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Here’s my list of 30 fun & non-touristy things to do

1) Go to a rural wedding — you can’t beat rice wine shots at 6am

2) See Vietnam the way the locals do — from a motorbike, with a Vietnam Vespa Adventures scooter tour or an Easy Rider tour of the central highlands

3) Join the locals on a tiny plastic stool for bia hoi on the pavement in Hanoi

4) Spend a day relaxing and eating seafood at Bai Sao beach in Phu Quoc

5) Think about swapping that internal flight or long road journey for a relaxing, scenic ride on Vietnam’s ramshackle but charming trains

6) Get out of the tourist areas and visit some authentic wet markets, eg Tan Dinh in Saigon

7) Get up early and join the locals for morning exercises in a local park or around Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi

8) Eat oc (shellfish/snails) on the street at night

9) Spend the night in an ethnic minority stilthouse in Mai Chau

10) Smile at everyone you meet — it really does work

11) Escape from the modern world at Jungle Beach, a hand-built eco resort on a private beach near Nha Trang

12) Befriend your hotel’s security guys — they’ll be your best friends if you have any problems with rogue taxi drivers

13) Do a cooking class on the beach at Mui Ne Cooking School, the most idyllic cooking class location in Vietnam

14) Go for a blind massage

15) Find and join in a game of da cau (shuttlecock) in a park — not as easy as it looks but it’s good fun

16) Act like Andrew Zimmern and try some bizarre food — minced snake and field rat are on many menus

17) Spend the night in a jungle lodge at Cat Tien National Park, home to many endangered species

18) Cross the road in Saigon or Hanoi — a real sense of achievement when you make it intact

19) Ride a motorbike over the Hai Van Pass at 5am on a clear summer morning and see sunrise at one of Vietnam’s most spectacular spots

20) Visit Cholon (Saigon’s historic Chinatown) by cyclo — vibrant markets, magnificent colonial buildings and great Chinese food

21) Try out your handicraft skills at a lantern making workshop in Hoi An

22) Take a private blessing ceremony at a colourful Cao Dai temple

23) Go trekking in Con Dao’s national park to observe wild monkeys

24) Drive the spectacular coast road from Quy Nhon to Tuy Hoa

25) Enjoy a relaxing couple of hours at a local hairdresser for a haircut, hair wash and head massage — the whole lot will cost less than US$2 in many places

26) Get some friends together and rent a private karaoke room with a couple of cases of beer

27) Try night fishing for squid off the coast of Phu Quoc

28) Visit Binh Thuy ancient house in Can Tho, where the film The Lover was shot  and contribute to its upkeep

29) Visit the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Cham Island near Hoi An — sail there on a traditional ghe nang boat and stay in a village homestay

30) Get off the tourist trail in the Mekong Delta — avoid My Tho and Vinh Long; try Ben Tre, Sa Dec or Tra Vinh instead

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