“People are put on Earth for various purposes. I was put on Earth to do this: Eat noodles right here.” – Anthony Bourdain on his visit to Vietnam

Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018) always felt a special connection with Vietnam. First time he showcased Vietnam was in his 2002’s show A Cook’s Tour (Season 1, Episode 3). Little did the world know that the door Bourdain opened that time would come as a blessing in disguise for the country. The tranquil seaside country would see a transformation so great it came with generations of travellers, all curious to know what Vietnam was all about.

About 20 years ago, Vietnam was not popular with international travellers. In general, people were still travelling the traditional way (if I may), meaning, ready-made information based travel. In Vietnam’s case, food played a major role in reviving tourism. Major credit goes to the celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain. The world took inspiration from the travelling chef and got curious about the taste and sights of a new country. Enter Vietnam’s first batch of travellers who also kickstarted the first generation of tourism in Vietnam – adventure tourists, the ones who made backpacking a thing.

Vietnam: From a quiet nation to one of the world's best tourist destinationsThe early 2000s were slow due to social and political unrest in the region, but the local businesses got the idea that the travellers from the West will come and they will want to explore. To make it more accessible and welcoming, cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi started to open up backpacker-friendly options for these small tribe of international travellers. Other small towns and cities followed suit and started making their locations traveller-friendly. Air access was made easier with the opening of airports in places like Danang and Nha Trang. These picture perfect locales were now made accessible to the world, and now they had beautiful locations and interesting food to offer to visitors.

Vietnam: From a quiet nation to one of the world's best tourist destinations

While the western adventure travellers were on a mission to take as many off-the-beaten paths as they could, the Asian travellers did notice the changing trend. The curiosity to check out what attracted the western travellers in the first place, gave birth to travellers from the Asian middle-class society with disposable income. With that came mass tourism. Places like Hue (for its history), Quang Binh province (for spelunking), Sapa (iconic paddyfields), Nha Trang (picturesque beaches), Mekong Delta (iconic waterways), Phu Quoc (underwater adventure), among many others, started to rise as hot destinations everybody wanted to experience.

Now, with all things beautiful and grand covered, travellers longed for more immersive experiences. Thus, paving the way for yet another tribe of travellers, one seeking wholesome experiences. Enter the Sustainable Tourists.

To put in simple terms, this tribe of travellers came in two categories:

  • Do budget travel, go local.
  • Look for specific local experiences, price no issue.

Whatever the approach and the price range was, the focus was always on the community, the people and their culture. Nowadays, it would be considered weird if you fail to find homestays in small towns and villages that would also give you an opportunity to experience local living while you’re there. Enter Food Tourism.

Vietnam: From a quiet nation to one of the world's best tourist destinations

Anthony Bourdain’s love for
pho comes to mind when we talk about the food tourism scene in Vietnam. In the last decade, Vietnamese cuisine became such a hit globally. Thanks to various food shows on television, YouTube, and other social media platforms, rice paper rolls (gỏi cuốn),
banh m
i have become popular choices of food while eating out. And why not, when they are both delicious and healthy! One of Vietnam’s greatest attractions is the street food scene. Affordable, easily available, no dearth of variety, street food in Vietnam has a charm of its own. Experiencing a destination’s unique culture through its food must be a terrific thing to do.

In a span of less than two decades, from an underdog destination to a tourism hotspot, Vietnam has come a long way in a relatively short period of time, and with a bang! Drawing the interests of photographers, foodies, culture and history buffs, and thrill seekers, it is safe to say that Vietnam is here to stay.


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