Vietnam is an agricultural country where most people earn their living by working on the farm. Unlike developing nations on earth, Vietnamese residents still use old but good traditional tools and run local traditional works dating back for many generations.
As a foreign tourist, you should choose to explore rural villages in Vietnam. In those non-touristy destinations, there are numerous authentic local experiences awaiting. Maybe you are wondering how to do it right now. Here are TOP 15 must-do activities in Vietnam to embrace traditional works and the local life of Vietnamese villagers.
1. Harvesting rice is one of those common local traditional works in Vietnam
Rice plays a crucial role in Vietnam. It has been the staple food for all Vietnamese from the past. As traveling the length of the country, everywhere you go will have long-spreading rice paddies with white cranes, especially in deltas. To express the endlessness of the field, Vietnamese has a quote: “A crane is too tired to finish its journey.”
When you notice the field is in full golden color, it’s the right time to harvest. You might see many industrious and clever farmers bowing and cutting with a special knife (in Vietnamese, we call it “cái liềm”). Feel free to chat and ask them to try out! We are sure that it will be an unusual but interesting experience in your life.
Under hot sunshine, your task is to work quickly to finish all the rice fields as fast as possible. That’s so difficult, right? Well, then you know how strong and skillful Vietnamese people are.
2. Get dirty (or muddy) in the field
Rice is the main cereal in Vietnam but that doesn’t mean people grow only rice. There are more diverse crops than you can think, namely greens, herb, corn, and fruit. Before harvesting, local farmers need a lot of effort to take care and grow them thrivingly.
If you aren’t afraid of dirt and mud, we highly recommend trying to be a real farmer in Vietnam for the first time. Choosing to rank, plant rice, plant vegetables, water crops, harvest or other farming activities is up to you.
Since Vietnamese people tend to do their farm with traditional methods, you will see most activities require your hand to finish. It seems quite primitive but that’s exactly what local traditional works look like.
3. Raise cattle like a local
In your country, what will parents say to children when they are too lazy to study?
Well, Vietnamese parents usually have the same talk to their kids like: “If you don’t study harder, we will send you to rural villages and raise cattle instead.”
That talk comes from the poverty period of the past. In history, children had to do a lot of heavy work to help parents make ends meet, including raising cattle. Present parents are those poor kids of that difficult time. They just tell their children to let them understand about the future of a lazy one and to urge them to study harder. Otherwise, those experiences of raising cattle in their mind were so pure and joyful.
Nowadays, there are not many children who have to do the job without going to school. Parents only let them take care of those animals in their free time. Those kids deserve to get an honorable name: the expert of the land. They have a vast knowledge of everything from where to feed the cattle, where to have a lot of edible wild fruits, what interesting things to do, and so on.
You can find the Vietnamese childhood experience in many rural villages in Vietnam. Just let your soul think like a child, forget all about those adult matters! Then, everything soon becomes lively right in your eyes.
4. Go fishing on the river
How about being a fisherman in Vietnam? Well, it’s a cool idea, right?
Thanks to the tropical climate and topographical characteristics, Vietnam has an intricate system of rivers and lakes. That’s why aquaculture in the country has been developing thrivingly.
Vietnamese fishermen are skillful experts who have numerous special techniques to catch big fishes. In some areas, local people live their whole life right on the boat. You might think those skillful fishermen will never let strangers know about their secret skills. Otherwise, they are so friendly and show you all that they have.
On a small boat, a fisherman will use different methods to catch fishes such as fishing rod and net. Besides learning to catch fish, don’t forget to try controlling the boat with paddles. Those activities require a lot of patience and effort. You will see time seems to slow down and each moment is full of joy and peace.
5. Catch big fishes from the ocean
Want something more thrilling and adventurous? Let’s try out fishing in the ocean!
With this choice, you are on a journey to explore spectacular things. Follow a group of Vietnamese fishermen and you will “wow” when beholding a picturesque scene: just small humans can control nature amazingly. They are fearless, smart, and strong. They are able to adjust their ship and net to stay away from the dangers and get a big catch.
The farther the ship goes, the more dangers await.
You will see their eyes brighter when the result is as much as they expected. If not, they will lose a lot of money for buying petrol and cash for employers. That’s how life goes!
In spite of the sadness, the fisherman will never give up on his local traditional works. After this failure, they will come home and prepare for a new journey, in the hope of a promising catch on the next trip.
6. Make various fermented sauces from seafood
The best way to preserve a huge amount of big catch is fermentation with a lot of salt. The traditional method has been used for a very long time. Especially, some fermented foods taste better after the process.
In Vietnam, locals call fermented seafood sauces “mắm”. It depends on the peculiar ingredient(s) to get a specific name. For example, “mắm nêm” is fermented fish sauce, “mắm mực” is fermented squid sauce, and “mắm ruốc” is fermented small shrimp sauce.
All of those sauces have a strong (even stinky) smell which many foreign tourists can’t bear. By the way, locals think they are so tasty. Just like some unique foods on earth (namely stinky tofu and blue cheese), you might need to try and get used to it to enjoy pleasantly.
7. Become a real hunter in the forest
In almost remote mountainous areas, people still rely deeply on nature. They usually go to the forest to hunt wild animals, herbs, spices, and vegetables. Those special products help locals improve their daily meals, cure diseases, as well as make some money in the country market.
Take a day to go with locals as a real hunter is an unusual idea but we sure you’re going to love it! You should prepare well from your clothes to equipment to protect yourself from many unexpected threats in the forest. Don’t do like locals in just common clothes since he all knows how to stay away from dangers!
In this adventurous journey, you are about to explore the diversity of the Vietnamese tropical forest. Moreover, it’s a great chance to take a closer look at the skillful movements of local hunters. They are clever in setting traps, climbing, moving quickly even on rocky slippery grounds. Their eyes and ears are so sensitive to the smallest, the most subtle signals around. That’s how locals do every day to catch up with as many products as they could.
8. Learn how to make rice paper
In terms of Vietnamese cuisine, rice paper appears in every dish from snacks to side dishes. Do you want to try your clever skills making rice paper in a local house? Maybe you can start up your own business when coming back home!
To make Vietnamese rice paper, we just need some simple ingredients: rice, water, and salt (some recipes have coconut milk, sesame seeds, sugar, banana slices to create special flavor). Each local has various ratios for combining those ingredients.
On top of a high heat stove comes a special steamer. You need to scoop the rice mixture to the surface of the steamer, let it cook, take out, and repeat. After taking fresh steamed rice papers out, people put them on bamboo racks and dry out in the sun. That’s all what local do!
Easier said than done! You might find those simple steps are so hard to handle. Don’t give up, practice makes perfect, right?
9. Take part in coffee making in Tay Nguyen rural villages
One of the most famous and tastiest Vietnamese drinks is coffee, to be more specific, is iced coffee.Have you ever wondered how people made it from scratch? To get the best answer, why don’t you come and discover yourself?
There are many places in Central and South Vietnam growing coffee trees, especially Tay Nguyen. If you have a chance to visit there, let’s ask a local to let you in his/her coffee-making process.
There are two ways to harvest fresh coffee fruits from the trees: picking one by one by hand or just pulling those fruits into a large mesh underground. After that, fresh coffee fruits are gone through various steps (like fermenting, drying, roasting, grinding) to become coffee powder and drink. All steps and the history of coffee making will be share by locals during your journey.
10. Learn how natural sea salt is made
Everybody knows that sea salt is made from seawater but fewer people know how the process goes. Well, you can get the best answer when taking a day in a salt field in Vietnam.
Along the coastline of Vietnam, you will find special fields without crops, just so white instead. That’s where locals crystalize sea salt and harvest it.
Under the sun, salt crystals reflect the light and create an eye-catching blinking effect. Workers need to wear rubber gloves, boots, conical hats, facemask, and thick clothes. In that way, they can protect themselves from the harsh heat from the sun and salt. When you harvest sea salt yourself, you will understand: the more beautiful it looks, the tougher farmers have to suffer.
11. Make rice liquor with locals
In Vietnamese culture, we have to say that rice liquor aka “rượu” is traditional alcohol. Along the length of the country, you can find locals enjoy the drink everywhere, at every time. It’s made from rice – the Vietnamese staple food.
Making rice in each region of the country is various. On the whole, people need yeast to start the fermentation. Cooked rice needs a proper time to become an alcoholic solution. After that, locals pour the well-fermented rice into a big pot to distill the extract rice liquor. How dare you try a shot of that freshly made “rượu”?
12. Get to know how a Vietnamese traditional ethnic costume is made
You might not know that Vietnam is a multiethnic country where 54 distinct groups living happily together. Each minority has its own language, culture, and costume. Therefore, you can be a guest in many free special fashion shows in highlands and country markets.
With more than fifty ethnic groups, the number of traditional costumes is significantly numerous. If you take a closer look at each piece of clothes, you will notice that they are not the same in detail like structures, patterns, borders, colors, etc.
Commonly, local women must learn to make traditional costumes when they were young. The job takes a seriously long time to finish, depends on how complex it is (from several weeks to several months).
To know how Vietnamese ethnic women make their traditional costumes, you can visit country markets or their villages. They might be shy at first but then willing to show you generously.
13. Raise fish in the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is a large area with complex systems of rivers, lakes, and canals. You will definitely be surprised to know that locals raising fish underneath their house. How strange!
To get more information about that special technique, you’d better visit one local’s floating house. The farmer needs to pull up a plank from the floor to feed their fishes. You can see a lot of them waiting for food with mouths opening. Plus, you will be surprised for the second time to know that locals make their own fish food.
14. Sell products in the market
In rural villages in Vietnam, farmers keep bringing their products to the market to earn money. That is an interesting trait for foreign visitors. Do you want to know how you feel when selling your fresh harvested products like a local?
If you have more time in Vietnam, then try to go to the market with the farmer. You need to ask them initially to not miss the chance. Vietnamese markets normally start early in the morning. Therefore, if you want to sell fresh vegetables or street food, you need to wake up earlier to prepare.
You will feel happy and relaxed if your products can be sold out completely or just left a little. On the other hand, that will be so sad. It’s not unusual when people bargain in Vietnam. They even don’t buy after a long haggle. All of those feelings and experiences help you embrace the traditional works in Vietnam better.
15. Cook an authentic Vietnamese daily meal
After a hard-working day, people deserve a good meal. Rural residents usually cook side dishes with available ingredients at home, especially vegetables and herbs. You just need to go out to the garden and decide what your favorite items are today. Plus, some farmers use leftover selling products to prepare their meals.
The way Vietnamese people cook is far more different from that in your country, right? Many locals still use woods and straw to make fire. The ingredients in a dish are significantly simple, too. In spite of the simplicity in the meal, you will find a cozy feeling of home. All members of the family sit back, eat, and share their stories in a day to each other.
Vietnam is a wonderful country where you find endlessly joyful and exciting moments. Visiting rural villages to know more about those local traditional works is the best way to know deeply about a normal day of Vietnamese farmers.
All moments you stay with a family will give you the best private experiences about the local life of Vietnamese villagers. Your impression and knowledge are purely authentic without any touristy traps. It’s just from the bottom of the heart.
Are you wondering how to get a perfect plan to experience all those interesting activities above? How about some customized tours focusing right on your interest and time? Contact Us so we can help you, with all our passion and love.