Vietnam, I encourage you to visit our land, give our culture a chance, and chat with people whose disciplines, national love, and daily meaningful actions will enlighten you as to why I think this country is so special.

Phuc

I was born in Saigon in the midst of one of the three most significant economic booms in Vietnam. It has been a blessing to witness the constant changes happening in Vietnam throughout the last 20 years. I moved to Finland in 2013 for higher education, but I missed my homeland a little more each day. Months of darkness made me miss the sun and warmth of my country. I made a big decision to postpone my studies and return to Vietnam for two years. It was only on my way home, in the Hong Kong airport that I first heard the Vietnamese language again- an old gentleman was crying as he explained he was returning home after 40 years because of the war. I quickly joined the Christina’s team and began my journey exploring every aspect of Vietnam. Even though I was a jack of all trades and master of none, I became knowledgeable about the whole of Vietnam and I grew to love it even more. I am back in Finland, since March 2018, managing a bar and writing for our blog but nothing makes me happier than sitting down to write about my one true home.

Now that you know a bit about me, let’s get to the main point, why travel to Vietnam? Travel to Vietnam for the newness. The never-ending development and the diversity from North to South keeps every day fresh. Every morning there is something new to be discovered. Even after a hard day of working, the vibrant cities will keep you away from home a bit more, either for a refreshing smoothie or Bia Hoi, or a stomach-warming bowl of pho for roughly one dollar. You can try a new place every night, every morning, and every day. The people are surprisingly friendly and open to share their stories. The newness of seeing an outsider often inspires random acts of kindness on the street, something new to look forward to every day.

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I’m Phuc (Or Ca Bong)

Bao

I live and work in Ho Chi Minh City, the most active city of Vietnam. However, I was born in Nha Trang city, a very beautiful coastal town in south-central Vietnam and I lived there for 15 years. Nha Trang is my mother’s hometown, and my father’s hometown is another place in north-central Vietnam. Since I was very small, I had chances to travel along the central land. Day after day as I’ve grown up, I have come to realize that my country is so pretty, it’s so full of majestic sceneries. No traveler has ever doubted that. I started to look for other beauties in Vietnam, it has more to offer than just a pretty face. And eventually I found a lot.

The first beauty and reason you should visit Vietnam is our language. Vietnamese is a special language because it originated from unrivaled combinations. It belongs to the Austroasiatic language family, which includes the languages of Mainland Southeast Asia. Vietnam is also a member of the Sinosphere community, which includes countries affected by Han culture in ancient China. Hence, our language has a strong bond to Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese Kanji , and Korean Hanja-eo. In the past, we used the same writing system as China, until the 16th century. At that time, European evangelists arrived in our country and used the Latin alphabet to record our language so that they could communicate better with locals.  Language demonstrates a country’s culture, take personal pronouns for example which is one of the most complicated Vietnamese concepts. You have to use particular pronouns according to the relationship between speakers. And sometimes this relationship is unclear. This point demonstrates that the Vietnamese people pay close attention to proper rite and respecting age.

bao
I’m Bao

The second reason you must travel here is for our traditional costumes. Maybe you’ve heard of the ao dai. It is the most popular traditional costume in Vietnam. It’s a simple yet dignified dress. But we have dozens of traditional costumes which are worn on special occasions. Our attire is derived from Hanfu, which is Chinese ancient costume. We redesigned these costumes to make them our own. They are ao Nhat Binh, ao tu than, ao tac, ao ba ba, and ao ngu than. Each one has a distinct beauty and is worn in different areas of Vietnam. Costume is a crucial part of history and culture, just like language.

Teo

I was born and raised in a small city in Gia Lai province. The thing about identifying hometowns in Vietnam is that we often take our father’s as our own and it’s even officially recorded in legal documents. But deep down in my heart, I know that my one and only hometown is Pleiku, Gia Lai. Not just because I was born there, but I also had an incredible childhood with amazing people. At this very moment, I can still recall the day when I fell from a 12-meter high plum tree in our garden while attempting to get that one juicy fruit. Later that afternoon, my father and I had quite a good chase around our house as I just couldn’t stand still and admit my crimes… More than all of that, it is my hometown because I know I can always return to this place whenever I need its embrace. Growing up, I moved to Saigon to study. I realized that life can be different even though we still live in the same country. Then I started traveling to many other cities doing nothing else but to confirm my belief that Vietnam has so many things to discover.

teo
I’m Teo

Besides the personal reason that all of my loved ones live here, I also love Vietnam for many other things that have left me in awe every day. Like I mentioned above, my hometown is a small city surrounded by mountain ranges because it is located in the central highland region. I grew up accustomed to countryside activities, and the way locals deal with their day-to-day lives. People living without modern help can be really resourceful and creatively funny! I once saw a man riding his motorbike with a license plate falling off the back. Do you know what he did? He put it in a transparent plastic bag and tied it through the gaps of the bike. There you go, you can still see the numbered plate, and more importantly, it’s not going to come off! Visit Vietnam to witness these moments of ingenuity and laughter, you might learn something about not taking life too seriously and life’s potential without a phone in hand or wifi nearby.

Tien

I grew up in a quiet little town in the Mekong Delta. My childhood was very peaceful and I was always surrounded by fruit gardens and rivers. When I was a child, I traveled to many cities in Vietnam with my aunt, from the south to the north. I saw other beautiful landscapes in my country like the vast oceans in Nha Trang, the high mountains in Da Lat, the ancient capital in Hue, the magnificent views in Ha Long Bay, and more. At the same time, I was fond of watching documentaries about tourism, culture, and nature. After that, I moved to Saigon for work and to live. While living here, I discovered that I love both small villages and big cities because each place has its special attributes. And because of this realization, I know that traveling is my biggest dream and hobby. I want to travel to as many places in the world as possible.

Vietnam is small in territory but diverse in culture. If you travel from the north to the south of Vietnam, you will discover many differences in language, culture, manners, and food. There are three main regions in Vietnam, which is the north, the center, and the south. In the north, people are thoughtful, clever in speech, and visionary because they live in the capital with such a rich history. The food here is the saltiest in the country. In the center, typhoons attack and destroy the farms and houses every year. Here, people are the most hard-working in education and economical in the country, so that they can have a better life and not only depend on a small farm. Food is the spiciest due to the weather here. In the south, people are famous for their hospitality, straight-forward, easy-going, and like to enjoy life as much as possible. The reason is that the weather is calm, farms give them rice, rivers and oceans give them food, and gardens give them many kinds of fruits and vegetables. They don’t need to worry about their life. The food here is the sweetest compared to other regions. When traveling to a different region in Vietnam, you will discover the varying landscapes just as much as the culture.

tien
I’m Tien (Or Fairy)

Daan

In my early 20s, my boss asked me to go on a business trip to Asia. Far from my hometown of Amsterdam, I found myself wondering how I could have lived with just knowing this new city as “a place in the news” for so long. Having traveled quite a bit before, it was the first time that I truly felt I was in “foreign” surroundings. I vowed to one day come back. After stints of one to two years each in New York, Chicago and Singapore, I found myself in Vietnam. The only difference? It took well over two years before I even asked myself “do I like it here?” The time went by so fast and now, another year later, it’s clear that this is where I belong. I’m planting my roots here, firmly, and when people ask me about coming back, I say: “come back where?”

So why can’t I imagine myself anywhere else? I believe I landed here in the “golden era” of Vietnam. As a local of Saigon, it’s palpable in every single moment that something special is happening. Whether you’re sitting street side with an authentic cup of Vietnamese coffee, hopping art galleries or checking out yet another new skybar, it’s every breathing second that you realize there was never a time like this in Vietnam, and there probably never will be again. The only constant is change, and this has never been more true than of Saigon now and it has spread to all of Vietnam. It’s particularly apparent in the spirit of the young people in this country. Young people, just like our writers, bashfully exclaim “cherish our past, and let’s keep building, let’s keep moving forward.” This is why I love Vietnam. If you want to discover a country at an absolutely pivotal moment in its history, the time is now.

daan

The Christina’s Editorial team loves Vietnam. Home is where the hearts are, and all of our hearts are tethered to this dynamic country. We hope that one day you are able to visit our homes, our various communities, and experience the things that we have talked about here. If you are on your way, then you are in for a special treat. Make valuable memories. Go for the exchange, the newness, the language, the dress. Go for Saigon, for the differences in region and culture, go for the people, the ingenuity of the countryside dwellers, and for the stories. Go to discover a country on the brink of something special.

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