The Ho Tram tourism strip in the southern province of Ba Ria – Vung Tau, for example, has seen a surge in development of world-class resorts in recent years. More than eight projects have given guests from Vietnam and abroad a taste of luxury holiday experiences. The location benefits from year-round warm weather and a coastline that rivals any in Vietnam.

Most of these resorts are self-contained, making them appealing to overseas visitors who only need to communicate in English. They provide a safe option for food and services. For many tourists, simple tasks like buying food can be challenging due to the language barrier. This is a common issue in non-English-speaking countries.

Golf has also become a focal point of Vietnamese tourism. Several development and tourism companies have opened golf courses across the country, attracting revenue from international travelers who enjoy playing the sport. Ho Tram, for instance, offers a featured golf course within a short drive from most resorts.

Vietnam is home to numerous world-class golf courses, located in various regions. These courses attract Vietnamese golfers as well as tourists from other Asian nations and around the world.

People play golf at a golf course in Vietnam. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

People play golf at a golf course in Vietnam. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

These golf courses are often integrated with resorts that provide services to tourists who want a golfing holiday without venturing outside the resort. Vietnam is now home to over 50 world-class golf courses, spanning from Sa Pa in the north to Phu Quoc Island in the south.

Theme parks and attractions offer even more options for tourists to explore in Vietnam. The days of simply taking a walk down the streets of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City are long gone. Nowadays, experiences can be found in every province.

Phu Quoc Island, for example, offers amazing developments with family attractions and experiences that can keep families entertained for days.

The United Center Phu Quoc tourist area on Phu Quoc Island off Kien Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Chi Cong / Tuoi Tre

The United Center Phu Quoc tourist area on Phu Quoc Island off Kien Giang Province in southern Vietnam. Photo: Chi Cong / Tuoi Tre

This represents the modern form of tourism in Vietnam, but it comes at a price.

In the past, traveling to Vietnam meant being exposed to the raw culture and sharing daily services and local prices. Vietnam was originally designed with Vietnamese people in mind, and international tourism was an additional bonus. However, in the past two decades, holidays in Vietnam have become more focused.

Traditionally, a holiday in Vietnam involved staying in a city area, such as Da Lat or Phan Thiet, and experiencing local restaurants and vendors used by the community. This made the experience very affordable, as it was in line with the local economic conditions.

A view of Da Lat City from a hot-air balloon in Da Lat City, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam, December 28, 2022. Photo: M.V. / Tuoi Tre

A view of Da Lat City from a hot-air balloon in Lam Dong Province, Vietnam, December 28, 2022. Photo: M.V. / Tuoi Tre

In modern Vietnam, there are still affordable local options, but navigating the language barrier and cultural differences requires some knowledge and experience. Traveling in a foreign, non-English-speaking country can be challenging. However, having some knowledge of Vietnamese communication can lead to life-changing experiences, such as enjoying local food and exploring the countryside.

Nowadays, tourists in Vietnam have the option of resort-style holidays. Foreign tourists can book a tour or arrange a holiday directly with a resort, where they can enjoy swimming, spa treatments, sports activities (including golf), and dining without leaving the resort. While this comes at a higher cost, it provides a wonderful and safe luxury holiday experience in Vietnam.

One potential risk with the surge in luxury developments is the possibility of overshadowing the affordable tourism that once defined Vietnam. Vietnam was famously known for offering affordable travel experiences. Backpackers, for instance, could easily survive on just a few dollars a day in Vietnam. Places like Bui Vien Street in Ho Chi Minh City, known as “Backpacker Street,” have shed their cheap reputation and transformed into popular party destinations for young Vietnamese people and tourists from around the world.

A file photo shows foreign tourists buying banh mi at a street stall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A file photo shows foreign tourists buying ‘banh mi’ at a street stall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

I am excited to witness the emergence of a new era of tourism in post-COVID-19 Vietnam. It provides more options for quality holidays. Travelers no longer need to leave Vietnam and go to other countries for five-star resort experiences. Furthermore, these world-class resorts are competitively priced compared to resorts in other countries.

Desserts are served at a buffet restaurant in a five-star hotel in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Desserts are served at a buffet restaurant in a five-star hotel in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

However, this advancement also brings a tinge of sadness as the deep culture and spirit of Vietnam slowly diminish. Fewer people choose to experience the raw essence of Vietnam, opting instead for luxury experiences. Fewer people enjoy a $12-a-night hotel or a $0.75 banh mi thit (Vietnamese sandwich) from a street vendor for breakfast. Fewer people immerse themselves in the culture and discover the lesser-traveled parts of Vietnam.

While I appreciate the luxury of five-star resorts, I will never stop exploring the lesser-traveled paths. Since my first visit to Vietnam in 2012, I have likened it to an onion – slowly peeling back each layer to discover the true essence of Vietnam. It is a privilege to be able to see and feel the heart of Vietnam.

Boats carrying visitors who attend the Trang An Festival at the namesake landscape complex in the northern Vietnamese province of Ninh Binh on April 21, 2019. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

Boats carry visitors who attend the Trang An Festival at the namesake landscape complex in the northern Vietnamese province of Ninh Binh on April 21, 2019. Photo: Mai Thuong / Tuoi Tre

I hope that the heart of Vietnam remains intact and is not lost to the outside world. I hope that warm beer, street food, and the smiles of children continue to define the experiences that tourists take with them. These are the memories that truly capture the love and beauty of Vietnam – a country that remains one of the most amazing destinations in the world.