5 New Year resolutions to challenge your inner Vietnamese

By Trang Bui   January 1, 2018 | 01:38 am PT
Ever attended a shamanic ritual, read an 18th-century Vietnamese poem or eaten ragworms? It's time.​

We all know resolutions usually won't last past January. But if you're staying in Vietnam, chances are you'd be hitting corners for food and riding dirt tracks for the perfect sunset all year round. Why not taking it to the next level? These five easy resolutions will make your little stay in Vietnam better and potentially, longer.

1. Chow down on Vietnamese literature

Last March VnExpress International compiled a list of 15 books by Vietnamese authors that are available in English -- from the erotic poems of rebellious 18th century poet Ho Xuan Huong to the world-renowned "The Sorrow of War" by Bao Ninh. You've known the troubling past of Vietnam through the lens of American veterans and French colonialists. Now discover the other angle provided by native voices. 

If books are too daunting for the new year, keep up with our weekly features that cover contemporary Vietnam -- from corruption, Saigon slums, pollution to remnants of war. The best of 2017 features could be found here.  

2. Eat Vietnam with its first foodie Vu Bang

Bun cha. Photo by VnExpress/Trang Bui

Bun cha. Photo by VnExpress/Trang Bui

Vu Bang, opium addict, spy, writer and a pioneering foodie, wrote about Hanoi and its food with poignant nostalgia when he left the capital for Saigon after 1954. VnExpress International, bearing his book Hanoi Delicacies in hands, hit corners and alleyways of the capital last spring to eat Bang's favorite dishes -- from variations of pho to the greasy, savory ragworms

A little reading beforehand makes a meal much better, it turns out. Savor your next meal with the series Hanoi Bang Bang here.

3. See Vietnam off the beaten track

Despite its troubled development, Vietnam is a trending travel destination, from the capital Hanoi to the lovely coastal city of Da Nang. Seeing Vietnam the conventional way is easy, but it's worth renting a motorbike or hopping on a bus to lesser-known tiny towns, like the colonial Sa Dec or the northernmost Dong Van. You'll likely encounter a heaven on earth in Tam Dao, charming canals or mesmerizing waterfalls along the way. 

But that doesn't mean classics won't score any point. Last year Rough Guides made a list of top ten destinations in Vietnam, with Sa Pa and Hoi An securing the first and second spots. 

Mekong Delta. Photo from VnExpress Photo Contest/Pham Tri Long

Mekong Delta. Photo from VnExpress Photo Contest/Pham Tri Long

4. Get spiritual

Vietnamese religious and folk traditions, aside from the famous water puppet shows, aren't included on tours nor displayed anywhere on the sidewalk. To get a real experience, visit the Women's Museum in Hanoi for an exhibition of the Mother Goddesses religion, read about Vietnamese's shamanism practice hau donghat then of Vietnamese ethnic groups Tay, Nung, Thai; fire exorcism of Pa Then community -- or simply ask a close Vietnamese friend to bring you along. 

If remote villages or pagodas make for too harsh of a journey, keep up with theatrical stages and cultural events across the country. We list the best weekly events here

Hau dong. Photo by Tewfic El-Sawy.

Hau dong. Photo by Tewfic El-Sawy.

5. Learn Vietnamese 

For beginners, follow Chị Kayla on Youtube, the woman behind the viral What do you mean remix last April. Tones and vowels couldn't be much of a trouble with her dorky dance, her unapologetic pronunciation and her precise instructions. Let's begin with the easiest, numbers!

Advanced learners, proceed to Vietnamese best music videos of 2017, with a few getaway options from the daily blaring Vinahouse like Bao giờ lấy chồng or music hits by V-pop prince Sơn Tùng M-TP. Still not applicable for your age? Read the news in Vietnamese on our parent site, VnExpress

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