An Unexpectedly Wonderful Town – Vu Ban, Vietnam

This post was last updated on November 19th, 2013

I’m in love with a small town by the name of Vu Ban.

Vu Ban Town Vietnam_1

 

You’ve probably never heard of it, and it’s likely you never will again. The dusty town is about 100 kilometers from anything warranting a city, and there are certainly no ‘attractions’ to be had here. A dirt road will lead you in, through, and on, but it’s littered with potholes, large rocks, and patches of mud. Not at all easy on a bicycle, though the buses seem to have no problem zooming through.

 

Vietnamese Biker Vu Ban

 

Despite the lack of pavement, business is booming here in Vu Ban. You can buy a shiny new motorcycle or the latest-edition flat screen TV. There are only a handful of makeshift-restaurants, but you needn’t worry about where to lie your head—there are three guesthouses to choose from. There’s also one school and a small but tall hospital, though it’s easy to miss both if you blink at the wrong time.

 

While there is little to bring you to Vu Ban, there are a few reasons to stay.

 

There are rice fields and rolling mountains, small village houses and large French-inspired homes—plenty to keep the eyes wandering and the soul smiling.

 

Vientam Scooter

Vu Ban Vietnam Architecture

There are people who have no problem spouting out full conversations in Vietnamese, though it is obvious you have no idea what they’re saying. The women will laugh and poke at your sweat, amazed at the beads of water forming on your skin. Of course they’ll insist you put on long-sleeves to protect yourself-that one is easily understood. The men will invite you to try their tobacco, smiling at your refusals and showing off their skills all the same.

 

Smoking Tobacco Pipe Vietnam

 

There is a small market bordering the rice fields where they sell live chickens and ducks and a smattering of green, fat, furry worms. The old women will try to convince you to sample one of the mysterious insects, but their mischievous smiles will warn you that perhaps it’s not really meant to be eaten after all. As if to make amends for their trickery they’ll gift you with a small, sour fruit instead. And as you walk away, everyone will giggle and shout out goodbye until the market is just a speck in the fields.

 

Vietnamese Market

Ducks

 

There is a small and dusty Internet café, filled with teenage boys smoking cigarettes and playing computer games that are probably popular back home, too. You’ll receive multiple stares when you use the Wi-Fi for an hour, but come time to pay the bill the young owner will insist that foreigners use the Internet for free. It doesn’t matter if no other foreigners have likely passed through before, it’s free all the same, and a welcome respite from the constant haggling and over-paying elsewhere in Vietnam.

To continue your technology needs, there is a mobile phone store where you can replenish the 3G on your iPad. When you can’t understand the Vietnamese instructions, a fellow customer will spend an hour—and use two translation devices—to make sure you know how to keep your 3G balance up-to-date. Then he’ll jump on his scooter, returning only five minutes later to ensure you’ve already secured one of the hotels to sleep in.

 

Kind Vietnamese

 

There’s a small plaza on the corner of the only main street in Vu Ban. A woman sells hot dogs in baguettes, wrapped in newspaper, from a stand. It’s the perfect place to grab dinner before seating yourself at the miniature plastic tables and chairs that dot the lawn. Twenty-somethings drink beer on their motorcycles; older couples sip bamboo juice from plastic bags. Everyone will do a bit more staring, perhaps wondering how you’ve made your way here. But it’s the friendly, open-minded kind of staring, followed with a giant smile and kind-hearted wave.

 

Vendor in Vietnam

Vu Ban Vietnam Drink Stand

 

We stumbled upon Vu Ban because it was the first place with a hotel after a long, difficult day of cycling. We stayed an extra day because of the warmth and charm that overflowed from the town. Perhaps we will return to the simple comforts, genuine people, and stunning views one day again. We can only hope to be so lucky.

 

 

Have you visited an unexpectedly wonderful place before? Where was it and what made you love it?

 

Discover even more from Vietnam:

Halong Bay, Vietnam: Is It Worth It?                  On Being Open to New Possibilities

Tour de Vietnam: Cycling Northern                   Through the Eyes of a Veteran:
Vietnam                                                                   A Tour of the DMZ

4 Reasons to Love Dong Hoi                                Navigating Hue’s Ancient Past

Tour de Vietnam: Cycling Central Vietnam      Hoi An For Non-Shoppers

Our Most Terrifying Moment Cycling                A Pinterest Inspired Hoi An 
Vietnam and the Kindness that Saved                Shopping Spree   
Us From It

Tour de Vietnam: Cycling Southern                   The Best Reason to Visit Vietnam
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An Introduction to Vietnamese                           The Ultimate Guide to Cycling
Cuisine                                                                    Vietnam

20 Comments

  1. What a lovely place!! Sometimes the undiscovered ones are the absolute best finds. That happened to me in Peru – we stumbled upon a tiny fishing village that ended up being one of the top surf destinations in the world!!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted…Roatan Month 12 Roundup – ONE YEAR!!My Profile

    Reply
    • Dan would love it if we stumbled upon a surfing destination! Sounds like a great find!

      Reply
  2. You capture the quaintest scenes in your travels. So fun to see where you are going. Love, hugs and prayers

    Reply
  3. Sounds like your cycle adventure in Vietnam is going great so far! What a lovely town to discover. Those Victorian looking homes aren’t at all what I would expect in Vietnam.
    Jennifer recently posted…Cascate del Serio: Italy’s Highest WaterfallMy Profile

    Reply
    • I was also so surprised to see those homes! And they pop up everywhere-even in the most seemingly remote places. I love the details though! I’m hoping to do a whole post about the architecture at some point :-)

      Reply
  4. Talk about of the beaten path! Those are the places that truly capture the true authenticity and beauty of the people. It’s a great place to escape and enjoy the simplicity of life! Happy travels!
    Constance recently posted…Accidentally Hitchhiking Taroko GorgeMy Profile

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    • Thanks Constance, couldn’t agree more!! We could definitely use with a bit more simplicity :-)

      Reply
    • Ya this place is for sure somewhere that is a lovely retreat but really not best for long-term. I think it might lose its charm haha

      Reply
    • I hope you love Vietnam as much as we have so far! It is a beautiful country.

      Reply
  5. Finding unexpected and of the beaten path places is one of my favorite thing while traveling, it makes the whole experience so much real. Tourist attractions are cool and they are popular for a reason of course, but areas like the one you bumped into make the journey more interesting for sure! :)
    Franca recently posted…Five Tips & Pics for HualienMy Profile

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    • I couldn’t agree with you more! I actually really enjoy tourist places (most of the time) but it is places like these that make travel more meaningful and memorable.

      Reply
  6. This sounds idyllic, and the description is so colourful. Lovely post.
    Sam recently posted…Guide to ArequipaMy Profile

    Reply
  7. Great photos! I love little towns like this. We stumbled on a few in Yunnan, China, that made a lasting impression, from the sincerely friendly locals to the delicious country food. Glad you’re having such gorgeous weather during your journey!
    Heather recently posted…5 Must See Attractions in BudapestMy Profile

    Reply
    • We are super grateful the weather has worked out so well. We are hoping it keeps up O:-) The people in Vu Ban really made the difference for me! Everyone was so friendly and helpful.

      Reply
  8. I will admit that most of the small Vietnamese towns we passed through in the north of the country were pretty forgettable in terms of how they looked, but the hospitality we encountered on the way took our breath away. There was one little guesthouse we stayed at in a city I don’t think I ever got the name of where the family was just so kind, bringing us out their homebrewed rice whiskey to try, teaching us some basic phrases and just generally making us feel like we were truly home. Those are always the best places and despite all the smack talk Vietnam tends to get, it’s one of the countries where we actually felt the people were the kindest. Sounds like you got a good taste of that in Vu Ban!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)s recently posted…What We Ate: HualienMy Profile

    Reply
    • We can’t stress enough the hospitality we have been given here! While Vu Ban had quite a nice location surrounded by mountains, in the end it was the people who won us over.

      Reply

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